In the Work Force

It was the summer quarter of 1965 at the Ohio State University. I was striding down High Street, in my neatly ironed skirt and blouse, my low heeled pumps, and nylon hose. I was carrying my sack lunch and my white cane. The early morning sunshine affirmed my feeling of well-being, and the High Street traffic stirred excitement in me. Like the people in the cars, I was on my way to work. I had a purpose, to be part of the work force, to be employed.

I thought of my mother, as I bustled down the sidewalk, because many years ago, before she learned to drive, she too walked to work, as a typist at the Chevrolet plant in Norwood, Ohio. On this sunny day in June, 1965, I was not going to be typing, or counseling or teaching or any of the other things I was considering in my college education. I was going to work in the sheltered workshop at the Vision Center of Central Ohio. No, it wasn’t going to be a career, just a summer job to fill in my many hours of free time. I felt it was comparable to any other college students working at a hamburger joint for a summer job.

The reason I had so much free time was that I had no text books from which to study. I had sent them off to be recorded on tape, and the organization that offered that service was 5 weeks late in getting them back to me. That was half the quarter. Needless to say, I had a whole lot of reading to do when the tapes finally arrived. Meanwhile, I wanted to fill those empty hours with something meaningful.

My assignment at the workshop was to attach some little part to some other little part that would eventually be something useful. The people who worked around me were not college students. This was their career, but they were productive, skilled, and happy. I felt a little like Lucy, in the I Love Lucy Show, when she and Ethel worked on the candy assembly line. Not only was I slow, but at the end of the day, my hands were sore and blistered. Still, the next day, I set off again for my job, just as eager to be part of the work force, but not so eager to be using my hands that day. My supervisor took one look at my blistered palms and wrapped them in gauze, so I could get through the day with less pain. That was the last day of my summer job. If nothing else, it inspired me to get an education and learn to work with my head.

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