Thursday, December 22, 2005

Give Me a Treat, I'll Clap My Flippers

It's official: The big boss said I could stay on permanently loading boxes if I want to. I get compliments on my ability to pack boxes tight like seeds in a sunflower and now I've got the green light to continue making $8 an hour. That's good, right?

And toward the end of the night, my direct manager came in and gave me a little square of chocolate. In a werehouse full of semi-trailers and people all wearing grungy gloves, my first instinct was to ask him if he found it on the floor. I resisted. It's good to build the trust. But he stood there and watched me unwrap and eat it and it made me feel like a seal in a circus.

The job is not so bad. That "Randy Quaid guy" cracks me up. But he's one of those guys. I won't try to explain it, but here's an example of what he said right when he came in lastnight: "What's the difference between Jesus and a picture? It only takes one nail to hang a picture. Heh heh. I'm going to Hell, aren't I? But not for that. It's because of that midget I beat to death last year as a sign to other midgets that I don't like them." Don't judge him too hard. He's just full of hot air. He loads boxes full time on the graveyard shift for $9 an hour. He has bad fits of cussing and stomping around when he gets slammed with work. But he's alright. It's entertaining.

All the girls that work there are tough. I've only talked to one of them. Her name is Joey. She said this job is just for spending money and that her real job is as a mechanic for jetliners. She said she missed a couple weeks of work because she dropped the wheel to a semi-truck and broke several of her toes. She said they USED TO (in training they told us they were still doing it) give out play money to people who worked extra hard and then you could use it to buy company crap. But they had a bad financial quarter and discontinued it. To which she told her boss, "F*** that!" And he said, "What did you say to me?" She said, "F*** that, you F***. That F***ing sucks!" He punished her by sticking her on the "odd sized package" line until he "figured out what to do" with her and then he got a job at another shipping company. She says that line is the best job in the werehouse. I said, "Well, I hope you learned your lesson."

(Aside: Why do businesses feel the need to dream up Chuck E. Cheese-style incentives? I did the work of two regular employees this month and they gave me these heart-shaped erasers and some Sweet Tarts. That sure gets me motivated. And they never seem to have a problem going through the actions of being cruel and heartless, but then they try to compensate for it by fabricating ludicrous explanations. Joey said this company likes to rave about how "We would like to pay you all more. You are worth more to us... but the turnover is just so high that it's not worth paying high wages to people who are just going to quit after a week or two." Thanks for passing YOUR hiring problems on to the little guy. But really, it's just not true. If they wanted to keep people they WOULD pay them more. They would have a tougher screening process. All signs point to: They like the high turn over. Nobody gets benefits. Cheap labor. If you don't like it... quit. I would respect them more if they just said it. Say it. The bigwigs always assume they are the only ones with an IQ above 60.)

Another new guy and I were trying to clean up a cluttered trailer. There was a big line of boxes backed up beyond sight up the slope of a big shoot. I pulled the magic keystone box at the bottom and the whole line of boxes buckled and folded in on itself and we were almost buried alive in an avalanche of cardboard parcels. I said, "Well. At least we can see where the boxes end now." He said, "Way to find that silver lining."

There are many strange things that get sent. Some things make sense, like contact lenses and I think I've loaded so many cases of "Teachings of Wilford Woodruff" that I must have earned my way into the celestial kingdom several times over. At first I thought it was strange how many bug deflectors get sent but then I remembered we live in a redneck country so I should expect a lot of 4X4 accessories. There are also a lot of curtains. I can't believe how many curtains our nation uses. But food is the worst because I get so hungry. I picked up a box and about ten big bags of chips fell out of the bottom. I thought it was natural to want to eat them but I remembered the training film we watched and how that would be a felony. When I loaded a big crate of Saltine crackers and had fantasies about tearing in and devouring all those crackers, I knew it was time for me to go get something to eat. One little box got smashed and smelled distinctly like grape bubblegum. That sugary teeth-rotting stuff you buy when you're kid and now I want some.

Some boxes have strange stickers on them that get me wondering. I keep seeing one that says "Pendulum Enclosed." Careful with that, Carter! There's a pendulum in there! Or "Time Sensitive Tabloids." Is "The Enquierer" worried that "The Weekly World News" is going to out-scoop their reporting of Liza Manelli giving birth to bigfoot's baby? Somebody shipped a pogo stick and the box said "The Pogo Master" on it. Even if you were The Pogo Master, who would you brag about that to? Sounds like you need a hobby. No, a REAL hobby.

I did start to get a little frustrated, just because I'm already working every moment I have available. Even weekends. And I'm still not making nearly enough to live on. And additionally, I'm supposed to find another $25K/year daytime job, too. I did the "corporate whore" thing for almost five years and was able to buy a house, so maybe now that I've quit I'll have to give up the American Dream as well. Someone at work was talking like they were impressed because the managers are required to have college degrees. I'm sorry, first- that is not impressive, second- it is not worth all the trouble of completing college (even with a LAME degree) just to get jobs just above entry level. "Congratulations! You now make $2/hr MORE than all these losers." Guess what. You are still at a crappy job. It's that whole "prison guard" thing. You're not a prisoner but you still spend your life right by their side.

And me? I'm the Kelly Clarkson of entry level employees. I will challenge any non-science college graduate to a round of Jeapordy, Wheel of Fortune, or Super Techmo Bowl and destroy them. Choose your poison.

I just have too many responsibilities to be taking $8/hr jobs. It's scary that I can start to justify things I know to be wrong. Basically, if we live in a society that caters to wealthy people and leaves the rest to wither and die and all the "rules" of our society make the rich richer and me poorer, then why would I play by those rules? I think, change the game. But cops shoot people when they try to do that. Especially brown people.

I know, you say, "Even poor people can become successful. Eye of the Tiger." My dad did that, but I'm not willing to give up what he gave up to achieve it. When I'm driving along the Trinity River and I ask my son, "Do you see the river?" and his response is to smile and then go through the motions of casting an imaginary fishing line into the river and then patiently reel it back in, it's a redeeming moment where even the mistakes I made in my past become right. If this is not a country that caters to the rich then I should not have to fight tooth and nail and go into monstrous debt to obtain an "official" education, competing against kids that play video games in their parents basements half the day.

I'm just as smart or smarter than the average college graduate. I'm honest, strong, industrious, creative, detail-oriented and I work as hard as I can. Yet, I fail. There's something wrong here. That's my beef.


Gordon said...

I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and darn it, people like me.

Native Minnow said...

It sounds like your company is EXACTLY like the 'competitor' that I used to work for. Even down to the fake money used to buy crap. We used to call them "Whiteybucks" after our center manager. Very appropriate. It would have been even if his name wasn't Whitey.

As far as the American dream goes, I don't know if society would quite work out right if everyone were able to attain that. Who would do all the crappy jobs then? They used to tell us all the time how important our work was, because the economy would fail if people weren't able to get their stuff shipped to them, but in the end, all we were doing was moving around boxes for a paycheck and benefits. It might have been important work, but it certainly wasn't very fulfilling.

slimysculpin said...

Now imagine clapping your fins and jumping through hoops for no apparent reward for six years. Welcome to grad school.

slimysculpin said...

And yes, a BS does yield mad Techmo skills.

Native Minnow said...

But seriously, who's Jody?