A Day in the Life of a Lower Class Worker (Part 2)

We were supposed to receive a break for ever four hours of work we did. After four hours of work we supposedly got a 15 minute break. Then after eight hours of work we got a 30 minute lunch. Then after 12 hours of work we were supposed to receive another 15 minute break. That was the state mandate. Of course, there weren’t any state officials around to enforce such a bullshit law - but there were plenty of shift managers and floor mangers who could throw you out on your arse if you took even a minute longer on your lunch break than they thought you had deserved. In reality you got no 15 minute break after four hours - you just got more work. And in reality you never got a 30 minute lunch break, you got as much time as the quickest to eat; and they ensured it was a competition. Whoever started work after the lunch bell the quickest was allowed off work 15 minutes early, while everyone else was forced to work an extra 15 minutes. So you had to work your way through enough nutrition to get you through the next few hours, while ensuring you didn’t eat too much as to ensure you suffered through the extra 15 minutes at the end of the day.
    For my first week the last thing on my mind was that extra 15 minutes at the end of the day, and all that I cared about was the microwaved warm meal in front of me. But that was only during the first week. After that you learned to down every morsel of food you have in front of you as fast as possible; because during the last half-an-hour of work all you can taste freedom on the edge of your tounge. But then the alarm sounds and you realise that you weren’t the first to finish lunch and you still have another fifteen minutes to work to go. Fifteen minutes doesn’t seem like much, but when you’ve worked sorting marble benches that range in weight from 10kg to 30kg for the past 8.5 hours then an extra fifteen minutes feels like an eternity. You remind yourself that a meal is only a meal, but freedom is freedom and that you’ll never forget this lesson for the rest of your life. More than life, is that fifteen minutes means at least five more kitchen benchtop parts that need to be sorted. So you look up to your supervisors tower and gaze at the time - as the only clock in this entire factory resides within his abode. It’s five past whenever you were supposed to end. Ten more minutes of this. You drag another trolley towards the conveyor belt that you’re working at and put another slab of marble or stone or whatever on it and then put the full trolley in a free position. Then you look back at the guard tower and see that only a single digit has ticket over. Nine more minutes of this.
    Your extra time is up. This is the time they got for free. Fifteen minutes from about ten other workers. One hundred and fifty extra free minutes of work. If anyone put down their actual finish time then they’d be thrown out on the spot, and you’d have to have a pretty fuckin expensive lawyer to get your extra three bucks back. So no one complained, and no one sued. We all just drove home.
By now it was early in the morning. One of the guys who had just finished the same shift I had knocked on my car window just as I was starting her up, ‘hey mate, you’re tires flat.’
    I acknowledged this with a ‘oh, cheers’ and an equally flat nod.
    And so I drove to the nearest petrol station. There I pulled up next to the tire pump station. ‘At the very lest,’ I thought, ‘I could just keep filling up to and from the warehouse so I can avoid the pigs.’
    That was more important than my life at that time - avoiding the pigs. Those fucking leeches of society. From my experience dying was a far less excruciating experience than having to deal with our dear enforcers of order.
    No matter, my tire took the air well enough and I managed to get home without getting harassed or hounded by any of Melbourne’s ‘finest.’
By the time I got home it was about 6am. The only time left in my day was for a quick shower and then straight into bed to rest my sore muscles. I stripped down naked and turned the hot water on in my shower. As I waited for the water to finally heat up I looked at myself in the small shaving mirror that was held on my wall. One of the things I had purchased myself and that somehow slipped under the real-estate managers nose - probably because it improved the look of the place and there was no way I would be able to take it with me. My eyes were sunken and had dark rings all about them, my nose was red and running blue, my lips cracked and my beard was in an incredibly disheveled state. Despite working physically for more than eight hours each day for more a fair while now my body had plumped up and my joints and belly were now criss-crossed with stretch marks that represented the main areas where I would have to flex and bend unnaturally in order to lift and move benches and legs of marble and stone. Beyond this my body had started packing on fat since I never had any energy at the end of a day to actually exercise, and I especially had no time to cook anything healthy and mostly survived on fast food. My blood shot eyes gazed back at myself with nothing but hatred.
    If I had been paying attention I would have realised that the shower had already heated up and that I was wasting what little hot water I had for that night. But I was only paying attention to the hatred in my eyes. The hatred I had for myself - for what I had become. Finally my attention was broken when a thick gob of spit worked its way up my esophagus and I spat the mighty blob right into my sink. Then I remembered the current state throat was in and that one of the main cures was washing in warm water. So I took my sunken eyes, my stretched skin and my fat into the shower in an attempt to alleviate just one of the things that this new job had cursed my body with.
    Now, then, the water turned cold and reminded me that my shower time was finished. I stepped out and let my naked body drip and allowed the cold air to envelop me fully. After a while of working in such as place as I worked the only way you could be reminded that you are alive is through pain. After all, what joy could I possibly gain from living? There was no time to find a partner of any kind, no time to gather with friends or family or even people who wished me well. The only meals I had were either alone or with people who would consider conversation to be a competitive technique. The only person I had in my life was myself and that hateful spirit in the mirror. I walked to bed still completely naked. My clothes would await me on the bathroom floor tomorrow. But tonight My body was mine and mine only and I would subject it to tortures that only I could conjure.
    On the way to the bed I removed a bottle of Johnnie Walker from the cupboard and immediately poured a glass. Drinking at 6:30am had become a habit of mine lately. Then I pulled out a cigarette and lit it. All the while I pulled my blanket up over my chest. I was finally warm and content. The tortures that my body would endure were the ones that I made on my own. They were for myself and of myself. They weren’t dictated by the floor manager in his overlook, and they weren’t made by customers in far off places of Victoria - people I would never meet in places I would never have the privilege to go - they were made by me, with my limited funds and in my cramped room.

Read Part 3 here.

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