For the past week I have been working the graveyard shift at a plastic sheet manufacturing plant. The job I perform there is simple: I work at the end of the line either stacking sheets on pallets or cutting up unacceptable pieces to get them ready for the grinder. I am doing the work that a million-dollar robot would be doing otherwise.
When all is going well, the job is easy: stacking and counting sheets and sweeping and dumping shavings from the mill heads. When anything is out of whack, the job is painful: the mill cuts bad parts out in sixteen-inch lengths; I have to peel protective wrap from both sides, carry the piece to the band saw, cut it into four pieces and stack them in a box. The ones we dealt with last night were five feet wide and five-eighths of an inch thick--kind of heavy--and they came off the line practically non-stop for nearly seven hours of my eight-hour shift.
There are two other men working the same shift. Alton is the de facto foreman; he has worked at the plant for several years, so he knows most of the arcana concerning the front of the line. Julian was hired two or three weeks before I started, so he's allowed to operate the fork lift. For a group of guys who didn't know each other a month ago, we work really well together, like a team with several seasons behind it; it's impressive.
I took the job because in this crappy economy the demand for my painting services has practically disappeared; at this time of year it is non-existent. The training wage I'm earning now is half what I make painting; it's not quite enough to make ends meet. It should slow the hemorrhaging to a trickle, though, and hopefully I'll pick up some painting jobs soon. At least I'm doing something to try to make it.
Christmas is on credit (and not very much of it); I think we've managed to keep it under two hundred dollars. I have no fancy watch to hawk to get money to buy Carrie a set of combs for her hair, which means she won't have to sell her hair in order to get me a fancy fob chain. Sharing Brendan and Cullen's delight will have to be gift enough for both of us; can't you just feel the love?