Shimoniac Jones

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

Archive for the tag “life”

Hospital-ity

At about 1500 this past Saturday, I whacked my elbow on the corner of a wall whilst lurching about ever so gracelessly at home. The impact itself didn’t register on the Richter scale, but it was harder than my usual clumsiness. I spoke a few choice four letter words, rubbed the elbow and staggered away.

Since I work the midnight shift, I was actually headed for bed, which might have contributed to my ungainliness; this time, at least. Six hours later I woke up for some food and social interaction with my family. My elbow was more than a little stiff and sore at this point, so in addition to food, I ate a painkiller. It was naproxen to be precise.

As the rest of the evening wore on, in spite of the painkiller taken, my elbow got more and more painful and was stiffening up considerably. I crowded the next dose of naproxen and iced the elbow; nothing doing, the arm kept on hurting worse and worse, while the range of motion grew more limited.

Finally at about 0630 Sunday, I was pacing the floor sweating and swearing with the pain. I made the decision to go to the local Emergency Department. Dressing to be able to leave the house without getting arrested was an exercise in interpretive dance and putting on my jacket was a teeth-gritting experience I don’t want to have again.

I arrived at the hospital about 0700. Now the local procedure at this hospital is for patients to rub their hands down with sanitizer, then click a mouse key to print out a full-sheet form asking if you have a new or worsening cough, or if you have travelled to any designated areas in the past year. If no, `x’ the box and don’t read any further. Since I didn’t have a cough, and haven’t travelled to the areas I quickly `x’ed the box and went to the triage nurse.

The first thing the triage nurse asked me for was the form and my Health Card. The Health Card is a form of I.D. that tells them I’m allowed to access their services. So, next she asks me what brought me in this morning. I manfully bite back my knee-jerk response of “Taxi”, and tell her my elbow really hurts, and what I think caused it. She asked me if the accident happened at work, this time I couldn’t resist and replied, “No, I can be clumsy at home, too.” To be fair, if this had happened at work they would have had to open a WSIB file, and double the paperwork.

Before she had a chance to ask, I pulled a piece of paper from my wallet and told her that it was a list of the medications I’m currently taking. Pro-tip, if you’re taking prescribed medication, supplements, birth control, or something like that, write down the list and carry it with you at all times. Your intake nurse will appreciate knowing this and being able to note it in your file, it can prevent unfortunate drug interactions which might lead to suboptimal patient results like a slight case of death.

Now she asked me to take off my jacket.

Ordinarily this isn’t a big deal. Today my arm hurt. Taking off the jacket only wrung one whimper and a gasp of pain from my manly machismo. Then she had me do a range of motion test with the sore wing. When she asked me to straighten it out I said, “No.” She asked me if it wouldn’t straighten, or if it was too painful to straighten. I told her it was too painful. Done with me, she sent me on to the next station of my medical adventure: Admitting.

I had to walk around to the other side of the desk which was a good ten yards away to have my Health Card returned and receive, if not a dead tree, then certainly a major load-bearing branch. I got my card back watched the Admitting Nurse affix stickers here, there, and everywhere. Including on my hospital I.D. bracelet, which was colour-coded red. When I asked for purple, she told me that was for Psychiatric patients. I said, “Well…” “No” was the firm reply. I was then directed back past the triage station, down the hall, on the left, to Ambulatory Care. That just means people who came in under their own power, not on a gurney.

So I show up in Ambulatory Care and hand my half-inch of paper to a receiving nurse, who receives it and offers me an only slightly uncomfortable seat in this waiting area. I cast an eye over my fellow sufferers. On the left is a stooped little old lady in a push chair; on the right is a twenty-something male with an ice bag on his right thigh, squirming like a little kid who has to go to the washroom. Then there’s me, a particularly lumpen and hairy member of malehood.

I considered my choices and decided to take a chair where I could watch the both of them, the nurse’ station, and the television. When I came in the TV was playing the fireplace channel, the taller of the two nurses decided to change the channel (boo) and we wound up watching what, at first, I thought was a different fireplace channel, turns out it was CNN covering the California Wildfire Season. The on-scene reporter’s barely concealed glee at the suffering and destruction was too much for me, so I tuned it out in favour of watching what was happening in the room.

From out of one of the treatment rooms came a tall, shinny emo-looking male(?), who asked one of the nurses if he could step out for a smoke. The nurse let him know that he wasn’t a prisoner and could go if he wanted, but that if the doctor came to see him in the mean time, he would lose his place in line and have to wait even longer to see a doctor. Emo-boy bounced, and I watched the nurse take a file from one slot, fairly high up, and put it in the bottom opening, one step above the circular file.

