I had a job working at a factory ever summer from when I was 17 to 21. It was horribly tedious but it was definitely not without drama. There was only a handful of students among the full time ladies (We called them ‘lifers’) so we became pretty close and attempted to have some fun to help the nights go by faster. It was a pretty sexist place to work as well... the ladies did one job exclusively and the men did another – primarily worked on the machines. There was one man that worked there that had sadly fallen down the ugly tree of life and hit every branch on the way down. If I was to use a Simpsons’ reference, he would have been a close match to the hillbilly Cletus Del Roy. His name was Pete Martin; he was in his late 30s and had crooked teeth, an enormous over-bite, greasy thinning hair, and to top it off, an ill-fitted glass eye! If he was an introverted S.O.B., we would have left him in peace, but the punch line was that he walked around the place like he an obnoxious super stud, talking shit all the time.
It was bizarre and we couldn’t resist messing with his head. We were a group of teenage girls; of course we made fun of him on a regular basis. We nicknamed him Fartin’ Martin. I wasn’t the leader of this pack of teenie bopper bitches by any means, but I did join in on the jokes. It was only my second summer there, and there was definitely a pecking order depending on how long you had been there, so I was at the lower end of the totem pole.
About 1 month into the summer, I was on a packing line with 3 other students and 2 lifers. They often spoke in Portuguese, so the 4 of us mostly ignored them, but then all of a sudden, the smaller of the two (who strongly resembled a rat) started getting very emotional about some ‘home-wrecking slut’ that was causing all these problems in her marriage. We couldn’t help but overhear her animated conversation and the other woman was edging her on, telling her she should kick her ass. The 4 of us started to laugh at this suggestion, as she couldn’t have been taller than 4’10” and we looked over at them. The rat lady looked over and pointed right at me –
“That’s right bitch, I’m talking about YOU! See my name tag? It says Angie Martin! Pete is my husband and you better step off or I will kick your ass!”
I stood there stunned. Was I on a hidden camera show or something? IS THIS A JOKE? She was like a Chihuahua threatening to fight a Mastiff. I was never good at handling confrontation, so although my neck and ears were burning with stress and embarrassment, I did little to defend myself. I timidly replied, “I’m sorry. I have no idea what you’re talking about. You must have me confused with someone else. I’m only 18 and I am not interested in your husband!” That was the bloody under-statement of the year – the thought of Fartin’ Martin in a sexual way made me throw up in my mouth a little. Not only was he probably the most freakishly unattractive man I had ever met, he was irritating and... Oh yeah... at close to twice my age... a geezer! Gross!
It got worse every night and not only did she take every opportunity to harass me, she also got some of the other Portuguese ladies to follow suit. It was hell! Luckily, there was a bit of a divide and the Croatian ladies sided with me and would try and comfort me by telling me to ignore that 'Portuguese trash' and that she and her husband were both freaks. Well thanks for that, but it didn’t stop either of them from driving me crazy. One night, Pete actually approached me and yelled so the entire factory could hear, “Stay away from me! I’m married! Give it up!”
What the fuck was going on? I was like an unwilling pawn in their marital issues, but it was spiralling out of control and I still had no idea why they singled me out from the other girls. We all taunted him – and we made it abundantly clear that we were always using extreme sarcasm when we called him ‘sexy’. I dreaded going to work every night, and finally, I had to tell my mother what was going on (she knew the owner of the factory). It was either that or quit and I needed that job.
It escalated one step even further after I reported the harassment and the Union had to get involved... it was an utter nightmare... and STILL that didn’t put a stop to the constant under-handed comments. Jesus Christ! Was this drama worth $12/hour for 8 weeks a year? I was beginning to think not even fucking remotely close!
Finally, after she passed me one night, and cleared her throat with a “Slut” comment, I had had enough. I followed her in to the ladies’ change room; I was shaking with adrenaline. I went right up to her, towering over her and yelled, “Leave me the fuck alone! Your husband is absolutely disgusting! If you want to try and kick my ass for no God damn reason then let’s take it outside right now and settle this, you fucking crazy little bitch!”
She picked her jaw up off the floor and stormed away. I was still shaking and I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. There were a couple ladies in the change room that had frozen in place, expressing approving smirks, but at the same time pretending they weren’t there. I thought that I would definitely have to quit now, but I just couldn’t stand her picking on me anymore, night after night... for a completely fictitious reason as well.
The oddest thing happened though – she never bothered me again! No snide remarks, no threats, not even a single dirty look– not even from her minions. After I stood up to her, she made it so I didn’t exist to her. That was fine with me! I guess emotional terrorism was all fun and games to her until her victim fought back... and happened to be twice her size.