As Atari walked toward the factory where she worked she wondered how long it would take her before she would have an opportunity to pursue her true goals in life. She had been on the job for approximately ten months and the work was rather hectic due to performance and quality control measures which at all times had to be adhered to. One had to lift at least fifty pounds in order to be hired, plus the welds had to be perfect on each part. She remembered how she had difficulties initially not noticing when a weld was off but the assembly portion was relatively easy except for some difficult jigs.
Prior to her starting at the factory where her father worked, she had just completed high school. She realized she would have to tow the line with her new job until she had the funds with which to further her education. That was the problem when one came from a poor family. Her mother didn’t seem to believe that a female required schooling. Her father, although he has worked in the factory over thirty years, was known to be a practicing alcoholic in his spare time.
She felt as though he was continually upset that she was not a male and if she had been a male, she would have received sports scholarships which would have allowed her to go to college. She maintained an honor student grade average in high school but it did not warrant her college being paid for. Plus since she babysat and did odd jobs to make money from the time she was eleven years of age, it made it difficult to excel.
“Hi Atari”, her friend Susan called out as they both made their way toward the factory entrance. “You didn’t go over to the Rusty Pail last night and most of our gang was there!”
“No, I decided to stay at home. You know, I’ve been designing some new clothing as well as writing a novel relating to one becoming a famous fashion designer” Atari stated.
“Well, you just need to go out once and a while because it is crazy to work yourself in a frenzy” Susan indicated.
“You know how badly I wish to be a fashion designer. I can secure an on-line program through the Academy of Art University but I truly would like to study on its campus in San Francisco” Atari stated.
“Well I really don’t know why you would want to go that far. If you went to a school in Illinois it would be closer to Minnesota as well as to New York” Susan stated. “Anyway, Atari, I hate to be blunt but it probably is just a pipe dream. I know how creative you are but let’s face it, neither one of us have the ability to just move on. We are lucky we have jobs. Now I understand you now have to pay rent for your room at your parent’s home as well as assisting with groceries. You really need to move away from there and get a place of your own or room with someone else.”
“Oh Susan, I know it will work out in the end. I have a dream and I certainly do not wish to work in a factory the rest of my life. I just need to save a bit of money. I almost have my car paid for and although it is old, I know that it will get me there. Once I find a place, then I can probably take some of my courses on-line and some on-campus. I know I can get grants and loans because of my financial situation. It will just take a little time” she responded.
As Atari and Susan stood in line to clock in, Susan’s guy friend Brad joined them. Brad and Susan had been dating off and on since high school, but Atari was certain it was a relationship of convenience because he seemed to stray every time Susan wasn’t around.
Atari quickly headed toward the welding area where she was to work with the computerized robots, while Susan and Brad left toward the in ATV assembly area where they both worked. She was extremely happy to have been accepted in welding rather than in assembly because the she found it stressful when trying to assemble a vehicle with parts which sometimes cut your hands and made for ugly calluses after they healed from bleeding. She tried and failed miserably. Now she only had to protect herself from welding burns but she wore protective clothing as well as a cap
She remembered how Susan’s fingers bled from screwing in parts initially. At least with welding, as long as you wore the appropriate clothing, you could usually avoid welding burns and one would not need to develop calluses. But she tried to stay away from the buffing areas and hoped she would not have to use a buffer. One of the girls suffered scars on her face because the factory did not provide the appropriate safety shields. She did not wish to have a similar problem because the lady suffered excruciating pain as well as some scaring from the fiberglass which embedded under her skin.
It was fortunate to have a position since so many others were laid off or couldn’t find a job. She had a couple of things going for her; she was young and capable, at least in the welding department, and most felt sorry for her family situation. This was because they knew that although her father was an excellent worker on the job, he was not a great provider.
Atari usually purchased second-hand clothing at thrift sales and remade them to resemble new designed clothing. She rarely had money to spend but was grateful that she could pick up odd and end jobs including cleaning and babysitting to purchase clothing. Even though her mother did not sew, she had been passed on a sewing machine which was previously her grandmother’s which Atari was allowed to use.
