Bits of Sunlight

    My dad worked at the Des Moines Cooperative Dairy for forty years, and I did too, if but just for nine, many years later. When I was a kid, my dad worked for a time in the main plant. It was only a block or so down the from where we lived, so I visited it frequently, taking him his lunch or for other reasons. The dairy environment then, was noisy, they sometimes used steam hoses and lots of hot water to sanitize stainless steel pipes, to wash down milk storage tanks, or flush the red tile floors. The dairy dried milk too, so there was the voluminous noise of air through giant duct-work. There were big dark-green boilers that roared ominously in the Boiler Room; the red warning lights blinking, maybe a loud shrill bell would sound to signal something. And then there was the Engine Room where huge electric motors, the size of Volkswagens, that I'd walk by within arm's length, that powered almost everything in the building. I was used to all that noise because I practically grew up in it. 
    From a hole torn in its wall, a thin shaft of sunlight pierces the dark interior of a parked in-dock semi-trailer and abruptly angles across its uneven wooden floor to stop against the opposite trailer wall. 
    My toy factory working world is at once familiar to my ears with its loud buzzers overhead, shouting the beginnings or endings of break periods to employees, though these days I soften industrial noise by wearing foam earplugs, even when it's not required.
    There are so many varying noises that one evening I decide to hurriedly list what I heard at that moment: the squeal of rubber tires turning tightly on smooth concrete; the beep-beep of Cushman or 'tugger' horns near and faraway; the resounding back-up alarms of forklifts traveling in reverse; forklift horns resounding all around my position; loud electronic tones signalling the start-up of assembly lines; the hard clap of steel forklift forks against concrete; the long repeated ring of an old-time telephone signaling that attention is needed; another different tone; "Folsom Prison Blues," "North To Alaska," "Unchained Melody," on someone's CD player; the full-throated revving of an engine on an assembly line station; the rattling noise of a line of five empty parts carts pulled by a tugger; now the telephone again; the attention-signal wail of a police siren; forklift back-up alarms loudly beeping as they encounter each other; the muffled clicking noises of an overhead monorail; people talking nearby; the clicking of a bolt or nut embedded in a solid rubber tire as the vehicle passes by; heavy boxes being dropped on a wood pallet; the steel snap sound a pintle hitch on a parts cart makes as someone hooks it up; all the layers of factory noises, all constant, all shift.
    A narrow band of orange-yellow evening sunset streaks across a wide aisle and I drive through it in an instant.
    I used to frequently be tardy, working an evening shift, reluctant to leave my car in the parking lot, my attention riveted on an interesting 990 AM/CBC radio feature about authors or writing or music or art, about composing, about exploring, about lakes or First Nations people, about injustice, or love or history; and I'd clock-in, late, after getting to work early. I just wanted to sit in the sun for just a minute longer, before I had to go into the building
and all that noise. 


Popular Posts