I was recently asked if I'd like to work eight hours at a light industrial factory. I'd turned it down once or twice before, but feeling that a few extra bucks rarely hurts and curious how I'd do working a stand-up job, opted to give it a try.
Like most factory jobs, this one wouldn't be complicated; it consisted of putting product into a cardboard package. There was a bit of a time constraint to it as the product would be coming down an assembly line. I was a tad nervous as I was shown what to do. You needed to fold the packaging in a certain way in order for the product to properly fit. I struggled the first few times and had visions of episodes of "Undercover Boss" where the head of the company couldn't do the most piddling jobs.
Thankfully, for my ego's sake, I was able to get the gist of it and was placed along the line with six others. No music played as we worked, but neither was the environment very noisy from the machinery. I enjoyed hearing the conversation that took place as we worked. The man I was working opposite was looking forward to taking a trip to Vegas. As a joke, I asked if he planned to see Manilow.
He said, "That's not a bad idea".
This guy that just graduated high school had only two things on his mind: a kickball tournament coming up and boos. He went on and on about the different combinations of alcohol that gave him the most pleasure and told a co-worker that if he went out with him that night, he'd help him get laid.
My feet started to ache about three hours into the shift. I asked a lady who'd worked there before what she did for pain. She said she always took a couple pain pills partway through the shift. She also explained to me the difference between ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Perhaps the high school boy used boos as a pain nullifier instead of going the more conventional pill route.
At lunch time, a couple men in their 50's talked about how they could only handle working there a couple days a week, that the standing and repetitive motion was just too hard on their body otherwise. Being able to sit during that time was a blissful thing. I even went one better by going out to my car for a few minutes where I took my shoes off and massaged them against the brake pedal.
My back started to ache in the early afternoon. I would fidget this way and that trying to find a more comfortable position. And all the while, the product kept coming. One thing I'd forgot about was the camaraderie that many blue-collar workers have. We were all in the same boat, all doing our time for a few dollars more.
The last break was a nice reprieve as we got 20 minutes instead of 15 because of an older gentlemen that was retiring from the white-collar area. I smiled and clapped as they toasted a man I'd never met before. The cake tasted better, I'm sure, that it would've had I not worked my ass off for the past seven hours.
When the machines shut off an hour later, I was exhausted, but happy that I'd tried something new. Life, as they say, begins at the end of your comfort zone.