Shimoniac Jones

I didn't lose my mind – it fled in terror.

Archive for the month “January, 2013”

Pressure

This week’s word is sarcasm, which the dictionary describes as harsh or bitter irony. An example is: I had a lovely week at work.

My company has been aggressive the past few years in chasing down new business, diversifying our product line so that we can more easily weather this recession. The good news is that we’ve increased our customer base by probably 50%. The bad news is that we’ve increased our customer base by probably 50%.

That means that every couple of weeks, we’re making some new part we’ve never made before; we don’t know the tricks, tips, and shortcuts for production, quality testing, and packing. Guess who gets to learn, run, and train others on these new jobs? I do.

So, why was it an unpleasant week for me? On Monday, I was told by our supervisor pro-tem to report fifteen minutes early to my assigned machine. There was a new job in it, he wanted me to learn the job and do it for my shift. Fifteen minutes for training on an unfamiliar job is actually pretty generous by company standards, the usual is a quick five-minute session during the handover period between shifts. I was lucky because the afternoon guy used to be on nights, therefore intelligent and helpful; not like the rest of the evening shift mouth-breathers.

Oh, by the way, I probably won’t get paid for those extra minutes; I wasn’t three weeks ago when I was sent to the last new job I had to learn. “Unfair”, you say? It probably is, but I have a job and that’s not bad.

So, there I am, doing this new job when, half an hour before first break, the straw boss sent over one of the more competent temps for me to train. The job is `hot’, therefore high on the priority list, therefore the machine will be kept running at all times. Well, I train the temp and when I judge them to be sufficiently competent, get told that I will be covering another break as well as taking my own, then coming back to this job; breaks are twenty minutes, twice a shift. So I’ll be gone a minimum of forty minutes, more realistically forty-five to fifty, before the poor temp can take their break.

Now comes 6:00 and the bosses start trickling in. My machine is the first one they come to, it being a new job and all. Right off the hop, they start b*tching about how I’m packing the parts. I’ve been there five years; I’m not worried about their complaints anymore. I’m following the instructions I’ve been given, if those instructions are in error, then it is someone else’s problem.

When 7:00 rolls around, the day shiftless worker finally wandered over, realized it was a new job, and whined about having to learn it during the five-minute handover, which they’ve wasted two or three minutes of.  I smiled unsympathetically, handed them the written work instructions, demonstrated a few cycles, and told them that I got there fifteen minutes early to learn the job.

Then I walked away.

Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.

Friday, they put me back on the new job, but at about midnight gave me a different new temp to train. Temps run the gamut of sharp as a tack to about as sharp as a cotton ball; this one was more toward the cotton ball part of the spectrum. I persevered though and brought him to something resembling competent on the job. In the middle of this, the straw boss stood in the aisle and shouted an unnecessary question about how I was training.

That’s two things that p*ss me off right there. Standing in the aisle and shouting a question over the noise of the machinery and asking a stupid question. I’m going to have sharp words with them one of these days. I made a reply that I will admit was a bit terse. The straw boss snarked, “Don’t snap at me…”, looked at my face, got quiet, turned and walked away.

I was then told to cover two breaks plus my own and report to a different machine, which had to be started up for me to run. When I got there, I ran it for less than an hour before it was shut down again. I was told to take my break first, then go to yet a third machine, relieve that operator for their second break and they would be reassigned for the remainder of the night. That’s typical Friday fuss.

At 5:00-ish in the morning I had to have a potty break, and it wasn’t a machine where one can nip off for a quick moment, then come back and catch up. Now the proper procedure in these cases is actually to flag down the QA, a set up technician, or the supervisor, inform them of your need and they will find an operator to take over while you’re gone. Usually though, you just grab someone who can cover you for a couple of minutes, go do your business, come back and thank them, and carry on.

Casting my eyes around, I spot the QA operator performing scheduled checks, flag them down, etc. While I was gone, the reliever inexplicable bungled a job I know they’ve done numerous times. I got back and two cycles in, noticed the problem and warned the packer of it. Now we have to examine all the parts in the pipeline to weed out the botched ones, take them out of the system, list them as scrap, and keep up with a machine on automatic continuing to pump out new parts.

