During American’s 1970’s sexual revolution, Santa Clara Valley flung off its agricultural past and became Silicon Valley, the epicenter of electronic culture shock. We were fortunate to buy our house when we did. Prices leaped up monthly soon after our purchase as swarms from around the world came to develop integrated circuits from silicon wafers which revolutionized the world, making it, “A Small, Small World After All”.
Escalating home prices shifted our economic position upward to semi elite as homeowners. Many of similar or higher income were regulated to renting. Economic status became associated with when you bought or if you owned your home more than how much you made.
Those moving into the area came from everywhere bringing new ideas and lifestyles, often with few traditional family restraints. In the 1970's silicon wafer designs superseded one another rapidly making what was new and exciting obsolete the following year. It was here today gone tomorrow. Silicon fab plants ran 24/7 and shut down only for Christmas for repairs and upgrades to make an even faster chip or die.
The plants sprung up as concrete tilt up mushrooms in former prune, pear, cherry and apricot orchards with the trees bulldozed in piles and set alight as historic trash to make the latest chip. Companies came and went and often shortly after they opened went bankrupt or merged with another. Loyalty meant staying with a company for over a year.
Chip makers were desperate to hire, even someone like me, only a high school graduate with no experience. There were over 20 pages of Help Wanted Ads in the San Jose Mercury News. Most screamed for workers in wafer fab electronics. In October 1974, with the kids at last in school, I applied to a Nortec Electronics ad, a plant in Sunnyvale, adjacent to the south of Mountain View. It advertised in bold print, “No Experience Necessary”.
I’d driven past electronic plants but had no idea what they did other than they made "chips" which went into digital watches, radios, computers and games such as Atari. The interview was short. They looked at my application and asked me to start the next day's swing shift as a wafer fab aligner, a position held only by women.
Nervous on showing up to work at my first real job, a woman supervisor told me to relax and showed how to move the silicon wafer layers to align on a silicon disk under a microscope. While hard on the eyes it was easy and a clean work environment, a huge step up from my prior experience of waitress in a bowling alley restaurant or fruit picker. Wages were good to attract workers from afar and to offset escalated home prices. I loved my new job.
Nortec, like others, ran 24/7, three shifts a day. My swing shift was 6 PM to 2AM. I left for work at 5:30 PM and got home at 2:30 AM. At home I changed, showered and hit the sack by 3 AM. Hubby left for work at 7:30 AM and got home at 5:30 PM.
There was only time for a pass off kiss for the afternoon switch. We all got up at 6:30 AM, I fixed breakfast, hubby and the kids showered, dressed and gulped breakfast down and left at 7:30 AM to their work and school in the morning pass off.
Sex during the week was either when I awoke him at 3 AM or he me at 6 AM, with one or the other of us groggy.
At 8 AM I hopped back in bed then got up at noon to clean house and see the kids return home with a little “quality time” while I fixed dinner for my hand off rush to work. During the work week hubby and I were together 5 hours each day but time awake together was only an hour, unless there was an additional 30 minute awakening.
Swing shift swings they said. It did. Almost everyone was under 40 and many under 30. 50 was a geezer. Working hours jumbled to accommodate 24/7 operation meant everyone was time stressed and lived alternate hours from the rest of their family. Swing shift became the new family.
The males were mostly university educated executives, scientists, and engineers who worked 12 hour days, 6 days a week or more to be millionaires. Females were mostly high school diploma line production or secretary employees and outnumber males 4 or more to 1. Turnover was constant.
Security was tight to keep out spies from competitors, especially foreign ones. Once in the guarded parking lot you were in a zone safe from spouses and boyfriends. It was a violate mix when the "pill" was a standard item in a woman's purse and before AIDS. It was work hardy and party hardier. At work there were nonstop sex innuendos, banter and pranks. Off work there were nudie and hot tub parties and affairs. There were also parking lot quickie trysts.
The ongoing salacious banter, sexual gags, erotic presents and pranks would today cause personnel office sexual harassment panic attacks but back then work place sex wasn’t taboo. It was an employment perk.
Buildings had to be ultra-clean with everyone required to wear a smock to avoid dust contamination. Girls often dressed risqué under their smocks and revealed to other girls during break what they wore and at times not wore under it. A game good for a laugh was to smock shock flash a selected male, especially if suspected of being gay, while others watched.