Little old lady asked a few times if she could have a drink of water, the nurses, not knowing why she was there were hesitant, but finally looked in her file and figured she could handle three ounces or so. Little old lady was overly grateful. Squirmy asked if he could get some more ice since his pack was water by now. The other nurse agreed, disappeared, was gone five minutes and came back with two coffees, and a tiny ice pack. The coffees were for the nurses, the three ice cubes were for Squirmy.

It’s now gone 0800, and the head nurse decides we’ve been good captives to this point, so she puts us into various treatment bays. I now can’t see or hear the TV, but I have a good view of the room across from me. The lights are low and someone in a chair is snuggled with the patient in the bed. I can barely hear that they’re murmuring to each other much less what they’re saying.  As a voyeur certified people-watcher I’m disappointed horrified by the lack of privacy these two have.

I pull out my e-book reader and try to concentrate on a story. Before too much longer, Dr. Young scurries in. First place he goes is the room across from me. Turns the lights on and starts talking to the patient, a woman who was suffering from a dog bite to the face. At this point I’m feeling not quite so bad.

She said that the fault was hers. Turns out the dog belonged to a friend, she got into the dog’s space, wouldn’t listen to the dog’s warnings, got bitten. I suspect alcohol, or stupidity, may have played a factor.  She got her wound sterilized, sutured and had gauze put on.  The sutures were the dissolving kind and would disappear on their own.  When the doctor was done, he snapped off his gloves and left the after care instruction to the nurse.

The next contestant was Emo-boy, who hadn’t returned from his nic flit. Nurse said he’s been MIA for an hour. Doc says keep the file for a couple more hours, and then return it to Admitting for disposition.  Or was that disposal?

Next was Little old lady, she turned her ankle and someone over-reacted. The doctor asked questions and probable palpated the joint. I didn’t get to see. Nothing broken or swollen, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, painkillers as necessary, if it gets worse, come back in. Listening to Little old lady I think she had a minor case of lonely too. Turn an ankle, go to the hospital, and talk to people. It happens.

Squirmy’s turn had arrived. He’s suffering, and I do mean it, from a constellation of first- and second-degree burns to his upper right thigh. Damn, compared to Dog-bite Lady and Squirmy, I feel like a fraud. Doctor Young debrides the wound, that means he takes a scour pad and scrubs Squirmy’s leg like a pot with crusted-on gunk. Having had that treatment before I can tell you it’s not nearly as much fun as it sounds. He leaves the nurse to bandage the wounds and instruct about after treatment.

Now it’s my turn. Since I got here the arm got worse, then started getting better. Dr. Young palpates the joint, tests range of motion, and other stuff. Asking me about how I had done this to myself. The diagnosis: Impact Tendonitis.  The main tendon and muscle attachments to the lower arm are right where I smacked myself the previous day.  I didn’t hit the meat, I hit bone.

He asked if I wanted prescription naproxen. Prescription-level naproxen is 500 mg; over the counter (OTC) naproxen is around 375 mg. Prescription you take twice a day, he allowed that if I wanted to I could take OTC naproxen three times a day for a couple days, as needed. Ice the elbow if needed. If it doesn’t get better, if it gets worse, falls off, etc. I should see a doctor soonest. Have a wonderful day.

I only got a diagnosis. I didn’t get any treatment or medication, and I feel a whole lot better. My arm still hurts, but now I know why. Ignorance is scary. Scary makes pain worse. I was imagining bone chips, fractures, burst nerve sheaths, weird-ass stuff. Now I know and I feel better, relatively speaking.

Dr. Young left the booth; I gathered my stuff together and followed. I told them that I hoped not to see them any time soon and walked out. The whole visit only cost me a couple hours, and the price of a hot chocolate and donut from the hospital coffee shop.

In Canada we have socialized medical care, something which seems to terrify many Americans for no reason that I can determine. In actuality socialized medicine is like fire insurance, you pay a premium at set intervals and if your place burns down you get a settlement to help you pick up the pieces. Only in this case your premiums let you get to see a doctor, get a diagnosis, and get treatment, all without having to put a second mortgage on your first-born.

People complain about long wait times and what treatments are disallowed, or allowed. I guess I’ve been lucky; I’ve never really had anything to complain about regarding hospitals aside from the incredibly nasty food when I was an in-patient years ago.

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.

Heroes, not just sandwiches anymore!

A blogger I follow, recently published a post about an event that woke the demons that gnaw on his psyche. He was agitated and sorrowful, so I recycled some wisdom that I’d read somewhere else and clicked “reply”.

That was it.