I had barely achieved equilibrium again when the supervisor pro-tem arrived on his rounds and noticed all these new scrap parts. I do not exaggerate when I say that he shrieked. I then had to explain who, when, why, and how these numerous parts had been fouled up, while still keeping up to the machine. He took a swipe at me, stormed away to berate the guilty party, stormed back to berate me, and was less than pleased when I told him that I had followed procedure in getting a relief operator; that meant he had to apologize for the second swipe.

Saturday morning shut down is always welcomed. This week I welcomed it a bit more than usual.

Trafficking

No, I’m not talking about dealing drugs; I’m talking about driving in this city. While many cities talk about how bad their drivers are; my city has some really bad drivers. We have drivers who don’t signal turns or lane changes, weave from lane to lane, fail to yield right of way, run red lights, tailgate, drive too fast, and don’t drive fast enough; and they do all of that within a block. I remember my first experience driving in a nearby city, I was taken aback by another driver’s courtesy. We don’t get that here.
So in the past two weeks I had three iterations of the same scenario. I work the night shift, as you may know, and I drive to work between 2210-2225. It generally takes me ten to fifteen minutes to get there because of the time of day, depending on the season, weather, and other factors. Also because of the time of day, there isn’t much traffic on the road. I’ve driven the same route in the middle of the day and it can take upwards of half an hour to do the same journey.
The point here is that there’s limited traffic that time of night.
The scenario that has been irritating me is this: I’m driving along at my usual sane and rational five over the posted when someone turns right from a cross street directly in front of me. I’m talking about right in front of me. The person then doesn’t accelerate to traffic speed, to the point where I have to hit the brakes hard and/or take evasive action to avoid rear-ending this dill weed. In all three cases, all the offending driver had to do was to wait five or ten seconds for me to pass because there was no one behind me.
The road was empty for blocks behind me.
Then, again in all three cases, the idiot dawdles for maybe a hundred feet and turns right again.
This first time this happened, the idiot turned into a plaza that had an entrance off the road he just pulled off of.
The second time, fair enough, there was no similar alternate access; but honestly, would it have killed him to wait, like, five seconds or so to pull out? There was, I repeat, no one behind me for blocks.
The third time this happened, it was a police car.
I almost rear-ended a police car, because the moron officer decided that pursuing his random patrol was more important than common courtesy and actual legal requirement.
Courtesy and common sense on the roads is dwindling. Drivers aren’t driving defensively any more, they’re too busy, stressed, or whatever to pay enough attention to the road ahead to anticipate changing conditions or unexpected incidents; so that, when they get there, they react aggressively and piss the rest of us off, so that the next time, we act aggressively and piss other people off.
It can become a truly vicious cycle.
The point of this rant, if there is a point, is that we should all look ahead. Don’t drive two feet in front of your bumper. Drive as far as you can see. Look up ahead and see that idiot driver going to pull out of a cross street, watch out for that cyclist who’s only trying to get where he’s going in one piece, and offer courtesy to that guy who really doesn’t deserve it. If nothing else, you’ll confuse the hell out of him.

