Night Walking

Dark end of street.  Halloween decorations still out.  Tombstones.  A voice then I see him.  A man greeting me from his yard in the dark.  Hello.

Far corner, big mean dog that barks from behind the fence during the day is in his front yard unchained, sniffing a fire hydrant.  His owner yells his name repeatedly which he ignores completely.  I try to not make a sound and stay on the dark part of the street.  Hydrant smells stronger than I do. ­­­­­ He doesn’t see me.

Across the street, the same woman that was outside talking on her phone two afternoons ago, is still outside talking on her phone.  Still looks upset.

Dim streets.  Movement everywhere.  Shadowy figures move in barely lit yards, sitting on porches.  Smoke, staring, music, sweet-herb smoke, tones of conversations, no words.  Rap music.  A garage door open, light inside.  Only a car and it barely fits.  Where is all their stuff?  Three people with clothes and pillows getting in a big Lincoln, which seems eager to pull away.  Getaway maybe runaway.

Backyard bar, three big TVs all on.  Hot tub.  Three cars.  No people.

Old man fiddling with a tarp on the back of a car, in the dark.  No light on his house, or in his hand.  I am quiet.  He doesn’t know another human is walking by three feet away.  I feel like a ghost.  I wonder how many people I don’t see.

Car comes from behind.  I move over.  It moves over, behind me.  Stops.  I cross the street and pretend it’s not there.  It doesn’t follow.  Turn a corner.  Wind blows, rain falls hard, then stops.

A child says hello from a dark porch.  Says hello again.  I say hello.  She­­ asks how I am today.  I say tired.  I ask her back.  She doesn’t answer.­­   Never saw her.

A house dark outside but light shining through glass door.  Dog – wolf.  Stands alone inside watching.  Me.  I watch him.  I walk.  He doesn’t move.  It has to be ­­part wolf.  It looks out of place.  It’s in the wrong place.

Turn the corner.  Children laughing, running, falling in the grass.  My house. My kids.  My light.  Home.

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Back to Real Life

Eight months after I wrote this post, I made a spur of the moment decision to finish my degree.  I caved in to the fear that my husband’s income may not always be there, or be enough.  I also have other interests to pursue personally.  But in the absence of the fear of financial instability, this is still the life I would choose.  I am thankful to be enjoying it in the now and hope to not need to rejoin the workforce till my youngest children are older.

After four months in the grind of what most American adults have to endure every day, to one degree or another, I have spent the last two months adjusting back to life at home as wife and mom.  I have heard many titles and descriptions for what I do, and I don’t really like any of them, or the fact that people feel they have to make it sound more important than they think it is.  My chosen profession, while the oldest known occupation for women, (no, not that other one), has in modern times fallen in value to most people, even to many of us who practice this art.  We find it easy to believe the overwhelming message our culture sends us in countless ways, both blatant and subtle, that we are of less value, less intelligent, less desirable, and most certainly unqualified for any significant employment in the outside world.  Even if we finished our formal education and have a framed degree on the wall, not having used it for many years won’t get us a great-paying career any time soon.

I usually leave my identity off most of my writing because I don’t want people to hear me through any filter they might have about my age, gender, or occupation (or lack of one in their eyes.)  In a way it seems I have succumbed to the belief of being devalued, although on an intellectual level I say I reject this.

As a teenager, no one suggested I might find myself in an internal conflict about family and career.  The message all around me, both in school and in the two-income families of all my friends (of those who had both parents at home) taught us that we could and SHOULD have it all, and be able to do it with excellence.  Some women can, and I do really admire that.  I am thankful for the choices, although the ability to make the choice between home and career is decidedly swinging out of favor for those who would wish to stay home instead.  I have a choice to sacrifice – income, or precious time with my children.  In all the miles I walked at work in those four months, my heart ached for what I was missing with them.  Since I’ve quit, money has been tight and the stress has returned, but I wouldn’t trade back.  As slim as our financial siutation stands, I do still have a choice.  I know many mothers don’t.  And some are better moms for being in the workplace.  This isn’t a treatise on why I think ALL moms should stay home, because I don’t.  I just wish it was easier to do so, and more respected.

