Update from the 2nd tier: I am perhaps the least alienated worker these days. I just bought a brand new Chrysler 200, the first big thing I’ve ever bought in my adult life. I had to do some fancy footwork to get financed because I “don’t really have anything on your credit report except some deferred student loans.” I try really hard to live within my means and not spend money I don’t have. But the transmission on my 15-yr-old Toyota Camry (which I drove to Chrysler without one iota of shame or misgiving) blew on my way to take my son to school one morning. That side-of-the-road stuff was just wearing me out. And besides, I build the damn thing! I wrote before that I never wanted a new car until I started building them.
I did, however, have a weird experience shortly before buying the car. I kept seeing my grandfather in the plant. I know it sounds crazy, since he died before I started at Chrysler and he never worked the main line, but I’m just saying what I saw. For about a week I kept thinking that I saw someone standing around, but when I would turn to see who it was, it would end up being a rack of fenders or a fan or some other thing that was of the right height, but most assuredly not a spectral human. I just shrugged it off. I’ve never been one to be bothered by ghostly things. I don’t generally have weird, prophetic dreams, or hear the moans and groans of the restless departed. I’ve just always been way too grounded in this particular dimension for all that. And my grandfather would be probably the last person who would ‘haunt’ anyone. He was the most hard-headed pragmatist, ever. He was really creative, but never flighty or dreamy. But sure enough, I saw him in the plant, on the Friday before my Camry died and I undertook the purchase of the car that I build. It occurred to me later that it would only be to deal with a car situation that would bring my grandfather back to see me. And probably only me. His years at Chrysler defined him and I feel like I have a special passkey to see his world now that I’m there. Not my mother, my aunts, my grandmother, no one else is in Chrysler like my grandfather was. I feel a weird kind of lucky. So maybe that’s what he was doing, telling me to buy what I build. It seems like something he’d do.
When I opened the packet of papers that came with the owner’s manual, there was a sheet in there that detailed the day and time that my car came off the line: August 25, 2011, 19:47 hrs. I can say with complete certainty that I was there at that time. That there is a good chance that I put my hands on that very vehicle before it was even a ‘car’ in the way that we understand it. That I was the sweating and dirty autoworker who attached the 25lb steel bumper or who ran the 20-ft station to attach a fender, who hustled to keep up with the line while attaching brackets & screws that are almost too tiny to pick up with our big heavy Kevlar gloves in the 100 degree plant. It is the sweat of my brow that pays for the car, and it was the sweat of my brow that built that car. We work, we sweat, we grind. And once in a while, we sit back in the fruits of our labor and partake in what we have made.
Stepchild in the Promised Land