Shimoniac Jones

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

Archive for the category “Work Woes”

Clue Who?

As part of my new job in Material Handling, I’m no longer tethered to a machine, or machines, as the case may be. As a result, I’ve been able to talk to my co-sufferers workers more than I was able to do before. This is not always, or even necessarily, a good thing. I sometimes write little notes to myself about the funny, or irritating, things that happen at work so that I can share them with family.

A recent note had the following on it, Supervisor In the warehouse With a pipe wrench. Now there is a small segment of the population that may recognize the format as belonging to the game Clue by toy maker Hasbro. In my case I was driving the fork lift through the warehouse, after dropping off a full bin and was returning to the floor when I met my supervisor walking through the warehouse in the opposite direction, he was carrying a pipe wrench and muttering quite loudly that, “Well the bitch won’t do that to me anymore.”

I momentarily wondered if I had driven up on something I shouldn’t have and maybe should just pull a U-turn and peel out. I would have too, but my fork lift is not nick-named “Shitty Shitty Bang Bang” for nothing.

Trepidatiously I asked, “Is there something I shouldn’t know?” He replied that I pipe wrench in question was merely an old one and the teeth had worn off, causing it to slip when he needed to tighten/loosen something; that slip often resulted in banged-up knuckles. He’d purchased a new wrench, which was unlikely to slip, and was consigning the old one to the scrap metal dumpster located outside the warehouse door.

“Ah.” I replied, “Good story, we’ll go with that one. I’ll be your alibi if necessary. A character witness, even.”

“Whaa?” Supervisor queried, taken seriously aback.

“Obviously someone found your discarded wrench, did the bitch in, and threw it away in the metal dumpster.”

He thought about what he’d said as I was rolling up on him. “You’re seriously disturbed.” He diagnosed.

“Ten years you’ve known me, and you’re just now figuring that out?” I returned.

He shook his head at me and walked along. I returned to work and shared that story with several people. It says something about me that no one was surprised about the direction I took that encounter; but I’m not sure what.

Promotion

It’s been more than a year since I last posted. It’s not that I haven’t had ideas; it’s that I’ve had crippling self-doubt about the relevance of my subject matter. I’ll start composing a post and I’ll be half-way through it, then go, “No one would want to read that rubbish.”, and I’ll cancel the document without saving and go to YouTube and binge-watch cute pet videos or something.

Recently, though, I’ve had an experience that just demanded to be shared with the class. Since my last post, I’ve been promoted(?) to the position of Material Handler. I’d become increasingly bored with being a Machine Operator over the last few years and had applied, unsuccessfully, a few times for the position. When the last opening occurred I didn’t even bother, thinking that I wouldn’t get the job anyhow.

That said, my supervisor went on vacation for a week and the Production Manager filled in for him. The second day the P/M was there, he asked if I was still interested in the Material Handler’s job, I said I was but hadn’t bothered since I was never chosen. He told me to fill out an application and put in on his desk `by the end of the week’. I had one done by break-time and on his desk before lunch.

Surprise! I was chosen to be the latest in a round of M/Hs who get hired, work for a few weeks, and then disappear. That was the first step; the next step was to be trained. I’d filled in for the M/H many times before this and was a pretty good half-trained monkey, but `nooo’, you’ve got to transfer to the Day Shift so that the M/H lead hand can go item by item through the, largely irrelevant, check-list. When that was done, I got to do some unpleasant donkey work that is the responsibility of the M/H Lead, but that, not surprisingly, he didn’t want to have to do.

Next, I got trained on how to drive a fork-lift. Driving a fork-lift is absolutely nothing like driving a car; it starts, stops, steers, and handles nothing like anything you’ve driven on the roads. Being trained on Fork Lift Operation took most of a week, two and a half days in class, half a day getting familiarized with a fork lift, and two days moving things with the fork lift, while being shadowed by a licensed operator. Thanks to warnings from others who’d undergone the same training I had, I passed the test the first time. I probably would have anyway; I’m a little paranoid while driving around pedestrians and obstacles.

