The first location I tested for lead was the old large shed in the backyard of our other house. My parents had recently bought this house from an old woman who used to live there with her husband. The woman’s husband died and she decided to sell the house. It is just a few houses away from our own home in Detroit. From the outside you can tell that the shed is very old. The paint is chipped and flaking off. Plus the tell tale sign of how old it is, is the plaque on top with the date “1940” in big bold numbers. As I was deciding which surface to test for lead, I walked inside and took a look at all the things there. The whole place looked like it had been some kind of workshop. There were lumps of wood, an old sawing table, and a lot of nails. While I was inside the shed, I saw a lot of dusty old things, but what caught my attention were the little bottles all over the shelves. The labels were mostly peeled off and were barely legible, but the only word I could somewhat decipher on one of the bottles was the word “lead”. Honestly, as the last person on earth to know what the contents of a toolbox are, I had no idea if this bottle of powder had any relevance to woodwork or carpentry. After shaking off the preposterous notions of being in some sort of drug lab, I stepped outside and found my perfect testing spot. Near the front of the shed, there was a pair of windows and windowsills made of painted wood. Those windowsills seemed like the best place where lead could accumulate. As I suspected, there was a hazardous level of lead present because the swabs turned a very dark pink. When I spoke to my father about the excessive presence of lead, he told me that he had assumed it would have because of how old the shed is. “Are you going to fix it?” I asked him. He smiled the exact smile whenever my mother asked him to fix something, “When I get the chance.”
The second location I tested was the front porch of the house we currently reside in. Both of these locations are in the 48210 zip code of Detroit. The porch has been painted so many times; I don’t even remember the original color. So before testing the sides near the railing, I kind of assumed that there would not be any lead present. And I was right. Really the second testing was nowhere as exciting as the first. But hey, what kind of person gets disappointed when their lead test is negative? My thoughts on this project are simply, the reflections of my experiences. I think about the many places around our big house that haven’t been dusted in forever and think, “We probably should clean that.” I guess I’m not that different from my father.
When searching for someone to interview for the topic of unemployment, this person automatically came to mind. When I heard that he had gotten laid off from work, it came as a shock, because to the extent of my knowledge he had been working for this company for over 20 years. I assumed that workers whom were that loyal would not have been so expendable. Upon speaking with him over the phone, I engaged him in mindless pleasantries, as to not seem too forward. Coming from the same culture and background as him, I knew better than to state my purpose upfront and in a callous nature. It is considered very rude to not a least feign interest in the well being of others before asking them of a favor. I had often seen my mother engage in hour-long discussions before even hinting at what she wanted. Seeing that I never was as patient as my mother, I asked him for an interview immediately after asking him how his wife was doing. He agreed to talk to me the following weekend.
When I arrived at his home, it looked the same as it had been when I used to visit with my parents as a young child. I noticed that although it seemed newly painted, the color was the exact same. This senseless observation of mine is not just a filler piece of detail. You see, for all the years I had known him, he never conformed to the changes of the world, deeming them useless and petty. So I was very intrigued to learn how the loss of a job, one of the biggest changes that can occur in one’s life, has affected the most traditional man I knew. While staring at the home from the front steps like a crazy person, I had failed to notice that his wife had opened the door and was approaching me. I was ushered into the home after a whirlwind of hugs and kisses and a million offers of lunch.
“I’m bored!” he exclaimed, responding to my first question. “Bored all the time. Yes I love spending time with my family, but none of them sit still long enough for an actual conversation. And this one—’’ he points to his wife, “ she gets sick of me helping in the kitchen. I can’t win with her!” His wife rolled her eyes and smiled. When I asked him again what happened for him to lose his job, he told me that the manager told him that they had to make cuts, so they were giving a lot of people time off. “Remodeling was the first excuse they tried to pass on us. Said they were going to ‘remodel the entire floor’. I knew that was a lie as soon as it came out of their mouth. I mean who needs to remodel the machine operator’s line?”
“I liked the comforting sense of routine. I liked that I knew what was expected of me and that I didn’t have to be creative or thing of knew ways to do things. Plus I had dental insurance.” I smiled because I remember my father getting just as excited about dental insurance when they first incorporated it to his job. He told me that there wasn’t much he disliked about his job other than his hands and feet hurting at the end of the day. While he unconsciously rubbed his hand, I felt that that pain was a way he felt accomplished in doing his job. Although it might be uncommon to feel nostalgic about pain, its possible to feel nostalgic about the memories linked with the pain. He told me how weird it felt for him to be home during the day, “I’m not even used to the day programs on T.V, they are really uninteresting to watch.” He informed me about how much more he slept. “I guess there’s that, I can sleep more. Though I am feeling myself get lazier. I’ve even gained weight!” It seems that, as he told me about spending time with his family, that he really is trying to uphold a positive attitude. When I asked him what he’s been doing, he spoke to me about trying to find small things around the house to fix and how working with his hands help relax him from the frustrating boredom around the house.
“I don’t think I’m ready.” He responded to my question of if he would start a new job. He then explained to me that he feels like he needs adjust a little without work and he might think about it. He has been unemployed for just over a month, so he told me that the advice to he would give to someone would be to spend sometime with family and relax a little.
I interviewed an old family friend, in a way, I consider him an uncle because my parents are as close as siblings with him and his wife. A big section of my childhood, we lived in the house right next-door and spent a lot of time there. One of the biggest things to surprise me was how well he was taking this drastic change. Other than the him being grumpier around the house, (whispered to me by his wife before I left) I hadn’t detected that he was horribly sad or depressed. I feel like him being receptive to change, gives me the belief that we can work through even the hardest of things. I honestly had the preconception that an unemployed person would match what I had only seen on T.V, a slob who is depressed and binge watching shows. Seeing him joke around with his wife and hearing him talk about spending time with his kids obliterated any perceptions I had that he would completely fall apart. I think him accepting the fact that he should try new things, shows that he is handling it very well. I would never have thought that he would be open to spending time in the kitchen, in fact I would have laughed at the exact idea of it. I feel like he is already doing a good job making decisions on what to do with his life and getting to know himself would have been my primary piece of advice for him. Long-term, I feel that he might miss his job, so if any similar job is available he might take it. But the knowledge he receives from widening his boundaries while unemployed will give him a different outlook where change is not always bad. I feel that while he might have strongly associated his identity with his job, he seems to be trying to understand new things about himself by providing care to his family.