I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist and art director
who can take projects start to finish in a variety of styles.

Good designs sell –
my designs sell out!

Saturday, July 20, 2013


I’ve had some awful jobs, but the rubber factory was the worst by far.  Before you giggle, please realize I was schlepping 8-12’ extruded rubber cushions for railroad tracks.  The air reeked to the high heavens in a cloud of chemicals that seeped into my every pore.  It didn’t matter how many baths or showers I took, I smelled bad, even to myself.

It never occurred to me before having this job, but rubber is heavy.  Long, filthy tubes of it were loaded onto flats, and my main job was to pick each one of them up, trim the ends to size, then stack the filthy, hateful things onto a different skiff.  All day, every day…

It wasn’t the kind of job for dreamers.  All the safeties had been removed from the equipment, and it would’ve been easy to lose an arm, let alone fingers.  I tried to be attentive, but it’s hard to stay attentive 28,800 seconds every day, especially with all the dopey, noxious fumes.

I didn’t complain.  A collection of the meanest women outside a roller derby biker bar worked there, and they didn’t appreciate Sweet Polly Purebred coming in for a summer to pay for college while they were stuck in that pit for life.  Most summer workers didn’t make it a full day.  I guess I’m stubborn.  I worked there all summer at the exorbitant wage of $3/hr.

Eventually they even started talking to me nice, and I examined their tattooed arms planted on the lunch table.  Keep in mind that this was before tattoos were cool, and there weren’t aesthetically pleasing.  The tattoos looked like they’d been pounded into their skin as part of a sacrificial rite. 

These were rough women who probably beat up their Hell’s Angels boyfriends when they got home.  They were short trolls, but their steel arms were bigger than my thigh, and their shoulders were wide and inflexible.  I’ve known scary people before and after this group, but I’ve got to admit this clique scared me most.  They all carried knives and laughed about using them.  I always had to work my other job when they invited me out after work.

There are times I’m inclined to wallow in self-pity about something, but the women in the rubber factory remind me that whatever miseries I experience, at least I’m not them.  I’ve always had hope, while they never dared to dream for anything other than what they had.  It wasn’t that they were stupid, they just didn’t have any other avenues.  The only expectations they’d ever been given is to be a robot in the factory, until the robots actually took even that.

I’ve been in other factories, and the people were different – cleaner, nicer.  For a lot of people, a factory is just a job, and a job they justifiably take pride in doing.  I’m just talking about this sweaty, awful place and the specific people who worked there.  It was just the ugliest, most desperate place outside of the third world, but sometimes it helps to think of the rubber factory where the rules are clear:  do your job, don’t complain, don’t show weakness.

Since I survived the experience, I’m glad I had it.  Wouldn’t do it again for nuthin’.  Wishing those women the best if they haven’t been murdered yet.


  1. Sometimes you have to experience the worst to appreciate that everything else is better Linda. That was obviously a ghastly job and I can smell the rubber from this side of the pond. I think we all did some pretty dire jobs to earn money for college, thank goodness it was a means to an end. Have a good weekend, we are baking in a heat wave here in the UK, Jane x

  2. Experiences build character and, it looks like yours have led you to MAKING fun characters like this robot-guy :)

  3. Wow, they sound like quite a bunch! I imagine their replacement robots aren't nearly as colorful. I like yours though!

  4. I'm hoping my heat wave is over this week. It's been beastly hot around here last week. I think you're right Abby, I bet the replacement robots aren't as colorful as those women. How could they be? My little robot guy was just one of those things that popped out of me in a doodle. We should all doodle more often. Thanks for the comments!

  5. I realize that the overall message was serious, but they way you described the clique had me laughing out loud! Love your robot! He looks quite benign by comparison!

  6. I had a similar experience right out of college. I worked in screen printing warehouse before finally getting my first job as a production artist. It was hot and mindless. It wasn't quite as rough as your experience, but the other workers didn't care for me at first. They were in the same situation. Lifers.

  7. Your post makes my two-day experience in an Orange County sweat shop look like a walk in the park, and even humorous (instead of scary) that the tough female employees steamed their lunch tortillas on the same flat press used for the finished clothing. I'm sure there was lots said in Spanish (which I didn't speak a word of then) when I didn't show up for the third day or to pick up my wages owed. So glad to have read about *your* summer experience than to have been there, Linda! The stink of rubber is seeping from my laptop screen as it is...

  8. Cool robot, bud. I can just see you surrounded by biker chicks wider than you are tall. lol

  9. That is a sweet robot, almost elegant. It can't have much electricity in it since it is made from tins and scraps of wire. I start to believe it is actually a string puppet waving 'hello' to us.
    Nicely done!

  10. Wow. You sure leave images that speak in my mind - and the robot drawing will find his amiable way in there too, after a while.

  11. Maybe someday I'll write about doing field work with the illegal migrant workers too. I don't speak Spanish either, but I was pretty sure everything they said was a form of cuss word. Gotta laugh about your coworker's steaming their tortillas on the fabric press Susan :) Everybody should survive at least one truly awful job at some point in their life. Thanks for the comments everybody!

  12. Your story reminds me of my relatives in Pontiac, MI, where many of them worked in the automobile factories years ago, dependent on those jobs for dear life; though they cleaned up really well when they needed to impress, and even just for themselves. I'm sure I've mentioned it in a post or two, but will say again, SO glad we moved back to Virginia.
    I digress.
    Anyway, we all remember those jobs. I had one and was the one who didn't make it 8 hours. lol I knew I could get another job where my mom worked, so I went back to it for another summer. I did pack houses for a moving company one summer, and it was a lesson in life working with people who did that everyday as opposed to "a summer job."
    Your robot reminds me of the tin man in the Wizard of Oz, but he was was just the opposite of a robot.

  13. Yikes. What a story. It sounds like a terrible place. I wonder what those fumes did to those women over the years. I worked in a plastics factory--the graveyard shift--while working during the day as a waitress at a steak restaurant (I was a vegetarian), but I started hallucinating after a week with all the deafening sound and lack of sleep, but I ended up quitting after two weeks. Interesting experiences we all have when we are young.

  14. That which doesn't kill us only serves to make us stronger, right? :) I've told the women that I work with now about my past jobs and they say I've worked an awful lot of places. I tell them that all those other jobs make me really appreciate how wonderful they are (my current coworkers). Thanks for the comments!