You will not find a bank of safety glasses at the doors to Notre Dame in the fourth arrondissement in Paris or St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, but you will find one here. And you will put them on if you want to behold the wonders within.
You might kneel here, but OSHA guidelines suggest it’s probably best not to crouch in metal shavings. Perhaps a standing prayer of wonder and gratitude will suffice. The lathe. That pile swept over by the side represents more than a few grams that will NOT have to be carried up some local climb. Long racks of straight gauge tubing stand by, potential ready to become kinetic.
In the 1860s in Paris, not so far from Notre Dame, blacksmiths pounded out the first bicycles. Today, men and women in the aforementioned safety glasses cut, cope and butt tubing. Connect the dots. Let history repeat.
In front of the machines, big toothpaste-colored behemoths, the floor is worn where the craftspeople have stood over a period of years. Cutting, coping. Cutting, coping. Cutting, coping. In steel-toed shoes.
The machinists do their jobs. Over and over and over. Crafts like these appear brutal, but the nuance is deep. Experience is hard won. It takes time. Each of them has turned out thousands and thousands of bicycles. Proprietary processes prepare the final tubing. Avert your gaze. Magic is happening. Transubstantiation.
Bright fluorescents reveal every shadow, every burr. Joints must be welded, ground, polished. The welders study schematics, comparing what they see on paper to the parts that have arrived at their stations. Fine beads are drawn into micro-tight gaps. Alchemy. The philosopher’s stone as welding torch. What looks like a bike emerges, bolted into a rolling jig.
Scotchbrite brightens. Afternoon sun streams in through high windows, a small radio battles the factory sounds. Are these hymns for the newborn? No, it’s Eddie Money on classic rock radio. Same difference.
There are no pews here. Standing room only. Everything clean, but worn. Well worn.
Do not enter the paint booth, the final altar, lest mortal sin be done unto the frame. Chemical stripper burns if left on flesh. Do not rush the painter in his or her plastic jumpsuit. Pray for patience. Pray for dryness.
Await the miracle.
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