Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Haunted by MSDS

Hollywood If you've ever read my bio, you know it says (and rather cheerfully):  "She's done it all, from drilling holes for NASA to typing scripts in Hollywood."

Yes, I did type scripts, but technically I was in West L.A., not Hollywood.  And I did drill and tap holes for NASA, but it was in a stinky, dirty, horrible little machine shop where the men leered at every one of the woman and spoke to us in sexist terms that today would be the basis of a lawsuit.  Everyone swore Swear words worse than sailors, using the F word as nouns, verbs, and adjectives (and often three or five times in each sentence).

For years, every time I'd get stressed out, I'd dream I was back in that hell hole with aluminum chips in my hair and cursing the day I ever entered the New York State Unemployment system that sent me to that grubby machine shop.  At the time, I was living with my parents and was dead broke, so I took that production job and stayed with it for 18 long months. 

I often worked on a Cincinnati milling machine where I'd have a full two minutes and forty-nine seconds between parts and could write.  I kept a little notebook in my green apron pocket and scribbled notes, snatches of dialog, and often entire scenes.  I wrote quite a few short stories and most of a novella during my tenure.  I quit that job to take one as a secretary at a large local college.  Eleven months later, I quit that to head for California and the movie studio. 

Drill press What's all this got to do with stress?

For years afterward, whenever I felt totally stressed out, I'd fall asleep and dream I was back in the dirty machine shop, tapping holes on a drill press.

As time went by, the dreams came less and less, and then stopped all together ...

Replaced by my LAST day job.  I worked for a former Fortune 500 company as a clerical worker for almost 26 years.  Now when I'm stressed, I end up in my last office, working on MSDS.  (Material Safety Data Sheets.)  Mind you, I didn't mind the actual work.  What I minded was one or two particularly nasty (two-faced) people who mentally abused the majority of us in one way or another. 

MSDS In my dreams, I've been working on MSDS a lot lately.  I'm mired in stacks of them (we're talking up to a foot high--which was actually what the shelf across from my desk often held).  Is this an 8-part MSDS or a 16-part MSDS?  Where's the specific gravity?  I'll page through the documents over and over again, searching for a certain piece of information that is never there.

Why was/am I stressed?  Because stuff keep happening that keeps me from writing.  The book is about a third finished and I'm falling behind.  I need a few stress-free days to catch up.

Oddly, during the most stressful part of my recent life (when my Dad was in the hospital/nursing home), I was able to write straight through it.  writing was my respite.  Even when my Dad was dying, he'd ask, "did you get your words today?"  Work was therapy.  Work got me through it.  Now . . . stupid stuff keeps interfering. 

Are you ever haunted by dreams of a past job?