So, let me tell you what I've been doing for the past three days. NMM/NEM/MME has an order for 3,000 headrest covers. Think this:
They put vinyl stickers on each side of these cloth headrests and then de-sticker/wash/press/re-sticker for the next order. On Monday, 18-year-old was at the laundromat, and I was on pressing duty. I'll note here that I was working with a super sweet girl who's age was never verified, but she's taking her driving test today! Good luck Krystal/Krystle/Crystal! (Is this depressing part #2 or am I losing track?) But back to my work. I took a headrest, put it on the ironing press (think oversized waffle maker), closed the press, waited ten seconds for it to beep, opened it, flipped the headrest, closed it, waited ten seconds for it to beep, then put the steaming headrest on a cooling rack to dry. Repeat 1,500 times. 7 hours Monday. 6 hours Tuesday.
I have to say, as jaded as I may sound, I was actually quite good at this. When there's absolutely nothing to do except lift and lower and flip and wait, it gives you time to think about how to be more efficient. (And how you're 25 and standing in someone's garage getting steam burns and yet still trying to eke a second or two off the process.) 18-year-old and driving-test girl both commented on my speed. I said it's probably because of my masters degree. We all laughed heartily. (Cue inner weeping.)
Today I was on sticker duty, which is even more straightforward than pressing. You peel off a sticker, stick it on the front, flip, peel off a sticker, and stick it on the back. That's it. But you have to do it fast. And while pressing includes the really nice 10-second downtime where there's nothing to do but wait for the beep, there is no downtime with stickers. You peel and stick as fast as you possibly can. And I am the master of stickers. I timed myself, and I was finishing about 120 headrests an hour. Since there are very few opportunities to boast when you're unemployed, I'd like to note that 18-year-old was only doing 60.
All-in-all this was all fine and great. We listened to the radio, we chatted, and, for the most part, I really didn't mind the work. I didn't have to answer phones or sell anything. I didn't get dumped into some complex new task with no training. I just stood there in jeans and a t-shirt, did a simple task well, made some money, and went home for the day. And part of me even started thinking that it wouldn't be so bad to have a mindless job like this where I could show up every day, do what little was expected of me, and punch my time card.
And then I got to the final two-hour stretch of my shift today and things got dark. First of all, I was physically exhausted. Standing on your feet all day is tiring, but constantly moving your hands and arms with the right combination of speed and precision is extra exhausting. Plus, my 80-year-old-woman back problems started flaring up. Second, I started hating every single song on the radio. Third, I started to think about how I was giving NMM/NEM/MME my absolute best while everyone around me was just getting through the day. And maybe the logical response would be to do things more slowly, but that's just not in me. If I have a task, I do my best. And this is the point where I (thankfully) remembered that I don't want to be exploited daily to complete some meaningless task. I want to be putting my energy towards something that I'm interested in, that will build my resume, and that takes more than 20 seconds to master.
I've known this all along, but it was a nice reminder. Being unemployed has put me in a funk. I've been working really hard to find a job, but, at the same time, the thought of actually getting a job is a little bit intimidating. Jobs are complex, and you have to adjust to your role, your coworkers, and a new company. Since I've been met with nothing but rejection for the past few months, it's pretty easy to lose sight of my ability to tackle hard things. So yes. For the first week of a job, it does sound nice to just have a waffle iron steamer in front of you and lift/close. But anything worth 40 hrs/week of my time is going to be difficult at first. But I can do it. And by day three, instead of hating my life, hopefully I'll be getting comfortable and learning new things. Now, to just get a job.
Did I mention that in 9 hours and 14 minutes I will, once again, be placing stickers on headrests?