Are You a Friend of Dolores?

1536737_1380043725583294_462828424_n Another cool gloomy day. Cleaned up a little and ironed although there wasn’t too much and I caught up on my correspondence and got ready for work. Watched TV and got working on my rug for a while. Then I went to bed late. Steve K. died today.

If you like the Samuel Peeps twitter feed (or if, like me, you like the idea of the Samuel Peeps twitter feed but you don’t actually keep up with it), or if you are friends with Isaiah Thomas on Facebook (but wish he would write in his diary more often), might I recommend that you become friends with Dolores Factoryworker immediately?

Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 2.22.02 PM

I accepted a Fb friendship with Dolores last December. I don’t know her last name (she isn’t saying), but every morning I check my news feed, if only to stay caught up on her diary entries. I can tell you about her daily commute to the Zenith factory in Chicago in 1960, as well as the diversions that she and her co-workers pursue in order to make time on the assembly line a bit less mind-numbing. Like many of her friends who met her last winter, I’m still wondering whatever happened to Jim-of-the-enigmatic-flirtations-and-mercurial-mood-swings. (Did he quit or get fired? What about the fiancée? Why all those months of mixed signals, Jim?) All her co-workers can run hot-and-cold sometimes, but I think we know by now who to trust and who to avoid. (Crabby Helen, you know who I’m talking about. And don’t think I’ve forgotten about you, Oddly-Doppelganger-Other-Dolores.)

Work was a war a[s] usual to keep up and I was losing all day. We did 60 an hour and brother! Larry came by and I asked him if he had his car but he didn’t. I told him I was going downtown and he said, “Oh, that’s why you look so nice.” Richard came by and told me all about his job and stuff. And Kenny helped me again. At lunch Mary broke the news to me that she became a grandmother Tuesday. She passed candy but she didn’t bring any down to me. Then it was finally time to go home and Jenny dropped me downtown but first we stopped at Fran’s house. I didn’t go up.


Dolores also keeps me up to date on her after work shopping trips to the National, her visits to Candyland, and the endless housework and ironing preparation for the next workday. (Boy she sure is tired.) I also keep up with current movies via her capsule reviews.

Went to the show and saw “The Gazebo” (lousy) and “Dog of Flanders” very good.

Sometimes she posts images from her favorites films (Pillow Talk, Beloved Infidel, and Ben Hur were some recent favorites), but she also post more ephemeral (literally) glimpses of her life outside of work: TV guide schedules, grocery store circulars, an ad for those nice soup mugs that Lipton sent her.

The doorbell woke me up and my cups from Liptons came. They were real nice.


Honestly, with all the ironing and cake baking (and now that new rug she is making), and all the days she’s wiped out and just sleeps all day and feels lousy or eats like a pig or stays up to watch the late, I just don’t know how she finds the time.

After I got downtown and went straight to the Palmer House to get my ticket and is it ever nice there. Then I went to the Walgreens for coffee and to the card shop and home. Uncle Joe was over and I told him about my trip and he wanted to go. Didn’t do anything and barely got ready for work and was so tired.

Over breakfast this weekend, my partner Danny and I found ourselves talking about Dolores like we would an old friend who we’ve been worried about lately. We’re both pretty concerned that the visits to the workplace nurse are becoming a daily occurrence. It makes no sense to us that her supervisor keeps putting her on more and more difficult assembly stations when her hand is clearly not yet fully recovered. Danny’s worried that they are trying to push her out, and so now I’ve got another thing on my mind.

Last day of work. When I went in this morning for my bandage the nurse made me see the doctor. He gave me some pills and said to take two a day. Helen is still crabby as ever and she got into a big fight with the stock boy and Ann. About 10 o’clock I started getting the most terrific backache and I was in pure misery the rest of the day. I was almost in tears by 3:30. Kenny and Richard and Larry came over to talk to me. Then Jo came and saw how awful I looked and helped me. I went for a drink and even Emmanuel asked me if I was tired.

As an early Americanist whose livelihood is based upon poking about in the private journals and notebooks of strangers, I find that this compelling archival recovery project hitting me particularly close to home. Instead of imagined subjectivities of Puritans and poetasters many centuries dead, I am eavesdropping on a woman who may or may not still be alive today. What difference does 400 vs 50 years make? I search Dolores’s daily entries for geographic markers of a city that I still call my hometown. I hear echoes of my own aging or departed midwestern female relatives in her colloquialisms and strangely muted accounts of a hundred anxieties and little victories. I empathize with her awkward cycles of preening and self-doubt. This summer I turn in earnest to the next book project that has me diving into a batch of private journals and reading cryptic accounts of lived experience. Let’s see if my friendship with Dolores brings any new insights to my archival methods.

Dolores has been informed by Fb that she has reached her limit of sending friend requests. No fear. You can initiate a friendship with Dolores yourself, and I highly recommend that you do so. Boy is she ever interesting.

Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 2.25.09 PM

Comments are closed.