I know what the working world is like.  I’ve had 30 different paying jobs in my lifetime so far, since I began working at age 14.  For those who are making a living doing something they truly love, living out their calling and passion, that’s a gift!  I don’t know many women in the work world enjoying this situation.  For me, the entire structure goes against the natural rhythms of life and nature .  I live on an intuitive plane that finds it very hard to adapt to strict schedules and monotonous tasks.  People believe housework is this way, but I find it much more rewarding than any repetitive task done in the workforce.   Working 40 hours a week, I lose time and energy to nurture the things that matter most.  I appreciate being home more than ever before and love the occupation of being fully human.  I really believe both men and women were born to live a life this way – rather than being trapped into an economic system that requires most of your mind, body, and soul to survive; gifts we were all given for so much more.  I am looking forward to the day that my husband can be as blessed as I am, and am immensely thankful he values my job as much as I do, so that I may be true to my heart and spirit.

One day when my family is grown and gone, I will decide what to fill my life with then.  I know for certain I will never be bored.  Life is too full of things to learn, do, and experience – and no matter where life takes you, people need love and nurture.  What do we do when all the caregivers have to, or choose to work for a wage?  We pay people who don’t care an even lower wage to fill the vacancy in day care centers, senior care centers, and group homes for the disabled.  I have worked in all three capacities, and the callous treatment I’ve seen in each situation breaks my heart.

When my father-in-law had open heart surgery, when my 18-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer and had surgery and chemo for months, when my daughter (a single mom with a baby) had emergency surgery, I was able to be fully there for all of them.  I didn’t have to miss work, or lose an income, or be at work worrying how they were doing at home on their own.  What exactly have we bought into as a culture?

In contrast to fluorescent lights, concrete floors, constant droning of machinery, striving for productivity measured by a computer, and sleeping while the beautiful sun is in the sky, I share these pictures of a few things that bring me joy.  Just a few.

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Got the T-shirt, Must be Time to Go

WP_20140114_001After much agonizing over the insanity of giving up a full time job with great benefits and above average pay for minion-level work, I did give my notice and am now halfway through my last week.  Two. More. Nights.  I don’t know how I’ve done this for three months because now it’s an act of will to make every step.  I’ve promised myself to stick it out till the bitter end, although I don’t have to.  I have enough unpaid leave time accrued that I could have skipped the entire week without any negative consequences on my job reference.   But right now it’s all about the last paycheck.

The alternate title for this post was “Kids say the darndest things.. at work.”  Two interesting responses from 20 somethings about my resignation:

“I sure wish I could just quit and do nothing.”
(I managed to remain silent on that point.)

“This is a really hard job to do for a long time, especially if you are .. uh.. older.”
(To which I heartily agreed, but had to interject that I felt pretty satisfied with the fact that I had made it this far without a single warning or write-up for quality or rates.  Not bad for an older, short person with a gimpy leg.)

So many more people have been fired in the past week, warnings and write-ups are handed out now regularly.  The woman I spoke of in my last post was terminated even though she had given her two-week notice.  They couldn’t wait.  Another friend received a verbal warning for being one point under rate last week.  The path to termination (or how long a write-up stays on your record), is never fully explained.  This is in line with the lack of helpful information about your department assignment and expectations from the date of the first interview.  Another department had their rate requirements increased dramatically.  Morale is in the toilet.  Managers are not immune.  Some have disappeared, others reappear as pickers.  No one is safe.  I feel badly for those whose rent and car payments depend on this employment situation.

The last purge resulted in record productivity however, and last night the manager was pushing us.. literally with messages that said.. “push push push” on our scanners.  Our shift was on the verge of breaking a record for this warehouse since it opened in August.  This makes management look great.  We get a high five as they all stand at the door on our way out.  Yay.  I know it’s because they axed all the slower people, not because we are so awesome.

Withholding information is a form of control.  Additionally, they create an environment akin to an early elementary school.  What has been a source of irritation from day one for me, I now realize is probably by design.  Bright primary colors, cute cartoon characters on the wall affirming core values and practices, pedantic repetition (not by supervisors, but solicited from associates who are asked to offer examples) of standard safety, quality and work practices – twice a day.. I could go on and on.  Does this reach down to our earliest memories of learning to conform, submit, and the fear of stepping out of line?  I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard fellow workers comment, “This is like Kindergarten!”  Indeed.

