Assembly Line

When I was ten years old I went on a road trip with my dad to New York City. On the way back we went through Michigan, and my dad decided to take me to the Henry Ford Museum. To be honest, I wasn’t really that interested in the cars that they had on display there, though they did have a very interesting antique car that was supposed to have been manufactured to the safest specifications possible. What I remember about that car was that the steering wheel was in the middle, and some of the seats were facing backwards. As I said though, I wasn’t so interested in the cars, I was more interested in the activities that they had for children.

Being that it was Ford, the big deal was, of course, the assembly line. They had two activities with the purpose of teaching children how productive an assembly line is. The first was sort of a mini car manufacturing line. Each child, and their parents if they chose to participate, would stand along a small conveyor belt, with a pile of parts in front of them, axles, wheels, etcetera. Several wooden blocks would then be placed on the belt and the conveyor would start. Then each person would do their one job, for example one kid would do one axle, and I mean one axle, another kid would do the other axle. The same was true for wheels. At the end of the line there were about five of these little wooden cars produced. Comically enough it was kids putting these together, so the belt had to be shut off constantly in order for the kids to catch up.

The other activity they had, was a giant machine. The sole purpose of the machine was to get plastic balls, the kind found in children’s ball pits, from one end of this machine to other. Like I said it was a giant machine, and each part of the machine required some kind of human interaction for it to work. For example there were exercise bikes, that while pedaled would pump air through a tube, in order to push these plastic balls further along. My job was to use a stick with a baseball mitt attached to one end to lift the balls up and place them in another tube. Overall the entire machine was an impressive spectacle, though admittedly it would have been a lot faster to simply carry the balls across the room.

What I learned from this, however, was not that a group of people working together can accomplish a lot. No, what I learned was that assembly line work was just about the most boring thing I could think of. Using the baseball mitt to move balls around a couple feet was the most boring job I could think of, but then I reflected on all the different jobs there, and they were all just as bad, riding one of the exercise bikes wouldn’t have been any better, and none of the other “jobs” were particularly exciting either. Sure, the whole operation was impressive, but it really wasn’t that satisfying to know that I was a part of it.

I knew from a young age that assembly line work was one of the worst jobs you can get into. I knew that any job where you do the same thing over and over was a lousy job. Though, I can say, that at least in reality you get paid for doing it, and maybe, just maybe, that makes it worth it.