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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Factory Work--Part 2


If you read yesterday's post, you know I spent the summer after college graduation working in a paper mill. I'm not sure how many nights I spent working on the machine I described yesterday. I suspect my subconscious is blocking that memory out to save me the trauma. In any case, the fun was just beginning.

The next experience I recall was another tray machine. This one, however had about four different size fruit trays which accumulated verrtically instead of horizontally. There were no bags involved, you merely took stacks off the machine and boxed them, and then put the box on the conveyor belt headed to shipping. I can't recall the details--if there was a counter system or not, or how many trays went in a box. (Must be my subconscious protecting me from excessive trauma again.)

The challenge, or course, was to keep the different sized trays separated, put them in a box, and stay ahead of the machine. (Did I mention these trays were formed from wet paper, were dried by HEAT on a conveyor belt on the way to my machine, which resulted in a 120 degree working environment?)

Early on, this task seemed reasonable; it did require a bit of quickness, but, hey, I was young and energetic--a piece of cake! For a while things went quite smoothly. Grab the trays, from one stack, and put them in the box. Grab trays from the matching stack, and put them in the box--and yes, the boxes were flat and had to be assembled. I would say there were about eight stacks of fruit trays accumulating at the same time--two stacks of each size and four different sizes; you merely had to be sure you put trays of the same size in the same box. I was all over this job! Grab a box, grab a stack of trays and put them in the box, grab another stack the same size, add them to the box, put the box on the conveyor belt; repeat with another size; repeat with a third size; repeat with the fourth size; begin again.

After a few hours of this activity, I noticed it was getting easier; I was able to keep up with the unending tide of trays. If there had been someone there to "high five," I would have been high fiving! But everyone was busy with their own machines. I reached the point where I had time to wipe the sweat off my brow with my shirt sleeve! I was ahead of the machine!! Euphoria mixed with pride filled my body--I had done it! I had not only kept up with the machine, I had gotten ahead of it!!! I was awesome!

Then it happened. Somewhere, an alarm went off: Blaaaah! Blaaaah! The sound kept getting louder and I looked up to see a frantic foreman running toward me. He ran past me to the side of the machine, pulled a switch and the chug, chug, chug of the machine came to a stop. (Did I mention that the noise level of these dozens of machines all chugging and wheezing at the same time was deafening?) Well, almost as loud as the voice of the foreman yelling at me, "Didn't you see the flashing lights? What the hell is wrong with you??"

Hey, I'm only a little over 5 feet tall--those flashing lights to which he was referring were 'way above my head! My attention had been focused totally on those fruit trays. Then he took me around to the right of my machine (MY machine--I think we had started to bond!), and showed me the problem. The trays were fed into the machine on a conveyor belt which was about six feet wide. Some where out of sight, the trays were spit out wet onto this belt by another machine, carried through the drying area, and then were deposited into MY (there's that bond again!) machine, where prongs would grab them, move them upward so another tray could be stacked under the first, etc.

The system wasn't perfect. Occasionally, the machine doing the spitting at the other end of the conveyor belt would misfire and a tray might land sideways. This would prevent it's entering my machine, which would eventually cause a tray jam (that's TRAY jam, not TOE jam). Those overhead lights would flash to alert the machine operator (in this case, me) of the jam. No one had informed me of this little detail. As a result, there was a tray jam behind my machine the size of Mt. Everest, and this was the reason I was able to get ahead of my machine. And here I thought I had mastered the skill! NOT.

We set about clearing all the trays in the jam off the conveyor belt, which was no small task--as I said, it was the size of Mt. Everest. Once the jam pile was removed, and all the damaged trays dropped in the "recycle" opening in the floor, the foreman turned the machine on again. This time he instructed me to sit by the conveyor belt with the trays coming towards me, watching for a renegade--a tray out of place--to determine if what had happened was a fluke, or if the spitter machine was malfunctioning regularly.

I sat there watching lines and lines of meat trays go by, all of them properly positioned for my machine for 20 to 30 minutes, until I got motion sickness and had to run to the ladies room and vomit. Needless to say, I may have bonded with that machine, but the foreman and I weren't destined for a warm relationship.

17 comments:

singedwingangel said...

Roflmbo I am sorry I would go bonkers doing that.. You have waaay more tenacity then I wouldhave .

Christy said...

what a great story! i never would have made it past day 1...it seems like way too much concentration is involved...my mind likes to wander.

Cathy said...

Ugh! Eva, these jobs sound terrible. They sure make great stories though!

Meeko Fabulous said...

Well how were you supposed to know that if no one told you, huh? I'm with you on this one.

Char said...

Bless your heart, Eva.

Tam said...

You're killing me with the meat tray factory stories!! I so would have high-fived you, even if it meant my own machine jamming up. And, I would have taken you out for a drink after that mean boss yelled at you. :(

Steven Anthony said...

lmao....this is yet another reason we left the factorys...;)

Jen said...

OMG!!! that would not have been a job where I could have "bonded" with any machine!@ lol

Mr. Charleston said...

Reminds me of I Love Lucy! Thanks for stopping by my place this morning. Please make yourself at home there.

The Retired One said...

I never heard of needing a dramamine to work in a tray factory because of motion sickness from working there!!
I will never look a a meat tray again without thinking of you, Eva.
LOL

ethelmaepotter! said...

Fabulous story again! Life may not have always been kind to you, but you sure have some hilarious adventures!

tattytiara said...

Oh man! Jobs like that are not easy. I once worked as a balloon printed. I thought it was cheerfully romantic when I was hired. I thought it was the seventh circle of hell when I quit.

My name is PJ. said...

I would never have made it THROUGH the first day!

Ms. Wanda said...

Hi, there what part of Jersey did you live in? Sorry I've been a little slow this week, I'm moving, yikes! I guess I should post that. Your stories crack me up, I love the picture:)

Ms. Wanda said...

Me again you know old age is setting in! I'm sorry you didn't say you lived in NJ:( I've gotta slow down!!!

xoxox
Ms. Wanda

Debbie said...

Your stories are great Eva! You're a funny gal...keep em coming. Sorry I have not been around...life is busy once again...I'll be baaaaackkkkk.

Unknown Mami said...

This job just sucked!