But the bottom line, no matter how much we as workers want to complain about how demeaning, demanding, and de-humanizing this environment is, every time we place an order, we are the ones responsible for keeping it in place.  We are biting our own big toe.  Consumers drive so much of what is wrong with the modern world.  Corporations create wealth giving us what we want.  I want fast, cheap, and convenient.  It’s a theme that keeps coming back.

I’ve decided to deny my addiction to convenience and find alternate ways to get what I need.  Reducing what I need is the first goal, (which isn’t hard for the financially challenged), but also to not add to unethical people practices when I can avoid it, and when I am aware of it.  I would rather buy from an individual seller on an online auction site than support a huge matrix that squashes people in the process of giving me what I want.

So what is a person to do when they find themselves in Kindergarten incarceration?  What do miserable pupils, or prisoners do?  Try to get a message out to the outside world.  Pass notes, messages in a bottle, smoke signals in the sky.  Last night I found a path to a small act of resistance, a joke, yet an appeal to the mind of a consumer.  That’s all I can say about that.  😀

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Why I Will Never Be a Manager

“Are you a seasonal employee?”

“No.. I’m full time.  Hired in September.”

“Oh!  Congratulations then!  There is going to be a lot of opportunity here this year as the warehouse expands.”

I cringe inside, but try to look excited.  I probably failed.  My blue badge puts me in a privileged class – those very few who are hired directly by the company, not through a temporary agency.  We have higher than average pay, great benefits, and nowhere to go but up.  The man following me, auditing for quality control, seems very excited about the prospects and his part in it.  While he seems to be in a position of authority, he is in reality my equal in another function.   He agrees that picking is not the best thing in the world and had to do more than he liked during peak season.  No one from any department that has to come and help ours, ever begs to come over to our side.  It truly is the hardest entry-level  job in the building.

A few moments later, I see our assistant manager roaming the aisles, with a stack of printouts.  He walks by, so none of them are for me.  I see him later with a friend of mine, another blue badge employee.   They are going over something on the paper and each time I cross the aisle, back and forth, they are still there.  She is getting upset and trying to explain something.  She says she has explained this before many times.  I meet her later on another aisle and she is fuming.  She says, “I just got my third write up for not making rate.”   I asked her how many it takes before they fire you.  She doesn’t know.  We haven’t been told.  She declares she is going to organize and get the union in this company.  Another woman standing in the aisle offers to help.  She says she feels like her ancestors who were forced to pick cotton.  That she has never had a job that hurt her body this badly.  I offered, “Yes, and while they had no choice, we sign up for this of our own free will.”  Shaking my head.

But this isn’t exactly true either.

No one knows what they are in for when this company hires you.  We are not told what position we will be working, or asked if we have a preference.  No one explained that you might be assigned to a job that required walking for 10 hours (or maybe 12) and not just strolling – you must meet a rate demand.  You must walk quickly, and you must push a cart, lift heavy things, put heavy totes on conveyors, and start all over again, going wherever and as far as your scanning device tells you to go.  Over and over.

For the young, fit and tall, this is not unreasonable to expect.  But just like a bad movie where all the wrong actors are cast in parts they play badly, many people assigned to Pick have no hope of ever meeting the demands.  They would have been great packers or stowers, but they didn’t have the option.  They were assigned this position and now they want to transfer.  But they can’t.

After lunch the manager reports that many pickers who are getting negative feedback are expressing a desire to transfer to a department where they could meet the production rates.  She explains that in order to be eligible to transfer, you must have been employed for 90 days with no write-ups and good attendance.  People who are getting written up for being slow are stuck in a place where they have to go faster than they are able.   Older people of short stature are at an extreme disadvantage.  Especially if they are on any medication that causes any mental sluggishness as well.  The slower you walk, the faster you must think.  Would they have applied for this position given full disclosure?  I don’t think so.  But then, no one would.

This isn’t a job at McDonald’s.  This is the type of job people seek to support their families and get medical benefits.  People leave other good jobs to work here.  My friend now can wait to get fired, or walk away and look for something else.   I know of at least three people in this position.  If I ever entertained the idea of trying to stay long term and moving up in this company,  I’m over that temptation.  I know this is just how business works.   But people who are really working hard and doing their personal best, shouldn’t have to worry about losing their job.  I couldn’t be the one to tell them.

