Feb 13, 2008

Just A Small Gripe

The whole workplace world is a factory, and we're all just sticking bits on the cars.*

I've got this theory, and I'm going to share it with you. It's been brought on by my befriending two people on these here internet tubes, both of whom work in factories. They live on opposite coasts and for all I know do entirely different jobs. Jean is a microwelder, meaning she does intricately tiny welding on things that go in machines like the space shuttle. Mickey Glitter (whose site is now temporarily crashed but will be back soon) works on the office side of a factory but in a factory nonetheless. Hence this metaphor. Attend me:

My most lasting impression of a factory was formed when I had the opportunity to tour the faciltiy where the Ford Motor Company assembles their Teetiny vehicle. You've seen the Teetiny, right? It's the super-ultra compact car that can fit comfortably inside the back of a Suburban. Cute little things; impact resistance of a sheet of newsprint but they get like a thousand miles to the gallon as long as there's no headwind and if it crashes and you somehow manage to survive you just ball it up and toss it in the trashcan and go buy another.


There was a long line of stations in this factory--at one a trained technician would place the frame on the assembly line and secure it with four twist-ties. At another station a mechanic would place the Singer sewing machine engine carefully in the engine compartment and install the Duracell battery (I'm pretty sure it was a D cell but I could be wrong.) At yet another station a highly skilled employee would install the driver's stool and hang the little Xmas tree air freshener on the rear view mirror. When all these stations were working at capacity and everyone was doing their job the factory could turn out seventeen hundred Teetinys a day. At the end of the line the car would be propelled off the assembly line with a gentle puff from an airhose and be carried by Bruno the packaging guy to a shipping container. From there they'd be delivered to Ford dealerships all over the world to be sold for $147 plus shipping, handling and dealer charges. The factory manager told me that if the crew pulled together as a team there was even sizeable bonuses involved.

I never realised until just a few weeks ago how very like a factory my job is. Granted we've got fewer moving parts than an automotive factory, but we've still got the raw materials (patients) and the technicians and mechanics (nurses, occupational therapist, physical therapist, clinical manager and so forth) and we've still got the finished product--a patient whose wounds are healed and whose file is complete and accurate and whose bill is charged to Medicare correctly, sans fraud and other naughty things.

This, unfortunately, never happens anymore. I haven't seen a bonus in so long I don't even recall what colour they are.

You see, in the Teetiny factory if someone along the line, say at Station 7 where they hot-glue the hood ornament on and staple the trunk down were to stop doing their job, or do it incorrectly (say, hot-gluing the trunk on and stapling the hood ornament down) the rest of the line stops. Quite literally from that point on the entire process comes to a halt while the guy at Station 8 ("Jiggle The Handle A Little Bit, It'll Work") has to stop HIS job and put the car right. Meanwhile Stations 9 through 1,803 ("Wipe Car Down With No More Than Two Squares of Toilet Paper And Honk The Horn") wonder just what the hell is going on back there, Bruno the bow-legged guy who loads them on the truck doesn't have anything to do anymore and starts picking his nose until his skull caves in, and production for the day stops.

The problem gets worse when, say, the post-graduate level engineer at Station 94 ("Spray Paint The Faux Carpeting On The Floor") decides to hold off doing his job for a week, letting the cars pile up until suddenly one morning around Payroll day he takes a handful of Maxi-Thins, washes it down with three liters of Red Bull, takes a big snort of cocaine and goes through his entire production week worth of jobs in an hour. Suddenly there's a huge glut of work going through the line and everyone from the next station up are having seizures because not only is the work not proceeding in any sort of orderly fashion it's all ass-over-teakettle: the fuzzy spray paint is all over the windshields, across the hoods and in some cases it makes suggestive graffiti along the very small doors, and now they've got to fix it all before they can go on and do THEIR steps.

