I witnessed a co-worker eating soup out of the can in his car. Chunky Soup. That stuff is only good hot. This guy works hard, but he was eating like a homeless person. Some of my co-workers are heavily in debt(join the club), paying for college(most of my co-workers are half my age), paying child support or are single mothers. Shape pays a competitive wage, at least. My former co-workers from K-Mart had to rely on public assistance along with their paychecks. The minimum wage is still pitiful, but at least the amount was raised. Gas prices are down, which is fortunate, because I have to drive forty minutes to work every day, fifty or more in bad weather. I had to listen to my brother's anti-Obama rant at Thanksgiving, but all I know is I have a full-time job with benefits for the first time in almost fifteen years and gas is the lowest I've seen it since 2005.
Getting back to diet, Shape has a gym in one of its buildings and encourages healthy eating and lifestyle. Smoking is prohibited on all campuses; I had to sign a form promising I would never smoke. I am not a smoker, but I wonder about my co-workers that go speeding out of the parking lot at break times. A Wal-Mart and Meijer store are close by, so I'm sure someone is lighting up in the parking lots over there. In the break room, we have Avenue C, a series of refrigerated vending machines that offer healthy food. I now know I hate quinoa, thanks to my employer. I ate some of this stuff with a meal offered during a bonus meeting. Quinoa is not rice or oatmeal, it's paste, Actually, I think paste has more flavor. Just like plain Greek yogurt. Of course, next to the Avenue C machines, there is still cold sodas, including Mountain Dew, which takes up a whole row. I hate Mountain Dew; I think it tastes awful and leaves an aftertaste that makes your breath smell like chemicals. However, Mountain Dew is like Kool-Aid compared to the amount of Monster, Red Bull, and coffee drinks my co-workers consume. Shape may encourage healthy choices, but I don't see too many people taking advantage. If an employee in production is working seven days a week, fast food and coffee are very convenient.
One night, the weather was so cold and blizzardly(I know, that's not a word) outside, that I ate my lunch in the break room. I usually eat my lunch in my car, but I took my sandwich, pudding, and cookies to the large, warm break room. I sat at a picnic-style table, and soon realized I was back at school, everyone in their little groups. I found myself at the Loner Table without knowing it. I could feel my self-esteem deflate; just like the old days. A woman sat across from me. She kept her lunchbox close, she was almost hugging it. She nibbled on a cracker, then another, slowly. In the whole twenty minutes of our lunch break, the woman ate two crackers. She was a foreign woman, much thinner than me. Watching her eat was making me nervous, so I focused my own lunch while most of the crew had their faces in their phones while they were eating.
Some people get so sick of dealing with lunch that they skip it; they have a snack or nothing. But I get hungry in the middle of my shift, so I eat. In the parking lot, the garbage bins are full of pizza and fast food containers, along with the cursed plastic bags. Soup cans on the pavement, along with used earplugs. You can't eat earplugs, although my grand-niece Charleigh tried to eat mine once(she probably thought she was eating marshmallows). Earplugs are a requirement at work, making communication interesting. I've developed my own sign language, along with a series of facial expressions. Everyone seems to do this; I had to get used to speaking up around the noisy machines.
Food is my stress-reliever, and I have gained weight. Driving on icy roads in low visibility during a snowstorm is nerve-wracking as well. My car was rear-ended on my way to work last month. Now the bumper hangs down like a swollen bottom lip. A new car is in my future, and I am saving. I'm tired, but optimistic. With the end of winter, I'm looking forward to the publication of another book, The Fountain Gift, and my new release, The Sons of Man(free at Smashwords). I've been trying to squeeze in some new writing, but I'm lucky to have time to write this blog post. But, as busy as I've been, my imagination is calling. My mind wanders while I stand at my machine, watching the robot weld the components together to make support beams for Dodge trucks. When I drive home at night, I drive past these old Victorian houses that have been restored lately; a few years before, these houses were almost in ruins. I had a dream about being in house like that, going up the old stairs to a room, an old mattress against the wall, supported by chains. I recently wrote this poem I call Ashes:
Up the stairs
So many steps
I am not seen
In this house
Not my home
Around a corner
So many doors
To the room
With the bed that burned
Mattress skeleton springs
Who slept here?
My father's house
A good job is good to have, but my heart is calling for spring and inspiration. The snow will melt away and something new will grow. In the meantime, a toasted steak and cheese sandwich from Subway sounds good. Maybe I'll get a chocolate chip cookie. :)