Work Without a Soundtrack


From Words Without Borders:

The hundred people who work at the Tutto Colore clothing factory have hardly noticed me. I could have been an actor, but here I’m invisible, like an extra. I’d like to think that I’m a spy with a good cover but the truth is that I’m a guy who works in a warehouse; and I have been for a month, for ten hours per day. In the course of these four weeks at work I have repeated a handful of phrases that seldom vary: “Yes, Sir. No, Sir. I’ll do it right now.” I’ve learned to move around the second floor, where I’m stationed, with the agility of a sailfish.

Every day I warehouse garments on metal shelves that look like the skeleton of a space shuttle. I also take inventory of T-shirts and sweatsuits on a long table like the ones in high-school cafeterias and I take orders from my boss—a neurotic man who won’t let me and my coworkers listen to music—with Benedictine humility. On the other floors in the factory, people knit their brows less. They relax, listening to rancheras, merengues, ballads. We work without a sound track. If we could mumble along to any song, whatever it would be, I’m certain of two things: 1. The men I work with would stop obsessively discussing how to keep their women happy and 2. I wouldn’t keep picking my life apart as if it were a Rubik’s cube.  

My work day begins at 6:45 a.m. That’s when the night guard, a bald guy who swallows his words, opens the door and greets me with a flat “Buenos días.” At the entrance I look for a yellow card with my name on it and I slide it into the slot of a metal clock that looks a lot like a small safe. I hate that sound in the morning, the heavy clack, like a shackle; but I love the music it makes at 5:00 p.m., when I check out, like the snap of fingers returning me to the world. Each time you stamp your timecard in a factory, it’s like putting a price on your day. Mine is worth 14,500 pesos ($7.67).

“Six Months on Minimum Wage”, Andrés Felipe Solano, Words Without Borders