Followers

Monday, November 9, 2009

My First Experience as a Factory Worker--Part I


The year I graduated from college, I took a job in a paper mill for the summer. I was planning to be married at the end of the summer, so I wanted to earn as much money as I could before the wedding. The mill paid it's laborers in excess of $6.00 per hour, when most other jobs paid $2.00 to $3.00 per hour, so it was sheer greed that steered me on that course. I was 22, 5' 1", probably weighed 115 pounds, and had no clue what life in a paper mill was like.


My first night on the job--yeah, night, the midnight to 6:00 am shift, to be exact--I was introduced to my first paper machine. This particular gadget spit out one size of meat trays: the kind hamburger, chicken, pork chops, etc., are packaged in when you buy them at the supermarket. The trays were coming out of the machine on a track on each side, and the machine automatically inserted a little strip of blue paper after each 25 trays. My job was to take 100 trays at a time, put them in a bag, put the bag in a box, and put the box on a conveyor belt, and send it on it's way. I was instructed that occasionally, the machine would tear a chunk out of a tray or two, and if that happened, I was to remove the damaged trays, drop them down a hole in the floor to be reformed, adjust the blue paper back to 25, and continue with putting them in a bag, in a box and on the conveyor. Easy enough, right? NOT!


The first 10 minutes went smoothly; I would take the trays out of the dispenser, 50 at a time, put them in the bag, put another 50 in, then put them in the box, and put the box on the conveyor belt. (Did I mention the boxes were flat, and I had to shape and form them first?)


After that first smooth 10 minutes, when I was pretty proud of myself--I could do this!--Satan took control of my machine. Damaged trays started appearing; that meant pulling out the damaged trays, moving the blue paper back in the row the number of trays I had removed, (the trays were being added at the far end of each row, and the trays were advancing toward me), damaged trays dumped in the "recycle" hole, the adjusted count put in the bag, the bag in the box, and the box on the conveyor belt. Of course, once I had moved the blue paper, I had to keep moving each new strip, to keep the 25 count standard.


That demon machine kept spitting out trays, with damaged ones appearing with greater and greater frequency. I was frantically trying to keep the count straight, and keep up with the machine. The stress started to get to me! My bowels started to churn--OH NO! I had to leave my machine and run to find the restroom. In my haste and desperation, I had run into the men's room by mistake--no doors on the stalls. I had absolutely no hope of turning back to find the ladies room without disaster! I used the men's john, and prayed that no man would come in and catch me in an embarrassing situation. If Satan had taken over my machine, the good Lord was in charge of the bathroom, because no males walked in while I was there! (Thank you, God!)

This crisis dealt with, I ran back to my machine, where trays were falling on the floor because no one was there to remove them. I hurriedly picked up the trays that had fallen off the machine and dumped them into the recycle hole, and rushed to catch up with the endless line of trays. All of the above were repeated, over and over (including the mad runs to the restroom--at least I finally found the ladies room!) , over and over for six hours! Don't ask how many perfectly good trays got desperately dropped into the recycle opening! I began to think if there was a hell, this must be it! I somehow survived, exhausted and drained--both literally and figuratively--my first night in the paper mill.

23 comments:

Wine and Words said...

Yikes. Makes my day look like peach pie. Came over from Hillbilly's. Glad to know I'm not the only one making their own comic relief...for others enjoyment!

singedwingangel said...

Lmbo THAT reminds me of Lucille Ball in the candy factory... and sounds like sooo something I would have happen. I worked 3rd shift in a facotry thankfully as part of the cleaning crew.. My only concern was ensuring no random Hot Pocket leapt out of a machine to eat me lol.

Steven Anthony said...

My first job was in a plastic factory....your story brings back nightmares of the conveyer belt...yipes! lol

glad you survived;)

Mandy's Life After 30 said...

I also thought of Lucy and Ethel (and Laverne and Shirley) but not in a funny way. But hey, why was no one around helping you? Shouldn't you have someone supervising you on your first day (night)? That's crazy to me!!

I actually worked in a chocolate candy factory for one month (maybe three weeks) while I was in college - it was Pontchatoula, Louisiana at Elmer's Candy Factory. It certainly made me realize why I was in college and why an education is so important to me!!! What an experience, I didn't eat chocolate for months after that! (of course all that changed later... ;-)

Molly said...

oof, what a nutty first day...glad to hear you finally got the ladies room situation worked out!

thanks for stopping by my blog, I love SITS.

: )

lakeviewer said...

Oh, you tell this story so well! I can just see you, like Lucy in the chocolate factory. Except, you got nothing as fun as chocolate.

Meeko Fabulous said...

OMG! This totally reminds me of the I Love Lucy episode where her and Ethel work at the chocolate factory! You should write some stuff for me for my Faceless Fridays! I would love it if you would! :)

Sandra Annedore said...

My first job was as a lumberjack. LOL

glnroz said...

goodness,, was there a SECOND day,, lol??

Cathy said...

Did you go back?? I wouldn't have. Sounds way too stressful.

Conquer The Monkey said...

Hi! Found you over at Hillbilly's! Thank you for sharing this!!! You are a tough woman!

I will be following you now!
Cameron
www.conquerthemonkey.com

elvira pajarola said...

Hi Eva... thanks so much for stepping in my Tuscany; I loved it!

It's not the first time I visit you on your blog; I did already and your really -nice, amusing and full of humor- way to write is so joyful!

I'll come back!!
ciao elvira

The Retired One said...

yes that description reminded me too of Lucy and the chocolate factory.

And you SAT on the johns in the mens' room??? Yikes...you need some sanitizer to do that!!! ha

The Retired One said...

yes that description reminded me too of Lucy and the chocolate factory.

And you SAT on the johns in the mens' room??? Yikes...you need some sanitizer to do that!!! ha

Jen said...

Yikes! That was some experience! I think things in the mills have changed, everything is computerized now or robotic!!!! You are comical in your writing. Very enjoyable reading....good job, Eva

Char said...

I have a friend that worked (briefly) in a donut factory. She got behind and the belt kept surging donuts at her until she was completely buried in them. They had to shovel the donuts to find her. Needless to say, she got bumped upstairs. ha

Tam said...

Please tell me that was your LAST night there too! Great story, as always, Eva!

Flory said...

What a trooper! I could never have survived an episode like that. LOL, you used the men's bathroom! :)

ethelmaepotter! said...

The job I have at the post office is similar to a factory job, too - too fast, too hectic, TOO MUCH! We frequently liken ourselves to Lucy and Ethel at Kramer's Kandy Kitchen. When the nightmare machine we work on initially was installed, it was worse than it is now. It was shortly after 9/11, and I half-jokingly said that when Bin Laden was captured, he should be chained to that machine and made to operate it for eight hours every day! All my coworkers heartily agreed that no prison sentence could be worse than that!

One Sassy Girl said...

Oh man, thanks for the wake up call. I've got it sooo good!

Great story, Eva. You earned it with every stupid tray.

My name is PJ. said...

I immediately thought of Lucy in the chocolate factory! Immediately! Too funny....but only because you survived it!

Queenie Jeannie said...

You poor thing! It reminds me of the I Love Lucy episode where she's working on the candy conveyor belt, lol! Hopefully things went more smoothly after that first night!

Unknown Mami said...

This sounds like some type of torture.