Every Sunday through Wednesday when I get home, I try to tell our stories of the long hard days my work buddies and I have together in the warehouse, the long ten hours we put in together every day, four and five days a week. I try. Because my storytelling is boring, and no one here knows these people, I give up rather quickly when Allison and Kenny leave the room. But it feels like someone should know, you know? It was so funny at the time! And that manager didn’t have a clue what to do! And….anyway.
Here’s how it started:
I am an adjunct professor. Which means, I get gas money for the privilege of teaching a college class. Actually, I taught 3 separate classes, but was paid for 2, based on the enrollment. Gotta love those administrative geniuses that keep the full-time staff numbers lower than the adjunct staff, so that the budget doesn’t get out of hand. Fuck them and their parsimonious logic. But I digress.
As I was saying, I get paid something a little more than gas money, but nothing close to a living wage (because an adjunct is supposed to already have a full time job. An adjunct teaching three classes is just…. a sucker).
Rent was overdue and the power was cut off, and I had to have ANOTHER job asap. I took the first thing available, and it was a blue collar warehouse job but it paid decent and started immediately so I didn’t hesitate.
Linda was the nicest interviewer I have ever had in my life. After seeing my diploma, she looked at me hard at said how it was going to be uncomfortable, long hours on a concrete floor, and was I prepared for this?
I thought about the four years of undergrad and two years of grad school that I spent in the clay studio, making clay in the winter and firing kilns in the summer, on concrete floors. I looked in her the eye, swallowed hard, and said I could handle it. I must not have been convincing because she then showed me a picture of her husband. “Now, I’m going to put you in his department so he can look after you, and if you aren’t sure about anything just ask him”
I got my badge, an orange vest, and a half a day of training. Next thing I knew I was incorporated into the flood of warehouse workers on a strict schedule. Up before dawn, clocked in and herded together into an enormous building, on my feet all day with a hundred or so others in Busytown.
My first full day I cried from exhaustion on the way home, soaked my sore body and lay lifeless on the sofa until bedtime. My second day, I watched these people around me: men and women near retirement, single mom’s with small children at home, in perplexed awe. How do they do this? And why would they even want to?
They make you prove yourself, in subtle ways. The new ones are given the heaviest boxes, the hardest spots to maneuver, the most problems in the first week. You either protest and quit, or you bust it out and watch the old-timers, follow where they go and do what they do. They will lead you to the more efficient process, and soon you are sweating less and producing more. I can actually come home and cook dinner now, or go out shopping! My blisters are gone.
The work is boring and monotonous and physically demanding. But the great thing about my manager is that she doesn’t just make my life miserable, she makes everyone’s life miserable: screaming at mistakes and blaming problems and timing breaks down to the second. Its good to have a common enemy. Its even better to have a sense of humor, and I haven’t met a fellow worker yet who doesn’t. I love people who make me laugh, and so I have this to look forward to every day.
The tattoos, and their stories, are endless, I tell you. I think the women who work there are strong, capable, beautiful and amazing. Bitches, perhaps. But I can’t help admiring them (because I am one too, perhaps?) There are all kinds of men, and I’m fortunate to be in a crew of kindhearted jokesters. Most of us are doing this until we find something better, because we are not living in the same world we enjoyed 10 or 15 years ago. They all have stories to tell and the highlight of my long tiring day is hearing them.
Just seems like I should find a way to tell them. Maybe you had to be there, but… I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.