She had just assembled the parts to be welded on the first side of the table and did not notice the individuals directly behind her. As she turned to walk toward the other side of the table to assemble the other parts, she ran right into a younger man wearing a navy blue suit, white shirt and tie. Fortunately he was tall and muscular, because even though Atari was small in comparison, the manner in which she ran into him could have sent him backwards.
“What an awkward moment” she thought as she landed right into his arms. She tried to step back but for some reason he seemed to have held her a bit longer than she thought he should have.
As he released her and she stepped back, she asked him why he was in front of her working pathway. “Don’t you realize you could have not only hurt me but yourself?” she asked.
As he looked at her dumbfounded, Ron Jenkins, her supervisor, introduced him as Kent, one of their newly hired engineers. She was asked whether she was at a point where she could stop working on her existing parts. Ron explained that Kent had devised a new design on some of the component parts. He wished to have them welded immediately to see whether they would work better than the existing parts because assembly was having difficulty in attaching them to the frame. Ron explained he would be calibrating the computers for the new welds so once Kent reworked the jigs, she would have to make some test welds.
Kent still silent, grabbed a screwdriver to change the jigs so that the parts he was holding would fit, leaving Atari just standing there watching the two.
She could hear her fellow workers laughing about a “suit” holding Atari in his arms while making kissing gestures. First of all, no one wears a suit on the factory floor and secondly, Atari was a “hands off” type of girl. Although most of the men tried to solicit her attention, she virtually ignored everyone. She did not wish a life like her mother and had decided that she would probably never marry anyone. She frankly did not trust most men and wished for a future she alone commanded.
She almost laughed at the site of Kent’s new look. He had hung his suit coat over one of the large parts bins, rolled up the sleeves to his white shirt and threw his tie back so that it would not be stuck in the jig as he worked. She could see where his rolled up white shirt sleeve cuffs already had grease stains.
She wondered why Ron would not have warned him that it was necessary to wear a lab coat when coming down to the factory area. Yet, she was certain that since he had been introduced as a new engineer, this was some sort of initiation on Ron’s part. Everyone seems to have to go through some type of initiation but the factory people did not have a lot of respect for “suits”. The suits stayed in their air conditioned offices, while the factory people below worked in the elements with most of the bay doors remaining open for the forklifts. There were fans placed strategically to remove fumes and the like and to provide some air; but in the winter months, it would be terribly cold and during the summer it sometimes was almost 90 degrees inside.
Soon one of the forklift drivers lifted a bin of the new parts to be welded and placed it on top of another bind of current parts. Since it was too high to just grab some of the parts, Atari started to climb up the bin sides in order to place the new parts into one of the smaller rolling trays. There was no parts man in sight and she felt she had nothing better to do than to get organized for a good run.
Kent had completed his calibrations and was ready to grab his jacket lying on the lip of the bin next to bin Atari had climbed above to get her parts. It was then when the forklift slammed into the bin where Kent’s suit jacket had been, moving all the other bins as a result. It caused the bin Atari was holding on to with one hand while pulling parts with the other hand to move suddenly. Losing her balance, she dropped the parts and began to fall toward the concrete floor. Kent noticing she had lost her balance threw his suit jacket to the floor and quickly caught her in his arms before lowering her down to the floor.
Ron seeing the event as it transpired then ran toward the forklift driver delivering obscenities and safety procedure adherence in the same breath.
“Are you okay, Atari?” Kent asked.
“Yes, I’m fine. I just didn’t expect the jolt” she said. Looking at his suit jacket which laid on the floor, she exclaimed, “I am so sorry about your jacket. And it’s evident your white shirt is now full of oil, especially when you caught me. I know the floors haven’t been swept and you probably now have oil on your jacket as well”. She then picked it up and handed it to him.
“I’m not worried about a jacket. I was more worried about you getting hurt. Well these bins shouldn’t be placed that high. You should not be getting parts without a sturdy ladder if they are your responsibility. I’ll speak to Ron about this and make certain this type of thing does not happen again.”
