“Women’s Spaces, Women’s Places”, New Anthology by Celia Miles & Nancy Dillingham
Celia Miles is one of the gallery’s bestselling local authors. One our perennial favorites is her anthology from 75 western North Carolina women writers named, “Clothes Line” which she co-edited with fellow author Nancy Dillingham.
Once again Celia and Nancy have hit a bull’s eye with their new anthology “Women’s Spaces, Women’s Places” This book is similar to “Clothes Line” in that it is certain to resonate with women readers from all walks of life.
For example “Metamorphosis with a Hotdog” by Celia is sure to connect with anyone, male or female who has ever worked in regimented assembly-line process…
“There are times when you are completely aware of place, when a heightened sensibility of surroundings engulfs you: a keenness when reaching a hilltop after a hard climb, when lying in a warm meadow bathed by grassy odors, while standing in cool, fir-shaded spots near sun speckled streams.
Then all your senses know where you are, and you have an overwhelming grasp of the moment. You simultaneously know the value of this place, this time and are totally open to the experience.
In the snack area of a crowded variety-discount store, years ago I basked in such an awareness. This island of “separateness” was full of plastic chairs, small tables, spilled coffee, dirty napkins, and nearby pinball machines. It was for work-mate Barbara and for me an oasis, a refreshing hour in our desert-day.
We worked in a large toy/games factory in a northern industrial city. Before 7 a.m. we checked in; at 3:30 we punched out, gathered our remaining energy and raced for the car.
In between, for eight and a half hours (with union-mandated breaks for lunch and coffee), we stood on our feet or perched on a stool over a conveyor line. Supervisor-worker communication was either intensely noisy or scornfully silent; all day we were yelled at or ignored by our male supervisor, to whom, no matter our age or education, we were “the girls.”
Never praised for efficiency, we were ever aware of our awkwardness, slowness, ineptness, and clumsiness. Enclosed in a windowless, drab-colored building, we were subjected to repetitive clunks, hisses, thuds of machines, to smells of glue, grease, oil, sweaty or over-perfumed bodies, to fine dust from paper products, to ear-splitting announcements and sputtering from the spastic intercom system.
We did the same thing as many as 5000 times each shift or we were rotated from one line to another, to various jobs, given inadequate instructions, made to feel incompetent, resentful, imposed upon, slavish and non-human.
We were always competing with machines and conveyor lines, and they were winning.
Depending on the job, our arms, feet, backs, heads or allover ached, but we left sore in more than body.
Simply the daily monotony crushed and bruised our spirits; and tears and tempers erupted if, by mechanical or human fault, the grumbling monster of “the line” crashed because of us, meaning time was lost, wages were curtailed. (We
could rise above minimum wage if our lines surpassed the quotas set.)
Some days by shift’s end, I felt like an orange with all the pulp and juices squeezed and drained from me, leaving a hurting rind. But an orange still able to get out of there quickly.
At approximately 3:42, we pulled into the parking lot at King’s, a large, bright, overstocked store with its grill and snack area at the front.
In the afternoons, tired clerks shifted from foot to foot, bored children cried, weary mothers in ruffled headgear dragged them along, teenagers meandered through looking at music selections and each other.
Probably to no one else did this place feel fresh and relaxing. In our dungarees, sweatshirts, and tennis shoes, we opened the door as we would to a haven;
the buttery aroma of popcorn from a pseudo-old fashioned canopied cart drifted through the air and found appreciative receptors.
We entered as factory hands—part of a person; we left as ourselves. Within the factory an edginess arose from constant pressure, personality conflicts, an irritability that stemmed from holding inside those conflicts.
Our voices grated, our eyes became tired and bloodshot, our hatefulness may have been only skin deep but a scratch brought it surfacing with sharpness. We didn’t want to go home to our engineer and graduate student husbands in our grim and grimy factory mood.
We invariably ordered the same thing—ritualistic devotees of the hotdog and the small coke. Carefully counting the forty-five cents (which some days represented one-fourth of an hour’s work) we then moved to the messy counter where we slathered our chili-smothered wieners with rnustard, sweet pickle relish, and onions.
Awkwardly carrying; our hotdogs, cokes, straws, napkins, and pocketbooks, we made our way to a table. We cleared leftovers, wiped sticky spills, emptied stale ashtrays, sank onto plastic.
The first bite was sheer ecstasy. Warm, spicy, slightly soggy, it was gone too quickly. Followed by a gulp of icy, tingling coke. Then we ate slowly savoring each bite.
The store’s afternoon exuded a laxness, an air of leisureness, of sorting, of “just looking,” of pleasant, colorful disarray. As we munched, we began to shed our hard-coated selves.
We watched customers choosing or discarding merchandise, goldfishes sparkling in their aquariums, dogs wandering in the parking lot.
Whether sunlight shafted through the smudged windows or rain dripped or snow piled high and blackened by the city’s factories, we looked around with a sense of restoration and revival.
As our hardness gradually evaporated, we began to feel like human beings again—to realize we were more than just “girls” on the line, numbers at the time clock.
Released from the factory persona, we could laugh at our own pettiness and shrug off soul-numbing encounters with bosses, machines, and time study engineers.
King’s provided our adjustment period—out of the factory and not yet in our homes. We entered as factory hands, we left as women, wives, even temptresses whose husbands (unaware of the metamorphosis) might take us dinner or off for the weekend.
While licking our mustardy fingers and guzzling the last of the ice, in this temporary refuge (itself a commercial rather than a “natural’ area) between two worlds, we eased into human re-emergence. “
We invite you to come by the gallery to see all the books by this author, but if you can’t then please take a moment to browse a selection of her books available thru our online store.