More About Me

Well, perhaps I should tell you a little more about me. I work for an injection-moulded plastics company, the name of which I’m going to omit, so that a co-worker who might stumble on this blog won’t be able to definitively point fingers. The term I’m going for is plausible deniability. I’ve worked there about five years now, after losing my previous job at which I’d also worked for five years.
I don’t know why we say we’ve lost our jobs. We either know where they are, they just aren’t ours anymore, or they’ve gone elsewhere and someone else is doing them.
When I started here, I had no previous experience in plastics, or in injection moulding. I’ve worked in factories before, I’ve worked as a security guard, I even did some janitorial work in high school, but working in plastics was new to me. Thankfully, I’m reasonably intelligent and fairly dedicated, so I was able to learn and adapt. Although, I was told later, that there was doubt that I’d make the cut, being so ignorant about the type of work.
I work on the night shift; have done so for ten years or more, mostly by preference. For those of you familiar with shift work, you know what I’m talking about. For those of you not familiar with shift work here’s a quick rundown. On the twenty-four hour clock, day shift runs from 0700 – 1500, afternoon/evening shift runs from 1500 – 2300, and night/midnight shift runs from 2300 – 0700.
On days, the bosses are always around and everything is uptight. On afternoons, the bosses are still there until 1730 – 1830. Night shift, however, the bosses are long gone, or, if present, there’s a catastrophe of some sort and their presence is unusual. Night shift generally has a looser, more laid-back vibe; we get the work done, but we’re not frantic about it. In point of fact, at my company, night shift consistently has a lower scrap rate, and higher production figures than either of the other shifts.
Since I’ve been working here for five years, I technically qualify as the senior machine operator on my shift. There are two other employees on the shift who’ve been there 8 or more years, but they’ve moved to Quality Control. Then there’s a guy who started a month before I did, quit a couple years ago, then asked for his job back a couple months later, when the relationship he went chasing wound up not working out; more on him later. (Moron, how appropriate.) Therefore, I’m senior.
Since, I’m the senior machine operator; I get a strange blend of perks and bullshit. I’m the go-to guy when there’s a new or difficult job to do; on the other hand, I’m sometimes used as an assistant material handler, a trainer, or a utility infielder. Friday night, for example, I trained a temporary employee on a job (it’s so cute destroying their hopes), kept an eye on two other temps doing two different jobs, helped the material handler by hand wrapping skids of finished product and making up cartons, helped the QC guy by labelling some cartons, covered for breaks on multiple machines, trained another temp on a different job from the first, did a quality audit of a bin of twenty thousand small parts, reconfigured a work cell for a new job, and collected and disposed of big lumps of plastic called “purges”, putting them in the appropriate recycling bins by type.
Now, reading the list, I realize that it may sound busy, but at no time did I feel pushed or rushed; the trick is to do the next thing and not obsess about any one of them.
That advice works for life too, I suppose.

Blasted Cold

Here we are at the end of the first week of January and I have a cold. Boo-hoo, I hear you say out there in the blogosphere. I will take your pity, even as you mock me; I have no shame, you see. This cold started innocuously enough; a little tickle in the back of the throat, caused by the dry air I thought.
Then I coughed through the time I was supposed to be sleeping. Cough medicine, decongestants, and analgesics, all ineffective against the dread invader of my body. I was sitting in the living room before work on Friday when the chills set in. I can still make it to work I assured myself, I’ll just dope myself to the gills and wear some layers. I got to the kitchen table when it suddenly felt like I had been set on fire. I was now running a fever. “How high?” you ask. I don’t know. I’m not interested in knowing how close I came to death. I want to be surprised when the Grim Reaper taps me on the shoulder and says, “Come with me”.
I gave up and called in sick to work. Even assuming I could get there, there is no way I could operate heavy machinery safely. I take some comfort in the fact that I’m not the first one to take a sick day this year; two of my co-workers took Thursday off. On the other hand, one guy at work; let’s put it this way, I’ve buried things that looked healthier than him, and still he staggers in.
I’m going to blame him for my current condition.
After calling in, I went back upstairs to bed. I pulled the sheet over my face to save the coroner the hassle of doing it himself. I won’t say that I went to sleep, only that I lost consciousness. Sleep is restful and restorative, what I got wasn’t all that restful, and I don’t feel very restored. I had fever dreams, was freezing one moment, broiling the next, and generally had a miserable time. I did swim back to reality a couple of times to dose myself with cough medicine, etc. again.
When I woke up, I began wandering through the house like a forlorn ghost in search of tissues and soothing potions.
So, here I am, sitting at my computer, timing my keystrokes to my coughing and sneezing, telling you how miserable I feel. Why? Because I can.
I looked at myself in the mirror. Shudder. I won’t make that mistake again soon, I can tell you. I still feel like crap, but I think that with good luck and perseverance, I might, just might, survive this trip through illness.
On the subject of sick days, my company, a couple of years ago, in an effort to reduce absenteeism, put a program in place to reward people who don’t take unscheduled time off. If you make it through a predetermined six month period with perfect attendance, they will give you a day off with pay. I’ve actually earned two of them. Oh well, there’s always next time.
If you’ll excuse me, I have to go pour the hot water over the tea bags and let the pink elephant out of my head where he’s been doing some renovations.

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