But tonight I knew for certain, that I want at least five more years at home with my younger children before I pursue any type of career or more education.  These three months away from them has been the hardest of all.  I want to pour my heart and soul into them, and also learning all I can about the new life we want to establish, whether it’s an urban or rural homestead.  Our financial situation has improved, and if need be, I may have to work part-time here and there again, but 40 hours a week in a place that sucks out your body, soul, and mind – is not worth the blue badge that gets me in the building.   In the next few days, I will assess exactly what needs to be in place for me to resign, and then I will set a date.

We have lived on faith for many years, and we haven’t always had what we wanted when we wanted it.  I have enjoyed the added income and being able to get what we needed without scrounging yard sales or going without.  But the trade off is costing too much.  I know what we need will be there.  We have been blessed greatly and this job was a blessing for the time that was intended.  But this isn’t what my life is about.  It’s just a stepping stone across the creek – on my way to better things on the other side.

Book Titles: Truth or Sarcasm?

I see so many books at work, and I keep a running list as I go of titles to look up and add to my wish list.  But lately I’ve noticed how many lies reside within the titles of books.  I think we have come to expect them, or maybe we subconsciously believe the claims.  But these three books, trust me, are big enough to work as effective doorstops.  Seeing so many crazy promises in a single shift, it started to dawn on me that I smelled something fishy.  I finally realized I can no longer believe book titles at all.

Then I ran across this one.  I wonder if my job description is in there somewhere.

This looked like it might be another good one for this blog theme! 🙂  But who has time to read?

I also found pictures online of my place of joy.  Here is an aerial shot of the actual warehouse I work in.

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The picture below isn’t even close to half of the entire pick mod, and we have two like this.  I counted my steps one day.  It’s 77 paces across one of the half sections, and 345 paces from front to back.  This picture shows mostly books, but ours has everything you can imagine that will fit into a plastic, yellow tote.  Including some things you don’t want to imagine.

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Snow Day

I am supposed to be at work, but I chose to not risk my life and our family’s only car, to go earn 10 hours worth of wages.   But I am sure financially, many people have decided to try for the sake of the paycheck they need to earn.

While catching up online, I ran across yet another article about warehouse work, written by an “undercover” journalist who spent (gasp) an entire WEEK experiencing the what people spend years doing.  I still don’t know why these journalists don’t interview the people doing the work.  Hear the words of the person who is stuck in exhausting monotony all day, who doesn’t know of a way out.

But one topic he covers well is the seasonal worker situation.  In the last few weeks I have seen hundreds of them come into our warehouse.  They are poorly trained and cause a great deal of chaos with simple mistakes, like putting product totes on conveyors the wrong direction, jamming up the line, over and over.   We veterans (of 3 months) are amazed at what they don’t know about the basics of this very simple job.  From this crop of temps, they will glean permanent employees.  Our warehouse is barely getting started – with only one floor of four in operation, so many will have a chance of becoming full-time hires.  You can easily discern who wants to stay, and who doesn’t care.  Some are over-dosing on energy drinks, while others stroll along, stopping frequently to visit, window shop, or even take their shoes of and sit down for awhile.  That will earn you deliverance pretty quickly.

But generally, a seasonal worker may not have much of a chance for a long-term job.  Our retail holiday cycle demands huge armies of temporary workers.  People want to blame the corporations for unfair hiring practices, when in actuality, it would be impossible to keep a staff year around to meet the demands of Christmas.  This isn’t an employer driven problem, but a consumer created one.

I added to the problem as I spent my snow day shopping online for my own kids’ Christmas presents.  Now I know first hand the misery I am contributing to.  At work we often try to be thankful.  Pay is better than fast food.  No angry customers in our faces.  Working independently.  But there is no way around the fatigue and the pain it wreaks on our bodies, the old and young alike.  I have seen people with serious physical limitations scooting their carts along with the rest of us.  I feel ashamed for complaining when I see them, but why do they have to do this too?  I try to be thankful, thinking of the thousands of people held in hard labor camps – with little food and no days off – cut off from friends and family.  I have so much to be thankful for.

