Friday, September 16, 2005


Today, one of the floor managers--a nice guy named Dan--asked me how I liked my new job. I said it was fine, I liked it, etc. He said, "Forgive me for saying so, but you seem like you should be working at, say, Future Shop or something." I said that I'd tried retail and didn't like it, but that I liked working with wood. "Maybe next week we'll try to get you working at one of the construction stations, so you can try something different." This made me sad, since I like the position I'm at.

The shop I've been at all week makes wooden skids of all different sizes. I work an automated, remote control saw that cuts two-by-fours to various lengths. As far as I can see, it's the best job in the place: not repetitive enough to be painfully dull, not complicated enough to require all my brain. I get to move around, adjust bolts, load wood--and I have a neath control board with video-game levers. The guys working outside have lift and stack heavy pallets all day, as well as dealing with the elements. My station requires little heavy lifting, and I get to stay inside.

The saw is a great disk of quarter-inch serrated steel alloy that whirls inside of a mesh cage a few feet from my control panel. I pretend it's a shark in a tank. Make sure that shark tank is bolted shut! There are all sorts of steel loading arms as well, outside of the cage, which I pretend are crocodiles. My mission each day, as I see it, is to keep all my fingers attached.

Yesterday, Dan came to me and said, "It's kind of strange. You've only been with us two days, but you're the only one here who knows how to operate this machine...So don't go quitting or anything." I should have taken the opportunity to ask for a raise. I guess they are going through some sort of personnel turnover, and their old saw operator retired. Soon I probably will quit, once I've investigated further into the workings of the place. Outside my loading door is a huge labyrinthine yard full of stacks of skids. I volunteered to work tomorrow, even though it's Saturday, because I wanted to see the yard. The first couple of days I was nervous, worried that I wasn't doing a good enough job. Now I just try not to get hurt.

This kind of work, though sometimes romanticized, always seems like a prison sentence to me. When I close my eyes at night I see rivers of two-by-fours rolling by on a conveyor, and my body twitches from physical strains, and the terrors of the job that I try to suppress all day. Just down the street from my workplace are the docks, with great metal ships reminding me of the wider world. These kinds of jobs never pay enough money that you could escape. It's probably better to be broke but free. It's rediculous to sell the best part of your time for three hundred bucks a week.


em said...

The Shark awaits us each day,
The one mistake for which you'll pay.
Count your fingers one by one,
The crocks will chew them down to none.
Your pockets will jingle, a spring in your step,
Today you'll buy candie,
Tomorrow Boba Fet!
And if you should slacken your watch just a bit,
The Woverene blade will go skicker-snikt.

flatlander said...

Hey there Em,

Thanks for that macabe little jingle. You really put the "poe" back in "poetry"--as in "Edgar Allan"!

The saw is a little scary, but it's also a neat machine. The most dangerous thing is the danger of having a big pile of wood fall on you when it sits poised on the lip of the "scrambler". I need a longer crowbar!

I think soon they will be training me on the nail guns.