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Crappy Jobs I’ve Had: Factory Worker

Crappy Jobs I’ve Had: Factory Worker

Editor’s Note:  I’m heading to LA for a week, it turns out I don’t really have anything to write about if I just sit on my ass all the time.  I will try to post three times next week though.  Feel free to pass my link to any friends who enjoy adolescent observations on unimportant topics.  It’s time for some exponential growth, but I’m far too lazy to actually do any marketing or otherwise work hard.  Also, we have these sweet archives now, thanks to reader Railbird.  And the Subscription button over to the right.  Sweet.
 
 

Not reflective of actual working conditions - they were a little poorer
Not reflective of actual working conditions - they were a little poorer
 
I’ve written before about my first horrific experience in the house of turkey genocide – but my exposure to the industrial world improved greatly from there.  During my (seven) college years, I had a couple more run-ins with manual labor.  (I was a four-year redshirt freshman, okay?)
 
When I was in college at an SEC school (claim to fame: failing out of said SEC school with 0.00 GPA only to subsequently get graduate degree from MIT – not certain this feat has been matched.  OK, it was an MBA, but that still counts, sort of) I was pretty poor.  To keep up with the Joneses, my roommate and I decided it would make a tremendous amount of sense to get jobs working at the local tortilla (not a joke) factory.  Night shift, four days a week.  The pay was pretty good, and how hard could it be to box up some fucking tortillas, right?  Fringe benefits were excellent – free tortillas!  I didn’t keep this job too long, as I was only in school for another two months or so, but it greatly contributed to my quick exit from academia.  
 
Later, during a summer while at the Academy (we typically got one of the three months to ourselves) I got a job at the local Hiram Walker liquor factory to make some cash.  My job was moving cases of Kahlua from one pallet to another pallet.  Kahlua!  It always seems to come back to Mexico for me.  This job was where I worked through my X-Men movie treatment (in my head).  Late in the mentall casting process, I decided I was not the optimal candidate to portray Cyclops, as I’d originally felt (my eyes, when not bloodshot, are one of my best features – feet excluded, of course).  Strictly a summer job, this.
 
What’s it like to work at a factory?
 
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Yeah, repetitive.  After, like, an hour, you can reflexively perform the basic task assigned and are left to wander the world of your own imagination.  If you aren’t dealing in animal carcasses, factory life is pretty sweet.  I was essentially quality control at the tortilla factory – imagine staring at waves and waves of near-perfect circles of white flour.  Hypnotic.  Sometimes I got sent to the chip line – that was a little more challenging as sometimes there’d be a super-burned off-brand Tostito in there.  I’d swoop in, throw it in the trash, and then go back into a trance for 15 more minutes.  Only the emergence of an extra-dark non-Dorito could snap me out of it.
 
 

#4.  Factory Worker

 

They lucky few that passed muster
The lucky few that passed muster

 

 

Attire:  Jeans and tee shirts.  Might have been an apron involved – hazy there.  

Score: 2 (Nothing to complain about really, except I think it got kind of warm in the Hiram Walker plant during July)

 

Prevailing Smell/Aroma:  Flour, Kahlua, functional alcoholism 

Score:  3 (Again, nothing too bad.  I think I might see if either of these jobs are still available)

 

Humiliation Factor:  Split decision: being a college student/tortilla factory worker is likely a step or two below college student/stripper – more grimy, less sensational.  However, working at the liquor plant was a pretty sweet gig for a midshipman home for a month – and I didn’t know anyone in that town anyway. 

Score: 5 (This would’ve been a little lower but for the fact that we brought eight dozen tortillas back to the dorm daily.  One day there was a campus cop hassling people in our building, so we pelted his car below with tortillas – frisbee style so he couldn’t have easily ID’d the room they came from.  Of course, campus police weren’t exactly Matlock – there were like 18 cases of tortillas in our room.)

 

Co-workers/Culture:  None that I can recall for either – factories are pretty much every man for himself gigs, except for the occasional Laverne & Shirley duo.  I do recall that at the tortilla factory the music would be pop one day and country the next – so at least there were two quasi-factions fighting it out for control of the radio.  (And boy did country day suck – but Belinda Carlisle ruled pop day.)   

Score: 2 (The good thing about having no culture is, the company doesn’t have to waste a lot of your time and energy reiterating what a great culture it has.  These were strictly “do your fucking job and go home” occupations.  Which was good for the 85% of employees that wanted to get home and have a few drinks (to go with the few they had during the work day)

 

Authority Figures:  I vaguely recall there being foremen or something at both, but really they were just there to tell you when to stop looking at chips/accidentally dropping bottles of Kahlua and start cleaning your shit up.  And they were also responsible for listening to bullshit excuses for why you couldn’t be at work that day.

Score: 2 (I don’t recall any uberdouches, so must’ve been fine)

 

Typical Hours Worked:  40.      

Score: 7 (When I was home for the summer, this was fine.  But at the tortilla plant, working the night shift and “going to school” (quotes used to imply that i was using the term “liberally”) was a huge pain in the ass.  My attendance record was pretty horrid from the getgo, but getting home at like 8:00 AM or whatever really put a cramp in my desire to go to class.  I remember that our Biology (why the fuck did I even take Biology??) professor had a policy that if you missed four labs, you automatically failed.  I skipped the first three, because “I work better under pressure.”  This didn’t end well)

 

 

Born in Mexico, bottled in the Dirty South
Born in Mexico, bottled in the Dirty South

 

 

Education Required:  None.  Enthusiasm for monotony a plus, though.

Score: 2 (Not that some of these cats weren’t pretty smart – even though it was summer, we were packaging up some of the Kahlua in Christmas canisters.  Some guys (and gals) asked the foremen if they could take home some of the extra empty canisters.  Of course they filled these with Kahlua bottles before they left, taking about $800 worth of booze each)

 

Screaming Obscenities at Top of Lungs Acceptable?  Sure.  You might get some scathing looks from the religious faction (always a factor in the South), but it would slide.

Score: 4 (Of course, working in an industrial space often led to accidents that practically required screaming obscenities, such as dropping a case of booze on a co-workers’ foot)

 

Stress Level:  After that first hour, when you’ve learned everything you’ll ever need to know (where the eye wash station is, when lunch is) it’s all downhill.  It can be tricky remembering to throw a disfigured soft taco tortilla in the trash instead of on the floor, but once you got the hang of it, it really stayed with you.  I think I could step in right now and sort out the unworthy mexican food products.  

Score: 3 (At SEC school, however, I did feel a little subconscious guilt as I realized I was sabotaging my collegiate career)

 

Ridiculous Travel Required?  None.

Score: 0 (Purely local)

 

What Kind of Dough was Involved?  Both were pretty good dollars, I think $6.50/hr for seeking out chip errata and $7.50 for not breaking bottles.

Score: 2 (Again, nothing to complain about.  What is that in today’s dollars?  Does anyone know if these guys are hiring?)

 

Summary:  

As you can see, we are getting into the good stuff now.  I really don’t have a bad thing to say about these carcass-free factory gigs.  There’s a certain freedom in blue collar world that you don’t really get in more “professional” careers.  You never went home and worried about whether there would be an unsurmountable number of pallets of Kahlua, or unruly hordes of burned chips coming at you the next day.  In investment banking, the worries were constant and justifiable (plus you had no idea how much money you were actually working for).

 

Verdict?  It was okay.

 

Chilly17