So, the training that should have taken maybe two-three weeks, max, lasted six. They wanted to train another person on fork lift at the same time as me to maximize the cost-benefit ratio. That meant I was constantly chosen to do the fiddly, annoying jobs that were other people’s responsibility, sweep the parking lot, clean up the smoker’s area, sort boxes by content into their proper areas, rearrange the cardboard area, combine two, or more, half-empty bins into as few as possible, etc, ad nauseam.

Finally, they let me escape the illogical, regimented Hell that is Day Shift, back to the cool, calm insanity that is Nights. “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”, that’s French for same shit, different day.

That said, when the two-week long Plant Slowdown rolled around, the Plant Manager came up to me and asked which week I wanted to work.  When I said, “Neither?”, he told me that wasn’t the answer he was looking for.  Sigh.  I bit the bullet and worked the first week; four days, twelve hours each.

Things I’ve Actually Said At Work

In honour of my second-favourite blogger in the whole wide world, BrainRants, I’ve put together a post of things that I’ve said at work that are less than politically correct.  This is not a complete list because my memory isn’t that good and the sheer number of things in that category is too large to enumerate.

I didn’t used to be a ranty type.  I was a security guard for a while and we were told that low-key behaviour was desirable; that was OK, low-key was my preferred M.O.  Working where I work now, I’ve changed over the years.  I’ve found that ranting and insulting trusted co-sufferers is a good way to build team spirit and blow off steam before you explode and take off on a three-state killing spree.  I’m still not as in-your-face as some of my co-sufferers, but I’ve still pulled one or two out in recent memory.

Before you try any of these at home, or the office, make sure of your audience. Some people will be amused, some will be offended, some will try to punch your lights out.

Your results may vary.

A temp worker, who is apparently a fruit, nut, and twig type, (talk about you are what you eat) decided on his own to take me to task for my admittedly less than perfectly healthy eating choices. Since I don’t remember asking his opinion, or advice, I told him, “You know, you can take a fuck off out of petty cash.” Amazingly enough, he was offended by my offence and complained to the supervisor that I had used abusive language on him. Compared with what some of my colleagues might have said, I was mild, even restrained.

The supervisor later took me aside for questioning. When I related the entirety of the proceedings, he laughed, told me not to do anything like that where he would hear, and sent me on my way. The temp in question just happened to get cancelled at the end of the week.

Just after New Year’s the senior setter at work had to take over as supervisor after our previous one quietly and mysteriously disappeared; as the setter put it, all of the hassle and none of the pay. Actually, from what I’ve gathered, he gets paid more than a supervisor. Needless to say, he was under stress from having to do two jobs at the same time and started taking it out on the rest of us. Needless to say, I asked him, “What’s the matter, Pumpkin? They discontinue your favourite brand of panty liner and the new ones chafe?”

I was floored when he just looked at me and said, “Yes. As a matter of fact, they do.”

Then this past week, the QC was complaining about actually having to do his job. I’m afraid I was less than perfectly sympathetic. I said to him, “You know what, Buttercup? It’s time to take a deep breath, change your tampon, and actually do your job.”

This was the same guy I once told, “Stand back, I’m about to be impressed.” I thumped my chest a couple of times, faked a belch, and said, “Sorry, just gas.”

Recently, I sniffed ostentatiously at the air after a colleague’s snide remark remarking, “I smell sarcasm… Oh, it’s you.” Good for a laugh.

Fate knows that a good laugh helps get you through a difficult time. 😉

Temporary Workers a Permanent Pain

The company I work for uses `casual labour’ to fill out the workforce. The usual term is `temps’, for temporary worker. These are contract workers from employment agencies. There are six full-time machine operators on my shift, and there are at any time from six to ten `casual labourers’ to fill out the roster.

That’s right, full-time workers are out-numbered by temps.