“Don’t worry about it Kent. These types of things happen frequently and let’s face it, you are new and Ron would not appreciate an engineer from the office telling him to do his job. If you value your new job, it may be best to forget this ever happened and anyway Ron appears to know about it” she said.
“Well Atari, although I am new, my last name is Stevens. I am not telling you this because I feel I have more pull than Ron. But I have to admit, it appears fate wants you to fall in my arms more than once today. May I take you out to dinner this evening? It would be my pleasure” he said.
Atari was shocked that a Stevens actually spoke to her, much less to ask her out to dinner. “He was so quiet but he really has a lot to say, once he gets started” she thought.
“I really don’t think that would be a good idea. We in the factory do not fraternize with those who work in the office. Now that I know you are a Stevens, you most likely would be considered my boss, even though we do not physically work together” she responded.
“We? Does that mean you follow everyone else here? You cannot make your own decisions” he asked.
“No, actually I may not. When I am on the floor, I follow factory decorum. If I were to do anything else, things may be more difficult for me than they are now. Believe, me I have seen this happen” she said.
What could I do to change your mind, Atari? It is only dinner and if you are uncomfortable, you could just meet me at the casino” he said. “Surely you do not follow what other’s say in your own private life?”
“No I do not just follow what everyone else does in my private life. And I do not wish to be rude, but it’s a matter of principle and I do not fit your social status. Your kind does not mix well with our kind and I need a job. Furthermore, I am certain you are doing this out of kindness. You are very handsome and I am certain you already have a girlfriend or two. Thank you for your invitation but it is not possible.”
“And, you are stating that this is your final answer. You won’t even attempt seeing me outside of the factory?” he asked. “By the way I am dating no one.”
“I have to be back at work tomorrow morning at 4:30 am and I really need to go home this evening and get some sleep. Again, it’s really not a good idea”, she affirmed.
“Okay, I’ll let you off the hook for now as a matter of principle; but, not for long. There’s a reason for everything and I really want to see you outside of this factory whether or not we are within the same social status, my dear Atari.” He then moved toward Ron to have a private conversation which appeared to be somewhat heated from what she could see.
Once Ron returned, Atari ran a few robotic welds and after a couple more calibrations, the welds seemed to be perfected.
As Ron and Kent left her area, Atari started her production, deciding to place Kent out of her mind.
She had assembled and welded some 200 parts for the day even though she required a computer tech to calibrate better welds at least five times after Ron’s original calibrations. By the time her day had ended she was happy to see Susan waiting for her.
“What’s going on, Atari? The factory is spreading the news on how you have been throwing yourself at the owner’s’ son, Kent” she asked.
“That wasn’t the case, Susan and you know me a lot better than that. I don’t throw myself at anyone” she replied. “In fact I did not know he was the owner’s son until much later. I was just told he was a new engineer” she said.
“I know you don’t throw yourself at anyone Atari, but you have to admit he is quite a hunk and you could have changed your mind. We’ve seen him around with one of the St. Claire girls since he has come into town. Apparently their families are friends and from what I have heard Gigi St. Claire expects to be married to him someday. The St. Claire’s have a great deal of wealth and her parents and the Stevens are joined at the hip” Susan explained.
“Oh God…. No! Gigi was an upper classman who enjoyed taunting me because I could not afford what she thought were the correct clothes. She and her group continually harassed me about everything. She is the reason I did not even go to the prom. You have to be kidding me. Why on earth did he ask me out to dinner if he is nearly engaged” she exclaimed. “And how is it that everyone else knew he was a Stevens and I did not.”
“What do you mean, Atari? He asked you out to dinner? When?” Susan asked. “Oh, most of us have known for a couple of weeks but we never expected him down here.”
“He asked me out tonight. But I declined and told him it was not a good idea because he was my boss. Please don’t tell anyone, Susan. I really do not need people talking for no reason. It was a forklift incident the second time where he caught me and the first time, I wasn’t looking and he was too close. It wasn’t my fault” she responded.
“I know Atari, but I have to admit you certainly must have stirred up his hormones to have asked you out. That’s not normal for anyone from the Stevens family. They look down on all of us factory workers.” Susan concluded.
