What Labor Teaches (Or: How the Taffy Gets Made)

In the sweltering summer of my sixteenth year, I scored my first-ever full-time job.

It was a taffy-making gig, paying $5.25 an hour and entailing 40-or-so hours per week of light manual labor at a modest factory in Portland’s Inner Industrial Eastside.

The person who hired me was a petite and perky woman in her early 30s who reeked perpetually of flower-scented mothballs and preferred to wear her hair in a tight, high ponytail. She looked just a bit like Phoebe from “Friends,” and she lived in my dad’s condo complex with her six-year-old daughter. (I’m fairly certain he was attempting to date her, which never really worked out, though she did consent to a couple of rides on our jet-boat the week before she hired me, by phone, through my father.)

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