Yet still.  As I have continued to say, this is not the function in life that God created the incredible wonders of being human for.  This is robbery of what He meant life to be – yet we have accepted it as necessary.  Every time I shop – online, or in a mega-store, I am feeding this system.  I am more convinced than before, that I want to pursue a life that has less negative impact on the people and planet, and teach others how to be more free of it as well.  We can’t detach completely, but we can do better.  I have seen that the need for things to be BIG, whether it’s fast-food chains, or consumer product distributions, it brings negative consequences.  Because of this practice, our food supply is now compromised in safety and very vulnerable to disruption.  Mass production began the factory jobs.  All of this has created tons of consumer goods and cheap food, but at what cost to ourselves?  Eventually, the bills come due.  The more we can produce locally, the healthier we will be.  There is no turning back now all the way, at least not without a major shift in energy source and consumption rates.  But I greatly desire to be stepping in a direction away from the cliff, if at all possible.  If nothing else, than for the sake of my own conscience and what I am creating for future generations.  Maybe that’s what happens when you become a grandparent. You realize, you have a lineage.  What are they going to have to live with?

Life is so precious – and we cannot flourish and thrive and give of ourselves in our intended potential when this becomes our way of life.  There is a better way, and we intend to pursue it.

In February, my husband is going to take a certification class in Permaculture Design.  We are getting old and have more to learn than we will live to see, but like the tree we should have planted yesterday, no time like the present.

 

Endurance

One more day to my 5th week of work.  I’m exhausted and don’t seem to be adjusting to the hours or the physical demands.  I spend my hours dreaming of ways to escape and dance in the daffodils again, in the daylight.  Maybe, by the time they are in bloom again.

Perhaps my dreams will never really come true, but at least I have them.  They keep me going.

But without dreams, and hope, how does one endure this kind of life?  So many metaphors have come to mind since I started this job, trying to find a way to explain how un-human it is.  Ant colonies come to mind.   These insects create a nearly unstoppable force because the collective overrides the needs of any single individual.  When one expires, they march over it, or drag it off.  Nothing stops.

Two nights ago someone collapsed in the Pick Mod.  No one knows for how long.  We saw medical staff going in to check right as we were coming back from our 30 minute lunch.  Communication out of the work area isn’t possible.  No way to call for help or send anyone a message from an area of approximately 300 by 140 paces wide.  Someone commented they had seen a defibrillator.   Maybe just a precaution.   But I imagined if someone was lying on the floor out in the work area at this point in the shift, they had been there at least 30 minutes if not more.

Our post-lunch instructions and stretches convened as scheduled with no comment ever about what had happened, or who it was.  Two days later, still no one knew.   Even more interestingly, no one seemed to care.  I heard one woman say, “We lost a few at my other job too.  Mostly heart attacks.”   I know performance statistics don’t allow for any pause to reflect.  Nothing can stop.

The other image that continually comes to my mind as I work comes from Star Trek.  I am not a huge fan, but have seen most of The Next Generation series.  In this modern mythology there is a species called The Borg.  They are a blend of biology and machine, and as in the example above, the collective is all that matters.  The biological organism is only made to serve the machine, to further its ends, which is to continually assimilate everything and everyone it encounters.  The famous line repeats, “Resistance is futile.”  Humans that become assimilated are fitted with mechanical components and linked up to the mind that controls the movements of all members.  None of the members act outside of their directives.

One characteristic of the Borg is that they do not have the time, need, or interest to acknowledge other members of the group, or even any intruder for that matter, unless someone causes a disturbance or obstacle to their directives.  I have never been in a work situation where humans have learned to behave as if other humans within 12 inches of their own personal space, do not exist.  This is common on subways, and other crowded public areas, but I have never seen co-workers like this until now.  Eventually, you learn to adapt.  You manage to ignore the awkward feeling of silence and not greeting each other.  Fatigue and the mind numb of the incessant beeping scanner (your new appendage) that gives you your directives all night long help you to find other people irrelevant.   You cannot do anything other than what the scanner directs, or in any different order.

Not everyone succumbs.  Some people have a spirit that can’t be squashed by their environment.  A smile, a voice humming a tune, and some like me who are great at creating the “disturbance” factor that gives everyone a chance to remember, oh yes we are still human.  I really didn’t know I could hit the plastic bins on the wall hard enough to make them fall to the ground!   And someone else speculated I needed to get my cart insured.  It’s a special gift.

