life in and around NYC is insane

Sunday, September 19, 2010

NaBlPoMo prompt: What was the worst job you ever had?

For me, it had to have been the summer I worked for a well-known cosmetics manufacturer.

It wasn't a terrible job -- it had its pluses and minuses -- but it was a job that opened my eyes to the real world.

My previous summer jobs had been just that -- jobs that were available only in the summer, where all of the employees were students planning to head back to school in the fall.   I'd worked in the playground program at a local park, and I'd worked as a general laborer at the beach.  the job at the cosmetics company was attractive because: (1) it paid better than the beach job; (2) the plant was open Monday - Friday, the beach job required me to work on weekends; and (3) "general laborer" at the beach meant I had to pick up garbage and clean restrooms (yuck!) -- though I would miss swimming in the ocean on my lunch break.  And working for the company gave me an opportunity to buy their products at a tremendous discount, not to mention the freebies they'd occasionally hand out to all the employees.

Now for the negatives:  (1) I was assigned to the packing warehouse, which was not air conditioned; (2) working an assembly line -- think Lucy and Ethel in the candy factory; and (3) it could be a dirty job -- some days we were breathing powdered blush or eye shadow, some days the air reeked of perfume (there are still some scents I can't wear) -- though I much prefer stale perfume to overripe garbage.

Now, for the eye openers.

The company hired a lot of college students every summer to help with the fall line and the Christmas line, but there were also a lot of people at that plant who worked there year-round.  It was the first time I had a job where my coworkers weren't fellow students. It's good, honest work, and I am sure some of those women made A LOT of money pasting labels onto lipstick tubes.  But their lives were so different from what I wanted, their interests so different from mine.  It made me appreciate the opportunities I had as a college student, and a few months later, when I had a "crisis" and thought about leaving school, the memory of the assembly line gave me motivation to stay where I was.

And the worst day of the job.....was the day of the accident.

As industrial accidents go, it wasn't the worst.  but for those of us who were in the room it was scary and horrible.  I didn't see the accident happen, but I was close enough to see the aftermath....

It was towards the end of the summer, and we were working on the Christmas gift kits.  Each assembly line consisted of a long table with a conveyor belt -- one person would put the product on the belt, and each worker down the line would grab product off the belt, do their task (such as labelling the product, putting it in a box, labelling the box., etc.) and return the product to the belt.  At the end of the belt, the last person is supposed to collect the finished product and place it in a carton.the cartons would be removed as they were filled and placed on pallets for shipment.

Someone decided we needed two lines working on the same product.  The two tables were placed end-to-end, with one belt moving east to west and the other west to east, so that the process would start at each end and finished product would end up in the middle, where the lines met.  When you attach two tables together line that, there's a small gap between the belts, and this is supposed to be covered by a metal guard to keep things from falling into the gap.  On the day of the accident, the metal guard was not in place -- though they did install it afterwards. 

Well, as I said, it was the end of the summer, and a lot of the students had already left for school.  So our line supervisor decided that, to speed up the line and meet her quota,  she would be the one to remove product from the belt and place it into the cartons. 

You can probably guess what happened.  She was trying to do two jobs at once -- supervising the line and retrieving product from the conveyor belt.  One moment of inattention, and her hand slipped between the two tables and was crushed.    They had to shut down the line and disconnect the tables to extricate her.  right after we went back to work, we had to stop production again for a short time when someone noticed a few spots of blood on the conveyor belt.

When I saw the supervisor  in the  ladies room a short time later, her hand had swollen to 4 times its normal size. 
And the reason I was in the ladies room?

I was dealing with a "friend", a nursing student drama queen who told me she was going to faint after she saw the bloodstains on the belt.  I took the girl  into the ladies room to put some water on her face, not knowing that the injured woman was in there icing her hand.

It was 30 years ago....but sometimes I still wonder about that woman.  How bad was the injury?  Did it ever heal?  She wouldn't have been able to work with that injury.  At the time of the accident I didn't know about disability insurance and worker's compensation benefits and the potential law suit she might have brought, so I was worried about how she would feed her family.

as industrial accidents go, it wasn't horrific....but still....

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