“Well maybe he thought I was an easy mark” said Atari “but he will soon find out that I do not go out with anyone; and I certainly do not wish to go out with him. He was really trying to place the pressure on me to change my mind” she concluded.
It had been at least two weeks and Atari had not seen Kent on the factory floor again. She felt that it was probably for the better since the welding department had been working overtime three out of five days. The extra money was great and as soon as she had an opportunity, she would apply to the Academy and at least start her courses on line. The problem with loans and grants are that the courses usually have to be taken continually or one has to pay the loan back. She had been studying period clothing, fabrics and sewing techniques for some time. Recently she purchased a clothing form so that she could design her own clothing from fabrics she was able to purchase on sale.
It seemed as though her parents felt it was a ridiculous career for her to pursue. Her mother told her that it was best she marry and live a life like others in the area. In fact her mother stated she even heard some of the supervisors wanted to go out with her but she never gave them the time of day. She said “Atari you would be lucky to have someone support you and I understand some of those supervisors have very good positions”. Yet, every time Atari picked up a fashion magazine, she knew the day would come when her own designs would be featured.
The factory workers finally stopped talking about her escapades with Kent. One of the men made certain that she knew that the Stevens and the St. Claire families had taken a trip to the Caribbean where they were basking in the sun.
One of the older women who hardly spoke to Atari commented that she expected Gigi St. Claire would be engaged to Kent in the very near future. Atari thanked her but told her she had no interest in either person so she did not understand the reasoning for her to mention it. The woman just walked of muttering to herself.
Atari had already determined that her co-workers were attempting to tell her that her place was in the factory with factory workers. She should not to be mixed up with a Stevens. Anyway, she was happy that she did not have to see him again because she was certain that her rejection of his offer was final in spite of what he had stated.
When working in a factory, females get hit on by men continually and at some point, it is rare to believe anything one would tell them. She just couldn’t understand how and why Kent had made an impression on her.
Today obviously was not going to be an ordinary day. First she had difficulties with the computer synchronizing the welds. She had run about twenty parts before noticing the welds were uneven. Then the wrong parts were delivered. Once she finally received the correct parts, the piping did not sit in the jigs correctly and she had to return them to that department for another batch. When she finally had what she required, all of the buzzers to the factory went off and the supervisors were frantically telling everyone that they were to exit immediately to the back of the building.
Apparently there was an oxygen leak in one of the welding areas and they were concerned for everyone’s safety due to the possibility of an explosion. As Atari made her way out of the building, she heard a voice behind her say “Hi, there beautiful. Did you miss me? I certainly hope so.”
She turned around to see Kent, dressed up in a pair of tight jeans, a fitted tee-shirt and a baseball cap, hiding his eyes with sunglasses. As he was grinning at her, she asked “Your building may be blowing up and you are asking me whether I missed you? Are you kidding me?”
“I wouldn’t kid you. I am certain the building will be just fine. If not, we have insurance. All the gas mains have been cut off and we have our tech team working on the oxygen problem. Please follow me to the side of the building. I have something important to discuss with you.”
No one seemed to notice it was a Stevens who Atari was walking out with. Kent’s face was covered by sunglasses and the brim of his baseball cap as he led the way to the side of the building with Atari following him a short distance behind. When they were out of the other’s sight, he stopped and asked her when it may be convenient for her to go out to dinner with him.
She told him that she should not have followed him if she had known it was to ask her out. She again explained that it was impossible for her to go out with him because factory people do not date office executives. “Anyway from what I have heard, you are already engaged to Gigi St. Claire.”
“Atari, some of these righteous factory people who are spreading these stories, while telling you the office people are bad, are having affairs with married men in the office. And they dare to spread rumors about you and me. We had to fire two of them last week because they were having sex in the early hours in full sight of the yard. And besides being forbidden, anyone could find them and did. Anyway, I know people have been giving you a bad time about this. It’s unfortunate but it is the way these people operate.”
“You don’t know me. And by now, I am certain you know who my father is, that his off hours are spent at the Rusty Pail and that I have come from an impoverished uneducated family” she answered. “I am not the type of person your family would like for you to associate with.”