Sunday, October 03, 2010

Miller Felpax

My second job out of high school (you can read about the first here) was a summer position at a local factory called Miller Felpax. It was the summer of 1990, twenty years ago. During my interview, I told the supervisors that my wish was to work four days; even back then, I didn't see the point of putting forty hours in. The reason that I wanted Fridays off, however, had to do with me wanting to see all the cool new movies on opening day. Of course, I didn't tell the higher-ups that this was my reason for requesting the hours I did. As the interview ended, I was told that I couldn't wear the tennis shoes I had on; that the job required steel-toed boots.

Biking the two miles to work wearing those monstrous shoes definitely took some getting used to. For the first few days, over lunch, I biked the three blocks to my dad's house to have a sandwich and some chocolate. He liked seeing me, but the intrusion and the amount of food I ate behooved him to forbid me to come during these times for most of the duration of the summer.

For the first couple weeks, I did standard factory work that involved machines and trying not to look at the clock much. Break time was always welcomed. I mostly used the time to get a glass bottle of Orange pop out of the old-time machine. That stuff really hit the spot; keep in mind that this was the most taxing work I'd done thus far in my life.

On Friday, June 15th, me and my 10-year old cousin, Andy, went to "Gremlins 2: The New Batch". We had waited years to see the follow-up to the 1984 movie. Well, he probably didn't anticipate it as greatly as I as he was only 4 when his mom took him to it; she figured the Spielberg production would be as tame as his last film, "E.T". He had tons of nightmares from it and couldn't even go to the bathroom by himself for some time, so sure was he that a gremlin would get him when no one was around; this happened to a lot of kids, so much so that along with "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom", it helped bring about the PG-13 rating.

By summer 1990, however, he was healed and was more than happy to accompany me. I picked him up and we biked to the theatre. The film turned out to be more of a comedy than truly scary. One of my favorite lines is when the main character, Billy, gets off the elevator at a Trump-type corporation and is told by an automated female voice to "Have a powerful day".

One morning, later that month, I was cussed out by my main boss, Ed Becker, for not coming to work one morning when we received torrential rain; I wasn't going to bike in that.

I told him it wouldn't happen again. As time passed, I was given various odd jobs such as painting and sweeping. Two of the painters were also summer hires, in fact, they were fellow graduates of mine from the spring before. Dressed in their white jumpsuits, their job was to repaint the exterior of Felpax. One afternoon, I was asked to help, but the sun was so bright that I couldn't do so until I was given a pair of goggle sunglasses. Not too long after, my closest high school friend, Brian, was also hired. Becker said he hoped that Brian would be a harder worker than me. I just shrugged my shoulders.

"Days of Thunder" opened in late June and a friend of my brother's named Pat came over one weekday evening wanting me to accompany him to it. Now this wasn't because he was looking for my company. No, he was under the impression that "Thunder" was rated R, so was looking for an adult's supervision. I told him there was no way that "Thunder" was R and told him to hit the theatre. I found out some time later that he was behind the potato that was thrown through my outside living room window (it didn't damage the inner one). The caretakers wondered how I didn't hear the noise when it occurred. I said that I slept quite soundly and had a fan for white noise.

One morning, I was helping a man who was working one of the machines. While I stood and gave him the parts, the man, seated on a metal stool, put them through some kind of cutter. The boss came by a short time later and it was just then that the seated man stretched his back, grimaced, and said that his back was killing him, that a cushion or back rest would be much appreciated. Becker told him that work wasn't a place in which to be comfortable. My dislike for him grew a great deal on that day.

In early July, I saw "Die Hard 2: Die Harder"; the audience laughed on Letterman when Bruce Willis told them the movie's title.

Over a number of days, me and Brian painted a wire fence. To do so, we used gloves that allowed us to use our fingers to reach all portions of the fence. One morning, I was in front of the building and spilled a substance on the ground. I went inside to one of the bosses, Merlin, and told him what happened. He said he didn't believe it could be removed. My stomach sank. Thankfully, he was able to save my ass and get the residue out.

One day, Brian was assigned to go to the roof and paint some of the fixtures up there. Sometime later, Ed went up there to check on his progress. He found him just sitting there, meditating on the meaning of life, perhaps, not a bad idea as working there was hands down the worst job I ever had. I can still see Brian driving away a few minutes later, waving at me. I didn't find out until later that he had been fired.

I went to "Arachnophobia" in late July and enjoyed the Spielbergian overtures of the film. The audience was really into it.

On a number of occasions, Ed complained that he should've hired a guy who could put the full 40 hours in. One day, while working on a machine, it got stuck. I called for Ed who, as he fixed it, said, "Stupid people". Not too long after, he said he hoped that I'd end up finding a job in which I used my head (as opposed to my hands).

In August, I caught "Flatliners", a provocative movie dealing with death and its aftermath.

During my last few hours at Felpax, Ed had me take solids out of a large barrel filled with oil. Though he may have tried, he was unable to break my spirit. A week later, my stepdad mentioned how proud he was of the fact that I worked at a factory all summer. A couple years later, I saw in the paper that Becker had died. Me and Brian talked about our favorite memories of him before saying a prayer for the souls who were stuck with him in Hell.


Stitching n Shipping said...

Oh my gosh!! I so enjoyed this post. Flatliners is one of my all time favorites. My son turned me onto the movie. I think we all had bosses who didn't quite get us! Great post and thanks for the read. Tammy

Rocketstar said...

Arachnophobia - This was awesome as it triggers the human reptilian brain reaction to spiders. Loved it.

ExtraO said...

A factory? Wow. Impressive.

Was Flatliners based on a novel? I feel like I read the book.

Thomas said...

You're welcome, Tammy! I haven't watched "Flatliners" in a number of years. This post will most likely be my impetus for revisiting it.

That does explain the crowd's reaction, Rocket. Thanks for that tidbit.

Extra, I'm not aware that it was based on a book. I knew the movie would be up my alley when it opened with Kiefer Sutherland saying to a colleague, "It's a good day to die".

ExtraO said...

hmm... well, then, maybe I read a book based on the movie! I just remember thinking the book was better than the movie, as usual.
Or I could be dreaming all of this.

Thomas said...

Extra, Extra, read all about it! I went to eBay and there was, indeed, a paperback which was released the same time as the movie (it has pictures of the stars on its cover).

I wouldn't doubt that the descriptiveness of the gang's near-death adventures on the page trumped what could be shown in a pre-digital age (not to mention things like the inner thoughts of characters that can only be touched at on film).