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Monday, August 8, 2011

She Works Hard for the Money

I've wanted to "be a writer" my whole life, and I'm fortunate enough to be writing full time right now. However, the road to this point was a long and winding one, and I've held an incredible variety of jobs, from road construction to Realtor.

My favorite job was working on a department of transportation survey crew. I wasn't one of those folks standing there holding the "slow" sign, I was one of the folk pounding rebar into the hardpack with an eight-pound sledge hammer. The days were long and the work exhausting, but I loved working outdoors and loved being able to look behind me each day and see how much progress I'd made. It was also the job where I was almost killed several times, so I guess it had it's drawbacks, lol.

My shortest job was as a telemarketer. I was only sixteen at the time and after four hours of people swearing at me and hanging up on me, I happened to reach a guy who said, in a raspy, hissing whisper, "If you come over here and demonstrate it, little girl, I'd be happy to buy one." That was it. I quit.

My longest job was fairly recently, when the economy tanked. I had a job at a large retailer, working as an overnight stocker/sporting goods associate for almost two years. I loved the work I did, I loved working nights, I loved the people I worked with, and I even liked our immediate managers (the people who directly supervised us were mid-management, "assistant managers," and most of them were awesome). What made the job awful was the crap that came down from on high. Whether it came from upper management or corporate, I don't know, but it made the job damn near intolerable. For example, they had a stocking quota of one case per minute. They calculated the case count for each department, then gave you a time you were expected to complete it in, or else you could be fired. Fine. But a case per minute doesn't take into account that sometimes pesky customers come and ask for help (I mean, it's not like the customers were important or anything, for pete's sake, lol), or that you are going to have pallets to move in and out of the stockroom, or cardboard to put in the compactor, or a bale to make, or paint to mix, or fishing licenses to write up, etc., etc. Even worse, sometimes their calculations were wrong on the case count, and thus their calculations were wrong on how long the work would take you. For example: some days, I'd come in to stock the shoe department and find I had a pallet only as high as my knees to stock. "Forty-five minutes," they'd tell me. The next night, they'd tell me I had an hour, but when I'd get to the floor, I'd have three pallets taller than my head out there waiting for me. But I hit my limit and knew it was time to move on when this conversation happened at our nightly pre-shift meeting:

Upper management lady turned to Bob. "Okay, Bob, you'll be in the dairy department. You have eight hours of freight, so you should be able to get it done."
(at this point I should mention that we worked nine hour shifts with an hour for lunch and two fifteen minute breaks; if he left his mess on the floor, didn't pull back pallets, and didn't have to help any customers, his shift was still only seven-and-a-half man hours).

Bob, ever the good employee, looks worried as he's doing the math in his head, but nods. "Okay."

Upper management then turns to Ralph. "And you've got fourteen hours in the freezer."

Ralph's jaw drops. "What? I can't--."

Upper management holds up her hand. "Don't worry. I'll send Bob over to help when he gets done."

Now Bob's jaw drops. "What? How am I supposed to even get my eight hours done, much less help him?"

Upper management gives him a stone cold stare. "Work faster."

I laugh. Upper management's head spins three times and her stone cold gaze lands on me. After she feels she's given me a long enough glare (there's probably guidelines for this in the management handbook: "reprimand employees with a three-point-nine second glare, then move on"), she turns to everyone and says, "Don't forget, everyone has to have their work done and cleaned up an hour-and-a-half before shift end, so we can all zone grocery."

For those of you not doing the math, that means our shift has been reduced to six hours of actual stocking. Knock off at least half an hour for clean-up, and now Bob has to do eight hours of freight in five and a half hours . . . or less, since he's supposed to go help Ralph, too.

Upper management lady must have been using that "new math" I hear everyone complaining about. ;)

Needless to say, I'm glad I'm back to writing full time.

What's the best job you ever had? The worst?


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