But again, I know our society has created this way of life so unlike what the Creator gave to us.  We feed into it and perpetuate it because it gives us things we want.  As long as we want them, we will be forced to trade in much of the Divine beauty, creativity, joy, freedom, that we were given at birth.  We were made in His image.  I know these gifts can be found in spite of circumstances we find ourselves in, whether financial, physical, or mental pressures bear down on us.  Life is stronger, humans will not be fully assimilated, no matter how much it benefits the machine.

Here are the words to a song that resonated deeply with me this week.

Explorers
by Muse

Once I hoped
To seek the new and unknown
This planet’s overrun
There’s nothing left for you or for me
Don’t give in, we can
Walk through the fields
And feeling nature’s glow
But all the land is owned
There’s none left for you or for me

Who will win?
‘Cause I concede

Free me
Free me
Free me from this world
I don’t belong here
It was a mistake imprisoning my soul
Can you free me
Free me from this world

A world lush in bloom
With rivers running wild
They’ll be re-routed South
With none left for you or for me
Don’t give in
Hear the engines roar
And save our crops from drought
But when the black gold’s in doubt
There’s none left for you or for me

Fuse helium-3
Our last hope

Free me
Free me
Free me from this world
We don’t belong here
It was a mistake imprisoning our souls
Can you free me
Free me from this world

Free me
I’ll free you
Free us from this world
We don’t belong here
It was a mistake imprisoning our souls
Can you free me
Free me from this world

Running around in circles feeling caged
By endless rules
Can you free me, free me from this world

Go to sleep

Trudging Along

May not write many more posts about work.  Settling into the boredom phase where the newness has worn off, the awe of the scope and size of the building and operations has passed, and the only thing I can find to make the minutes go by faster is to find ways to go faster.  Trying to slice seconds off in techniques in order to achieve a pace acceptable to my employer is the only real challenge.  Maybe that too will become like second nature in time.  By next week I am expected to have achieved the standard rate.  Some new starts are now in the “coaching” process where someone follows them around for awhile to observe and offer suggestions.  I will do almost anything to avoid that little experience.  While I love to learn from those who are good at what they do, being watched while I work (especially so someone can tell me what I’m doing wrong) – not my idea of fun.

Did run across this book though that might help.  Loved the name. 😀  And the tag line that it’s how to think without thinking – might be useful.  I often think that I would be faster if I didn’t think so much.

This song also came to mind while walking, and walking, and walking.. … … …

Shocking Reality Check

I have never been one to whine about money, until recently anyway.  I have been pretty content with my no frills, yard-sale-never-retail lifestyle.  In a previous post I wrote about the belief of eventually arriving at some comfortable financial place, and then realizing it’s never really going to materialize at the present pace of income vs. survival.  Then one day I saw this short video, and I realized what I always had in my imagination about prosperity doesn’t even apply to my family anyway.  We aren’t even on the chart, so that really takes a load of expectation off.  Whew!  I’ve never had any sympathy for people who complain about wealth inequality either.  But this video left me asking, “How does anyone think this is okay?”

I am not envious of what other people have.  I can literally walk from my house to the wealthiest neighborhood in my city.  I can see their houses from my back yard.  I don’t want what they have.

What I would like however, is for people to realize that the carrot dangling in front of our noses isn’t so we can have more of the pie, it’s so someone else can.  We must stay ignorant and willing in order for the elite to keep their cake and still eat it too.  It may not matter really.  Maybe changing this system is impossible, but the fact that this video uses the word “wake up” at the end, I decided it was appropriate for this blog.

Changes were made a few decades ago that gave many corporations free reign in a way that would have made Ayn Rand more giddy than writing the speech of John Galt.  Their prosperity was supposed to trickle down and improve the overall economy, generate growth, and enable tax cuts.  Yet it seems now to have trickled up and defied that theoretical gravity that would pull it downward.  You know, it all works nicely on paper doesn’t it.  Communism, Capitalism, Fascism, whatever “ism” you want to follow.  But none seem to take into account that in any genre of economy or government we choose, greed and power seem to ruin everything.  More than any “ism” however, we have an “archy”.  (Not anarchy, which may be the next option.)  We traded monarchy for oligarchy.  But Democracy sounds so much nicer so we call it that instead.  Or more correctly, a Republic.   Revolutions come and go, yet things remain or degenerate to the same state.  So I can’t quite jump on anyone’s professed bandwagon of freedom, justice and any nation’s way.  It all seems to have the same ending.  If you want to be shocked and awakened just a little, enjoy this short presentation.

