Better than any museum or guided tour of Montreal was our visit to a really big industrial glass factory. We’re talking production of 500,000 beer bottles in any 24 hour period. This doesn’t include the liquor bottles, mayonnaise jars or other glass vessels that get produced at the same time. I’ve been to a number of factories (glass in particular), but this place was outright SCARY and DANGEROUS and LOUD and GREASY and BEYOND FASCINATING!! I think the word I am looking for here is gobsmacked!
Friends of friends of ours live in Montreal, and the husband works on the line in the factory. He very generously showed us around to every station of the plant. Truly, this was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. I do wish the videos were longer and that I could have taken more footage, but I think that would have broken the rules. What really stuck with me was the level of extreme hazard. I’m talking weaponized molten glass! We have come to think of factories as largely automated or adhering to strict safety measures, but this was anything but. One false move and WHAMMO…there goes your finger or your hand or, for that matter, your whole freakin’ arm. And this doesn’t even begin to address the slippery floor. All those machines need lubrication, and it’s inevitable that in the process of doing so, all the other surfaces get covered in many layers of black oil. It immediately brought to mind the book Fast Food Nation, in which the writer Eric Schlosser describes conditions in our nation’s meat packing industry. I have an entirely new level of respect, and concern, for anyone who manufactures the things we use. Especially at an industrial scale. As a contrast to my experience, look at this sanitized, but highly educational video of the glass making process.
Did I mention how hot it was?