“Is there a map?” I asked.
“There are no maps of the factory,” he replied, his back to me.
“But how will I ever find the way?”
“You will arrive and depart with your group. You won’t be lost.”
Was that a hint of softness in his voice? I could have imagined anything, at that point.
He stopped abruptly outside a door with a glass window in it.
“Here is your area. You will not enter your area until you arrive for work tomorrow.”
There was so much noise behind that door… . And so many colors! The boys wore common brown pants with suspenders and caps, and the girls all had on their street dresses and bright kerchiefs. They were moving in all directions at once, carrying boxes and pushing carts that rolled on thunderous wheels, calling out to each other, swinging wooden crates on ropes, whistling, singing even.
“The work you will do here, that everyone does, is very important.”
Again, there seemed to be nothing for me to say, but this time he did not wait for it. We continued down the hallway, opposite the way we had come. We took other stairwells, and passed more doors with people behind them. I tried to map the way as we walked. Maybe it was a shortcut.
As we descended a long flight of aluminum stairs and passed a room of assembly lines where everyone wore gray uniforms and dour faces, I asked what they did in that department.
“That division is none of your concern,” he replied. “You will never go in that division, or any of the other departments, other than the one you are assigned to. You will never use this route to exit again.”
We were funneled through the hallway to the door at the end, which put us back in the lobby. The woman behind the counter buzzed us into the time room, I clocked out, and was ushered through the door.
And that was the tour.
I stood blinking in the sunlight as it splintered off all those blinding metal gates as if I had just woken from a dream, or fallen into one.