The factory where I work (Very Big Home Health) is very fucked up like that. Excuse my language, it's just hard to hold back these days. Some of the technicians are working at the same pace they've been working at for years; fast enough, efficiently enough and with the correct processes proscribed by the factory managers far away in their ivory tower. Some of the mechanics can't find their socket wrench with both hands and a flashlight, and one of the engineers thinks it's okay if he does two weeks of work in one day because he's special. Then we've got the installer who quits because so much ruckus has been raised about her that she realises she's going to lose her license (finally!) and the Head Bean Counter who is afraid of his own shadow and should never have been promoted from his prior job of Door Knob Polisher is constantly making up excuses to not be at his post.

No matter how I look at it I'm being screwed. I'm either spending the entire day trying to work out from under this giant glut of work or I'm sitting there wondering if we still have any nurses working for us.

It doesn't stop there, though. The burbles and fits and starts that I have to deal with are passed up the line to Miss Thang, my new boss, who spends various hours of her day wondering aloud what's wrong with the system (it's not enforced EVER for one thing,) which behaviour she alternates with muttering threats to fix things. Threats which I'd love to see enacted but strangely enough never come to fruition.

Did I forget to mention the day I was called to the carpet in the factory manager's office for daring to take ownership of one of the major problems on the assembly line and chewing out Bean Counter in the vain hopes that he'd start making the technicians work according to the guidelines? Did I mention that I was told "...it's either you or me..." implying that if I wasn't a good little mechanic and STFU I'd be fired from the factory because SHE certainly wouldn't be. Her narrow ass is covered by her boss and a mere technician on the line is easily replaced.

The main problem? No-one wants to hire a MAWG** who is highly skilled at doing a whole lot of different jobs on a lot of different assembly lines. I've forwarded more resumes than David Lee Roth has passed on venereal diseases and still I can't get a single interview. I'm tempted to apply for the Yardmaster job that's open at Kansas City Southern's Leesville yard just for shites and giggles. At least they're good enough to email me a little form email when I apply that says I'm not in the running for Rail Polisher Third Class.
* With apologies to The Bard.

** Middle Aged White Guy (everyone needs one or two around!)


Bob said...

LALALALALALA I'm not listening to you (says another MAWG who will soon be circulating a resume).

save me a spot at Leesville, I'll be rail polisher, 2nd class.

Anonymous said...

I honestly don't know what to say, Irr. Other than to say that I feel your pain. I got out of a factory like that five years ago and have counted my lucky stars ever since.

It actually took me two years to get used to management types saying "thank you". How screwed up is that?

Gordo said...

Hpmh ... That's actually me there ... Stupid Blogger.

Jean said...

I expect to be on the prowl myself in a month or two.
This time, I may need to relocate, but it could end up being worth it for a lot of reasons.

Good luck, Irrel...maybe a headhunter could help?

Nancy Dancehall said...

*hug* I laugh at your post, and I die a little, thinking you are stuck there.

Something will come along. I know. I've been there.

Irrelephant said...

Bob, it's hell out here. I'll keep a box of polishing rags back for ya. *lol*

Gordo/Blog, I'm hoping something turns soon. I'm getting back into that "maybe I'll just lie here in the mud and learn to be happy with it" phase and I don't think that's the healthiest thing for me right now.

Jean, I hope for your sake it is good in many ways. If nothing else you'll be out of the direct line of about seventy hurricanes a year. *wink* Maybe somewhere in the deep Midwest?

*hug* You're a sweetheart, Nancy. I find it's better for me if I laugh at it; it makes it a lot easier to get up in the mornings and sit behind this desk. *shrug* If nothing else I'm patient.

Vulgar Wizard said...

Hit the temp agencies, seriously, and if you don't apply for that KCS job in Leesville, I will!

Also, it won't be long before the state hiring freeze is lifted, but I know that's not helping you right now.

I think they're scared of the creativity of your resume....

Irrelephant said...

VW I've been looking, I have been. As for being a Yardmaster? I don't know enough about trains to build a model set, much less direct real ones.

Jean said...

I am so rude... Thank you for the link to my currently lame-assed blog. (I suck)

Irrelephant said...

Jean, you are not! You sound busy and harassed and if you're like me in the current job-hunting predicament you're not in the best frame of mind. Hang tight, and you do NOT suck!