Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Boxes

Once upon a time in a factory in central PA, a young girl works on an assembly line in the summers to pay for college. On her first day, a delightful Puerto Rican woman named Evie shakes a cardboard receptacle at her. "What you call this, honey?" Evie asks.

"A...box?" the girl replies.

"Wrong! The only box in this factory is the one between your legs. That's a shipper."

And so, equipped with the appropriate vocabulary, the young girl learns to build, stuff, and stack shippers. Quickly. She grows spry and confident, moving 15 shippers per minute on a good day.

But the girl is not happy. She looks at her shredded hands, cracked and dry from the cardboard and frowns as her untaxed brain screams for stimulation. The girl vows to continue her education, to work instead for an institution of higher learning where she would never have to use her factory vocabulary. She longs for the day she can put that skill set away forever.

Several years later, the girl is a graduate student. Her funding comes through a research position for an academic journal on campus. As the journal gains international circulation, the department decides the office is worthy of new furniture and carpet. Pronto. Someone must box and stack and move the contents of the office, disassembled containers and palates to be provided. That someone must be young and strong and not presenting a paper at a conference in Japan. Everyone looks to the girl, who silently nods.

The girl sighs over her new task, rolls up her sleeves, and allows her body to assume rhythms it would rather forget. She imagines herself back in the hairnet, can almost feel the polyester uniform as she folds, stuffs, and stacks. Folds, stuffs, and stacks.

Her boss enters the office an hour later and joyfully exclaims "Oh! You're almost done!!! How did you pack those boxes so fast?"

"Dr. Newman," the girl responds, "precision, please. These are not boxes. They are shippers."

5 comments:

PeaceLoveMath said...

it's like...

senior thesis: reprise

!

Em said...

Bravo.

onion said...

I loved it...how lucky of you to be in the right place at the right time. And..speaking about precision...they may be shippers, not boxes, but they are pallets, not palates.

Katy said...

oh, onion! you are absolutely right! i will make the change...or should i leave it for posterity?

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