Aphelion Issue 295, Volume 28
June 2024 --
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
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As the days of Summer slowly draw to a close it seems as if there's never enough time to do everything that needs doing. Lists of chores that Summer's heat made too difficult to accomplish have begun crowding Fall's more temperate days. And so it goes, as it ever has, always more to to than time to do it in.

With that all said, I do seem to be getting more done. There are always tons of unfinished projects that pile up. But I make progress on them, little by little, and even finish a few of them. Not as many as I like, but then again every completed project is a victory of sorts. I enjoy those small victories. Like my upcoming month of unemployment...

Wait a minute! I did indicate that it is going to be a temporary thing. I haven't lost my job at the factory. They're just not going to need me during the month of November. You see, every few years my factory shuts the production line down, turns off all the machines, and takes a little Time Out. We've got the world's largest electric glass melting furnace, and the firebrick erodes over time. Having a great big pool of 2800 degree F. molten glass in your innards for a few years is kind of corrosive, even for firebrick. Roughly every five years or so, the Melter has to be drained, shut off, and torn down to be rebuilt. It's three stories tall, so that can take a couple of weeks.

The company also uses this time to rebuild some of the machinery in the rest of the factory, too. Like the Curing Oven, which runs at roughly 900 degrees or so, all day, every day, for years at a time. The company recently changed the formula for the chemicals that are sprayed on the glass fibers as they are spun. All the formaldehyde was eliminated. Lots of the ammonia, as well. The new formula is more environmentally friendly and releases nearly no dangerous fumes over its lifetime. The new stuff is amazingly safer for the homes it will be used in, and even though the old stuff had to pass rigorous health and safety standards, this new stuff just stomps the old standards into the dust. Well, when we switched to the new formula, the Oven proved to be in dire need of modifications so as to cure the glass and new binder chemicals out completely. It just doesn't work as well with the new binder as it used to do with the old binder. So the company is going to make the Oven about 15 to 20 yards longer. This is a bigger project than it sounds. You see, there are other machines we use in that space the new oven is going to occupy. All that stuff has to be moved, redesigned, or modified.

Have you ever been to a pizza place where you could see the oven they bake your pizza in? It's a big metal box, with a wide sheet of chain that tows your pizza from fresh, uncooked dough with raw toppings on one end, to baked, crispy goodness on the other. It's slow, otherwise you pizza doesn't get baked enough to be good. That's exactly like our oven at the factory. It's a huge metal box about twelve feet wide, fourteen feet tall, and a hundred feet long, with a huge moving chain drive that tows the glass along to bake and cure the binder chemicals that we spray on the glass fibers as they get spun into filaments. Just like your pizza, but on an industrial scale. That's what we've been doing with our glass. We had to slow the oven down to bake the chemicals on the glass completely. The old binder chemicals would cure our in less time than the new chemicals do. So we can't make as much fiberglass as we used to make. At least, not and insure that it's good enough to sell to our customers, and to have in the walls or attic of your house. We have to make the oven longer so the glass will cook to perfection.

Now, the company also takes this down time to clean out lots of air ducts, and whatnot that are part of this process. Imagine climbing into a air duct. About four feet high and three feet wide. Imagine that the walls and ceilings of these ducts are coated with baked-on dust and dirt and soot and whatnot, and the floors are a foot deep with mud. And your job is to take a shovel and get the mud out. And after that you take an air chisel and chip the baked-on stuff off, then shovel it out too. Now imagine that these ducts are about two miles long, but twisted up like a plate of noodles. Not my idea of a fun workday. And this is going to go on for about six weeks. So we come to the part of this essay wherein you begin to understand why I am willing to forgo these and many other delightful tasks on hand during a factory rebuild. In the last thirty five years I've worked many a rebuild. But I choose to sit this one out. I'll be selling the rest of my unscheduled vacation time so that I can collect unemployment for a week or two of the downtime. I've already got some vacation time scheduled for November. Scheduled before the dates for Rebuild were picked. I've got months worth of mortgage payments sitting in the bank right now. My vacation checks and the unemployment will be more than enough to buy groceries and pay the utility bills for the duration. From October 27th to December 3rd I will take a short break from the daily grind of factory labor. Just imagine what progress I can make on my own projects while all that mess is going on without me.

I'm even going to go to one of my High School football games!