Shimoniac Jones

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

Archive for the tag “work”

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.

Heat Break

Here in this part of Canada we’ve been experiencing high heat and humidity.  To the point where the local radio stations have been issuing humidex advisories in the morning.  To put it in perspective, on Wednesday morning on the seven o’clock newscast the base temperature was 23 C (about 73 F), but with the humidex it felt like 34 C (around 94 F), and that’s in the morning, it’s only going to get hotter from there.  I don’t care where you’re from or what you’re used to, but around here that’s a little thick.  It’s like walking around breathing through a warm, damp washcloth.

Now try working in it.

I work the night shift, and it’s been so bad at night that our supervisor has had to issue five minute heat breaks every hour both Monday and Tuesday.  Our straw boss has even been going around like a flight attendant with a cart of refrigerated bottled water looking for signs of heat stress.  A notice went up stating that heat breaks must be taken in the lunch room, because that’s the only room that’s air conditioned.

Now, I live in a house with central air conditioning, for which I regularly thank Willis Carrier, the inventor of modern electrical air conditioning.  So, Wednesday morning, I stagger into a blessedly cool, dim, not humid house, drink a couple of litres of water, juice, soda, basically whatever’s cool and liquid, then collapse into bed, enervated from the heat and humidity.  I’d barely settled into my nice cool sheets when the phone rang.  It was work; given the heat and humidity, Wednesday’s shift has been cancelled.

The last time work was cancelled, I actually bounced out of bed and goofed off.  This time… I actually had to think about it, but did a little goofing off.

UPDATE:

This morning as I was about to go to bed, since I was trying to maintain my usual sleep pattern, I received  a phone call from the impossibly perky woman in the front office.

Guess what?

Work has been cancelled for the rest of the week, see you on Monday. 😉

 

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.

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.

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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