There are hundreds, thousands, of folks that worked at the Whirlpool factory with me. They were true Whirlpool employees–ones with benefits, and families, and an intent to stay on the line.
And then there was me, and the rest of the temporary help–the college kids.
We were only there for the summer, and I could never quite tell if the true Whirlpool employees like the idea of summer help coming in, or if they dreaded it. I can think of reasons for both.
I’m sure they liked when we came in because it gave them the opportunity to take vacations. They got to train us which meant that they got to work half as hard for a few weeks. And I’m sure that it was nice talking to someone new, someone they hadn’t worked with for 20 years, and someone whose story they hadn’t heard. And on top of that, we were entertaining.
I worked on the Line 2 Horseshoe for five out of the six summers I worked there. It was the feature panel line (feature panels are the back of the washing machine) and it was literally shaped like a horseshoe. The people I worked with were (mostly) great. There were the regulars–an eccentric group of people who had known each other for years–and the college kids: me, my cousin Heather, Joni, and occasionally Sarah, Nick, Rob, and some others.
Heather, Joni and I were really the ones who were there the most, in the same spots, in the same rotation. I like to think we brought life to the line. From Heather talking about all of the crazy stuff that went on at college to Joni putting Kevlar sleeves over her calves as leg warmers and dancing around wildly to the Michael Sembello song “Maniac”, we had fun.
We picked on Manny and laughed with Terry. I picked Drew’s brain for hippy memories and to build my summer concert list, and we took time to talk to Artie the jeep driver. We played Big Frank’s “What would you do if you had a million dollars?” game, and we spent hours telling Little Frank that he wasn’t as badass as he thought.
I think that many of the regulars liked talking to us because we were something new. I think our generation–a generation without much censorship–shocked them a little and made them laugh.
Working 8 hours a day next to these people made it damn near impossible not to develop friendships with them, and to not care about them. And I kept up with many of them, too.
I emailed Drew for awhile, called Terry a lot and went to visit her when her husband was hit by a car. I go to see Toni (from my sixth summer on Line 3) once in awhile, and my dad fixed Artie’s lawn mower.
As far as the college kids go–Heather’s due date for her first son is tomorrow. Joni has a darling little girl now and Sarah is in cosmetology school. My cousins Meghan and Heidi worked on a separate part of the line, and they’re both teachers and doing well. Heidi has a little boy, too. Sarah is in cosmetology school, and Rob kind of disappeared from what I understand. And Nick…Nick died in a motorcycle accident about two years ago. And it was horrible to hear about.
When you all experience a job like working at a factory, and when you spend that many hours a day next to people in close quarters, you do end up talking, and probably sharing more than you would in another environment. You do it out of boredom at first, and then it becomes pure interest and friendship.
I really appreciate the time that I spent at Whirlpool, and all the people I got to know through it.