The employee parking lot was a secure trysting area for quickies before and after shifts and even during the 30 minute lunch break. Walking through the lot one would on occasion spot a used condom and more common wadded tissue paper with a yellow smear spot.
The women I worked with definitely had not attended parochial school. They did not accept me as one of them and soon nick named me "Fucking Do Goody" shortened to "FDG" because I didn’t attend their wild parties, swear, smoke and often missed the meaning of their sexual banter and innuendos. Worse, I worked hard to meet and exceed alignment quotas which made me a "FDG" nerd.
A Filipino woman, Penny, was the only one to initially befriend me. She was married to an old Filipino man with bald head and big jolly belly. I learned US navy ships used men from the Philippines as cooks. While they were not in US military service they earned a pension and got US citizenship at retirement.
Old and retired they often married a young woman like Penny from the Philippines. She bore him two boys. While she worked he took care of the house, spoiled the boys, cooked, and fed Penny and the boys until all were plump. For him the sugar was in the bottom of his life’s cup. He taught me how to cook Filipino dishes when I visited their always open home.
Penny loved to laugh, was affectionate to her old husband who she teased by rubbing his bald head, was a loving mother and was kind to me at work when no one else was. Their ramshackle house with a big lot was always open for extended family, neighbors and friends parties. The husband cooked large meals in the backward as if still aboard ship in the navy. As her husband was too old for sex she had a white boyfriend for stud service who her husband often unknowingly fed. She could not believe her good luck as a mail order bride of sorts which made her always as cheerful as her husband.
She told the others I was "OK" and acted strange because I was a good Catholic girl who went to parochial school and let me sit with her group during lunch. I tried to adjust to the others but was still known as "FDG" until one swing shift when, Cindy a regular at our lunch table, who I saw at the start of our shift, failed to show up at the lunch table.
Shy, I usually sat quietly but this was interpreted as being stuck up, part of my FDG character. I was determined to be friendlier. Quietly munching a sandwich, I got the courage to say something.
Penny smiled and replied.
"She went to her car for F and F."
I didn't know what F and F meant. My mind raced what F and F Cindy was doing. Find Food, maybe fast food? It didn't make sense with food in the cafeteria and the nearest fast food outlet 15 minutes away and a 30 minute lunch break. Thinking the girls knew about cars I finally said.
"She's fixing a flat?"
Penny looked at me as if I was crazy.
"Fixing a flat?"
"Yeah, you know F and F, she went to her car to fix a flat?"
The girls at the table turned to me stunned. Then began laughing, soon they were choking laughing. Mascara started to run. One was hysterical choking on her last sandwich bite. Just as they calmed themselves one would whisper hoarsely
"She's fixing a flat!"
Off they would laugh again. Finally Penny, struggling with words between choking said.
"Honey F and F is Fast Fuck you fucking twit."
While made the butt of a joke, my "F and F" got rid of the animosity toward me. I was a not a "FDG" just a "Fucking Twit" or "FT".
Our double income and relatively low housing cost kicked us up to an even higher income bracket. While time stressed, for the first time we had leisure money. I started buying nice clothes.
The sexual 70's and swing shift girl's escapades and gossip made me restless. Groggy domestic sex and even weekend sex with children asleep in the other rooms wearing a sexy nightie didn't fit the 70's excitement. It took more than large bars of soap, big shampoo bottles, fluffy towels, new clothes, even belly dancing for fulfillment. Something was missing in Camelot.
Driving to and from work, the only times I had to myself, I began thinking.
This is it? What's missing? Am I satisfied?
Well, it wasn't exactly like that. It was fate’s repine, a feeling of emptiness. Others had it, I didn't.
Married to a good husband, healthy kids, a nice house, poor origin left behind, why the ennui feeling? What was missing? Didn’t I have it all? Working swing shift meant the day time soap operas I once watched for titillation while ironing and washing were out. The girls at work provide real life replacements. They unabashedly bragged about sexual exploits and openly displayed hickey marks.
I related their F and F tales and “nudie party” stories to hubby which titillated me as I retold them and him as he listened. The trouble with stories is they are about others, not you.
Author Notes: Married Catholic Asian woman is exposed to fast pace of work place sex in the 1970's