Tuesday, January 10, 2017

For the Want of a Toilet

In my late twenties, I was the foreman of a synthetic detergent manufacturing plant, the first female to work in the building much less supervise. This presented a number of challenges, the least of which was that there was but one single, utterly filthy (in a truck stop bathroom sort of way) toilet with no doors just past a very small break room where sat those crusty men that I supervised. 

Now, I say the "least of which" because of course I was not enfolded with welcoming arms into this male kingdom. There was a good reason to believe the operations were sabotaged on more than one occasion on my shift. Over time, somehow, I gained a measure of respect and acceptance because of my work and willingness to get dirty, and because of the foul chemicals, "breathe through my asshole" as one of the other foremen would say.

I have many stories from these days of the challenges of being a woman engineer in a man's world. But while watching Hidden Figures this past weekend, Catherine had to run half a mile to the coloreds only bathroom which reminded me of my young self. In the middle of the night, on third shift, I would time "running the traps" (translation: checking the steam siphons on all of the chemical tank dikes) with finding a bathroom in another building that actually had a door, no Playboy magazines, and no men just around the corner listening. If the plant was experiencing a problem such that I could not leave but nature was calling, I had to kick all the men out of the tiny break room, and gagging, use that excuse for a bathroom.

The women in Hidden Figures faced even more discrimination because of their skin. What a fantastic movie! We were gifted with sitting on the edge of a large group of black women who had all come as a group after church. I loved hearing their laughter and their comments, but the movie resonated with the entire (full) audience based on the applause at the end. The movie documented the shameful way we humans sometimes treat each other, and for no reason other than ignorance and power. 

This movies should be required viewing of all, but especially children and teens. It contains history, science, math, diversity training, and humanity - which is something that seems to be lacking in the news these days. The one down side is that I left feeling that I've not accomplished so much. I've not put a man on the moon or become somehow important. I have, however, put three good people on this earth, and I hope their accomplishments will mitigate the lack of my own.

2 comments:

Mary said...

You are an accomplished writer. You gave many hours to moms of babies, helping them with breastfeeding, and, in the process, also helping them form loving bonds with their families. You are now the mom of a special needs young man whom you homeschool. You taught your older children and they have launched well. I would argue that you have been extremely successful, although much of your work was unpaid.

Rick said...

I cannot wait to see the movie. Sheryl and I went this past weekend and could not get a ticket. This weekend for certain.

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