As long as life is about money, then their game is the only game in town.  I think I for one, am tired of playing Monopoly.

My Life as a Picker: Two Weeks In

Today I saw a video of a journalist who took a job with my company in order to report on working conditions.  She described her time there as a “wage slave” and claimed she even came from a labor background with years of experience in warehouse work, but yet this experience was beyond horrible.  Her young age and delicate appearance, as well as her professional position as a journalist, cause me to question this claim of a long history in these kinds of places.  I cannot tell if she is being truthful about the working conditions, but thankfully, they are nothing like what I have experienced so far.  But our warehouse opened just over a month ago.  We have plenty of time for things to deteriorate.  Peak season is just around the corner and thousands of seasonal workers will soon be clogging up our work space, with shipping deadlines looming every day.  Bins will be stuffed full of products and hard to pick from (my particular job description – “picking”).

In orientation they claimed they listen to their employees, want to hear about issues, and are willing to adapt to help us do our jobs more easily.  My thoughts were along the lines of.. “whatever.. nobody does that.”  Maybe the company has learned this recently, or maybe the journalist was a liar, but I have found it to be true.  They have already responded with genuine action in response to one of my suggestions!   I am in awe of this amazing sense of power given to the most lowly of the entry level positions.  Maybe I will ask for a BMW.

So the job.. is hard.  Really hard.  And boring.  Not complicated, but physically hard.  As I have discussed previously, this was the aspect that concerned me the most.  Working the night shift only compounds the physical exhaustion.  If someone had said to me, “I want you to spend 10 hours walking today.  You get two 10 minute breaks and 30 minutes to eat your lunch.”  I would have said, “Impossible!”  But it is in fact quite possible.  Not only can I do it, many other people who would not appear to have this ability from a first impression, also do it.  Around me there are many young, able-bodied workers, but I also see grey hair, obesity, one knee wrapped in a brace, and another even with a limp.  I wonder not just how can we, but WHY are we willing to do this?  Three people I have met even have other jobs in addition to this one.  No one would take a job like this for the fun of it.  There must be driving need.  Here are the pros and cons I have observed so far.

Positives
*Higher than average starting wage
*No dealing with the public
*Working without direct supervision most of the time
*Regular schedule, with no dropped hours from a 40 hour week
*Great benefits, vacation, stock shares, bonuses, opportunities to advance
*Consistent environment where expectations are clear
*Little opportunity for workplace drama

Negatives
*Little chance to connect with other employees (which is why there is minimal drama)
*Prison-like atmosphere with security checks, strict time limitations, and no personal property allowed except food
*Extreme foot pain (Did not know my feet could produce these extreme sensations!)
*Fatigue
*Boredom
*Pressure to meet rates (only heard hints to this so far, but expecting it to be more of an issue eventually)
*Long walks to find a manager to help with a question, take a break, or go to lunch

I struggle to think of anything to describe beyond the foot pain associated with this work, but contemplating further, I’ve come to appreciate my fellow human beings much more.  As an introvert I crave alone time, and have seldom had any the last two years living in a house with many people.  Now I have almost 40 hours of alone time a week.  While this isn’t quality time with one’s own soul, as I do have to concentrate on the direction of my next stop every few seconds, I have at last discovered loneliness.  Not sure when I was last lonely, but another girl also commented that the back corner of the warehouse was especially lonely and she was happy to move to an area where the stowers (people who put the products in for us to pick) were in her way so she would at least be around people.  I find myself drawn to the 7 people I trained with the first night.  They are the only people I see on every shift because ours falls in the middle of two others schedules.  We are even split between two management teams.  In an unfamiliar and dehumanizing environment, a familiar face is a warm sight to your eyes, even if it’s only been familiar for 3 days!

Time at home and days off are more precious also.  My kids miss me and I miss them more than they can know.  I think about them all night as I see really amazing toys, games and books I know they would love.  In fact, I see things that remind me of almost everyone I know.  In a way, I keep everyone I love with me through the night, as I connect them to the things I see.  I realize more clearly what matters, as I am surrounded by all that the world desires.  People matter most.

Sorry no pictures for this post.  Taking pictures is strictly forbidden and a sure-fire way to get promoted from Picker to Customer.