A few hours later I found that he’d replied to my comment, as he replies to so many others, so I opened the dialogue box to see what he’d said. Usually, it’s a simple acknowledgement, sometimes it’s witty, occasionally it’s profound-ish.

Without any apparent irony or derision, he said that I was his hero. Now, it’s incredibly difficult to sense sarcasm in the written word, but I don’t think that there was any there. So I began thinking about this concept of “hero”.

A hero is a person known for courageous acts or nobility of character. A hero is also someone who has special achievements, abilities, or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal.

I recently read about a man, who rescued a three year-old girl from being trampled by a runaway team of horses. He ran into harm’s way, knowing that he could get hurt, possibly killed; but unable to just stand there and watch an innocent child get mowed down. He refused the label “hero”, because, in his mind, he only did what was necessary. The fact that he was then run down by that team of horses, collecting bruises, stitches, and broken facial bones was, to him, nothing big.

So, for this blogger to call me his hero took me aback. Then I read the second definition of hero again. I didn’t do anything particularly courageous when I typed my reply to that blogger’s post, but perhaps he thought that I’d demonstrated a personal quality that he admired.

That led me to realize that we can all be heroes to someone else. It doesn’t necessarily mean getting run over by a team of horses, or a huge expenditure of time or money. It can, in fact, be nothing more than offering a kind word to someone having a bad day, or offering an ear to someone who needs someone to talk to.

Of course, if you do want to dash in front of a team of runaway horses to save my flabby ass, feel free.  😀

Auntie Vax

The genesis of this post occurred a few months ago, when I wanted very badly to drive over 900 kilometers to find a woman I’d never met and slap her sillier than she already was. I read an article about this woman who refused to get her newborn vaccinated.  Her pediatrician, family doctor, head of the medical association, the director of the CDC, and the Surgeon-General of the United States of America, have all advised, urged, entreated, recommended, and implored her to protect her baby against the possibility of getting mumps, measles, rubella, polio, etc.; while she was not deaf to their pleas, she just couldn’t comply with their entreaties.

Why did she refuse? Was it religious grounds?  No, it was basically stupidity.

Millions, perhaps even billions, of people have been inoculated against diseases ever since Edward Jenner made the connection between cowpox and smallpox. Arguably one of the greatest accomplishments of the 20th century was the final eradication of smallpox by the WHO.  Who, by the way, recommend vaccination as a safe, effective, and low-cost method of disease prevention.

The primary reason this woman refused to have her baby vaccinated, was because Jenny McCarthy thinks it’s a bad idea. The same Jenny McCarthy who is best known for taking her clothes off for Hugh Hefner and posing nude in his magazine.

On the one hand we have multiple medical professionals, with decades of medical education, research, and experience urging her to get the baby protected from potentially fatal diseases. On the other we have, a celebrity(?).  If Ms. McCarthy has a degree in medicine, virology, epidemiology, immunology, or any other related field it doesn’t show up on her Wikipedia page.

So many children in Canada and the U.S., have gone unvaccinated in recent years that our collective “herd immunity” is breaking down.  We’re seeing outbreaks of diseases like measles at rates unseen since, well, vaccination became common.  The side effects of these childhood diseases can be lethal.

This, I have to call her deranged, woman even admits that she thinks vaccinating her baby might be a good idea, but there are all those websites out there that claim vaccinations are responsible for everything from autism to demonic possession. So she can’t make up her mind what to do.

What I’d like her to do is: give the baby up to someone who can make an informed choice, go to a gynecologist and say `I want my tubes tied’, and stop being a bother. If she wants fact-based evidence that vaccinations work, all she has to do is look in a mirror.  She, and I, are of a generation that was all immunised against MMR, polio, etc., and we turned out okay.  Although I have to wonder if there is something to their fears after all; apparently after being vaccinated, she turned into an idiot.

Barbeque

I’m a guy who likes to burn meat on an open flame. That’s at least three politically incorrect things right there: guy, meat, open flame. I love to barbeque; well, at least I like to do so.

This weekend we had chicken fajitas at the house. So, when it came time to cook the meat, I went out, fired up the old and reliable propane burner, and, when it got to temperature, burned the bird.

Actually Momma said that the bird was done perfectly.

I hear some of you saying, “So, what?”, out there.

“So, what.”, is that it was hovering at the freezing mark when I did it. Last week when I BBQ’d the back ribs, it was actually below freezing.  When I told people on Monday after the ribs that I had cooked them on my gas grill, the newer ones expressed disbelief. The co-workers who have been there longer just shrugged, they know me.

That’s right, I will actually barbeque when the temperature is on the wrong side of freezing. I’ve even cooked kabobs in February, in a snowstorm. When the folks out walking their dog looked at me through the horizontal snow, I grinned, waved my tongs at them, and said “Hi there, neighbour.” I’m pretty sure one said to the other, “Don’t look at him and walk faster.”

