Ubong nia! Teo diena. Good morning! Sleep well.
I rolled the Lau phrase around my mouth. I wanted to repeat it to the other Solomon Island ladies when our shift ended and the translucent roof panels began to glow at sunrise. Feeling confident, I asked Evaline for a new phrase to practice, this time in Pidjin English. Only two rotating belts separated Evaline and me, but it was hard to hear her over the roar of the machine. She wore layers of knit sweaters and jackets over her warm brown skin; leaving only the faint sun patterns etched into her cheeks exposed to the night chill.
“How do you say ‘I am deaf’?”
“Mi ear pass now,” she repeated several times.
It wasn’t easy learning new words in a factory, but it made my eleven hour shift more bearable. It helped me ignore my aching feet, infected pinky (it got stuck in the machine) and my boxes that were piling up. The young stacker on my line was off flirting again with his fellow Argentinean coworkers.
Earlier in the week I had been asked to work for quality control. I preened my feathers and brandished my clipboard because I was chosen to do something new. However, I soon realized that quality control attracts the most miserable people. My boss never said ‘please’ and didn’t like the way I counted kiwifruit. Her shrill commands were delivered with fiery halitosis and punctuated by a mid-life crisis tongue piercing. The smoker’s wrinkles she collected carved deep lines into her thick pasty skin and her fleshy warts gave her a toady appearance. She always wore a neon safety vest and when she felt jaunty she sported a Copacabana sarong over her leggings. I affectionately referred to her as the Dragon. When I tired of asking redundant questions just to irritate her, I quit inspecting gold kiwifruit and relinquished my clipboard.
By the end of the week I was back on the packing line and in need of a new phrase to mull over for the next few hours.
How do you say, “I want to go to sleep right now?”
“Mi go sleep quick time.” Evaline replied.
A girl can dream, right?