Now, in theory at least, contract workers are supposed to put in 480 hours of work, and then either be hired or let go; that works out to three months. That’s how it worked for me five years ago; I started in the spring, was hired in the summer, and worked out my probationary period by autumn. The reality is that in a surplus labour economy such as currently exists, the company might simply extend your contract and keep you at temp wages and no benefits for as long as they see fit.

One co-worker called temps ‘goldfish’. When I asked why, she said it was based on their transient nature and ease of replacement, how they only last fifteen minutes then they’re gone and you go get a new one. Now that I’ve been there five years, I know what she’s talking about; I’ve found myself, more than once, referring to a new temp as New Guy right to his face.

A couple of weeks ago I was training two new temps at the same time, I called one `New Guy’ and the other one ‘Other New Guy’ to their face. When ‘Other New Guy’ mildly complained, I told him that if they were still there in a week I might bother to learn their names. It’s a couple weeks later, they’re both gone and we’ve had others come and go in the meantime. I do wonder from time to time if my open lack of respect of them actually makes them move on, then I remember, ‘goldfish’.

Over the years here, I’ve lost track of the number of temp workers who have come and gone. I lost track in the first year, four more just add to the blur. Scores easily, hundreds probably, have come for a day, a week, a month, nine months, then they’re gone. The problem is that every one of them needed and got training on however many jobs they were assigned to, taking up hours of my and other workers’ time, and now they’re gone and the training time is wasted. There have actually been times I’ve wanted to just tell some dim-witted, slack-jawed, knuckle-dragging, mouth-breather to simply stand there out of my way while I did the job because they weren’t going to be asked to come back.

Although, in the blur of bodies, there have been a few who did manage to be memorable, though not often for positive reasons. There were two different older gents, who went code blue on us and required an ambulance to be called. They didn’t die, they just passed out. There was the jittery guy who we’re pretty sure was on some illegal stimulant, because a baggie containing some white crystalline powder and a rolled up piece of paper was found on a table kind of behind his machine. It might have been sugar, but it got tossed out anyway. There was rooster-crow guy, who would, at random, emit a startlingly life-like imitation of a rooster. Then there’s the clone of Richard Simmons who actually left in the middle of one shift literally crying and accusing the most inoffensive lady I know of ‘destroying his confidence’.

We had a temp last year who had his contract fully extended twice and wound up working for us for nine months before realizing that he wasn’t going to get hired; it was even his second round of working here as a temp. I think it was the fact that three or four other temps were hired in those nine months that finally clued him in.

I actually felt bad for him, he liked to do a particularly s**t job that no one else likes, and did it well. I felt that we should have hired him on that basis alone. I think it was his background in automotive that did him in. He wanted, and expected, to do the same job day in and day out for months or years. However, the Powers That Be, feel that all workers should be able to perform a majority of the jobs before being hired, and he was kind of a one-and-a-half trick pony.

In my experience the majority of temps want to move into a full-time position. Those are usually the ones you want to keep around as long as possible; hopefully have the company hire on full-time. Then you get the ones who seem to make a living, marginal at best, by drifting from place to place. They just want to skate by and collect a pay cheque. Those are the ones you desperately hope get arrested, strip-searched, and deported; preferably to some third-world country where they get thrown in jail.

The most difficult temps to deal with are those who do want to make it through their contracts to a full-time position, but just don’t have the candle-power of a brain-damaged chimpanzee. They need special handling. On the one hand you reassure them that the company does actually hire temps, but on the other you think to yourself what a hypocrite you are for raising their hopes when you know they don’t have a chance.

I have a kind of code I use to rate temps: clueless, useless, hopeless, worthless, and pointless. All temps, by definition get clueless; they’re coming into a job they generally know nothing about. I was that way when I started out here. Useless temps are those whose cluelessness is persistent and/or permanent. Hopeless indicates persistent clueless and useless behaviour in spite of all efforts by the temp in question. Worthless is someone who is all of the previous and isn’t even trying.
Pointless should be self-explanatory. They’re the ones you want to slap a label on reading ‘Contaminated Scrap. Discard at once. Do not reuse. Do not recycle.’

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.

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