Of course, it helps that I live in Suburbia with an attached garage.  I pull the BBQ around the house in late fall after the first hard frost, and park it in the front, just behind the door.  When I need want to BBQ, I roll the door up, light the BBQ, and go.  If I didn’t have that garage, I think I’d cry.  While I shovelled a path to the grill and chipped the ice off of it.

If you want to BBQ in your garage there are two absolutely must-do safety tips.  First, open the door all the way while you’re heating and cooking on the barbeque.  Burning gas creates carbon monoxide which might seep into the house and hurt or kill people or pets.  Second, when you’re done cooking, turn the gas feed off at the propane cylinder, then turn off the burners when the flames die.  This prevents a gas leak which, if it meets a spark, could cause an explosion and fire, which could also hurt or kill people or pets.

I don’t use the barbeque as often as I would like, because doing it for one seems such a waste, and during the week my family and I are on different sleep/eat schedules. When I get home at 0730, I want a big meal; when I get up at 1900, I want caffeine and cold cereal.

Rejoice my readers; I have decided to share with you my recipe for an easy, all-purpose barbeque sauce. I use it on chicken or pork, I don’t use BBQ sauce on beef, so use at your own risk.  I like it because it’s hot enough to get your attention, but not so hot that it overpowers your taste buds.

Shimoniac’s Easy BBQ Sauce

1 Cup generic, red, tomato-based BBQ sauce
⅓ Cup genuine Maple syrup; dark is best, amber is acceptable, light is don’t bother
1 ¾ tsp. powdered chipotle chilies

Stir to blend. Let stand 1 hour at room temperature for flavours to meld. DON’T, I repeat, DO NOT substitute maple-flavoured breakfast syrup, that’s just water, sugar, artificial flavour, food colouring, and preservatives.

For Maple Syrup, the real stuff is expensive, but it is so worth it.

There, you’re done. This makes enough to coat meat for about four people. Results may vary. Adjust chilies to taste.

Snow Day

Here in this part of South-Western Ontario they declared Friday February 8th 2013 to be a snow day.  The radio broadcasters talked about Snowmageddon and other such hyperboles.  The flat truth is that it’s been a pretty energetic storm.  We got twenty-five to thirty centimetres of snow in less than twenty-four hours, which for this area in the past four or so years is an impressive total.  If you’ve gotten more than that, I don’t want to hear it, what I got is more than enough as far as I’m concerned.

Local residents with snow-blowers and entrepreneurial spirit have been able to augment their income by servicing neighbours driveways and sidewalks.  Local malls and other businesses, usually open later on a Friday, closed early and sent people home at about 18:00.  The region I live in declared a snow event, which bans parking on the street and encourages residents to curtail all unnecessary travel for the next twenty-four hours.

That’s not the best part though.  After work Friday morning, I came home, shovelled four inches off the driveway, ate anything that didn’t move too quickly, and went to bed.  As a reminder, I work the night shift so my days and nights are reversed to most people.  I got up about 13:30 to get a drink of water, but it was still way too early to get up.  While shuffling back to bed, my mother called my name from the other room.  I was dimly confused by this call; she knows my schedule and knows that, although I was vertical, I was still sleeping.

I mentally shrugged and shuffled over to answer her hail.

“Grmpph?” I asked.  Translated, this means, “Yes mother, you called?”

“Work’s been cancelled tonight.” She replied, “We got a call about 11:00, saying they’ve cancelled the afternoon and night shifts today on account of the weather.”

“Cool.” I replied.  Meaning, “I’ve heard your report and will begin processing it as soon as system resources come on-line.”

I then reversed direction and returned to my bedroom, flopped back into bed, pulled the covers back over me, wiggled to find the warm spot, and relaxed.  It was at about this time that the three or four neurons previously responsible for navigation and motion, released from their previous duties, began to process the recently supplied announcement.

Boing. 

My eyes opened, ‘Snow Day’; instant three-day weekend.  Thursday night some of us had entertained ourselves by counting the days until the next one and now we have an unexpected free one.

Score!

I bounced up out of bed, short of sleep or not, I’m not going to waste a free day off by sleeping for pity’s sake.  I’ve read some books, petted some cats and a dog, drunk some hot chocolate, surfed some internet, and generally goofed off.  In short gentle readers, I’ve had a wonderful mini-vacation.

So, assuming continued electricity here, I’ve got nothing to do and an extra day to do it in.  If you’re in the same boat, here’s a salute and pass the popcorn.

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.

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.

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