And the road goes on forever...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

When Life Gets Down To Elements, part 2

In groups we move off onto the floor following our assigned supervisors. Typically, we either move fixtures, build fixtures (after schlepping the parts from the sea container of parts out in the South 40 of the parking lot), or we “set a mod”. Setting a mod requires placing shelving or pegs which hold product according to a specific plan. Once the setup is done, we install what’s called fast track, which is the rail which holds all the skews and pricing information contained on the little yellow tags. Those all go on in certain order and there is a definite method to the madness. I have become particularly adept and fast at it, hence have become in great demand by all the supervisors as “the Mod Queen”. It’s not a bad position to hold.

Once the mod is set, we then set the product. Next time you waltz through WalMart pay particular attention to such aisles as the deodorant or hand lotion or shampoo sections. Note just how many brands, how many flavors, how many varieties there are of each product. Each one has a separate skew; each one has a separate area where it must be placed. Each one also has, per manufacturer and how much they are willing to pay for shelf space, a certain amount of rows for their product. Hence, you will see some brands which have the same product with face forward three rows, while others languish with only one. Yes, the almighty dollar at work again. Also, note just how low that bottom shelf is and what’s placed there. How many are willing to get down on their knees to pick up a product? Now imagine me stocking all that stuff and the back ache that ensues. Further imagine doing one of these entire aisles and you will have an inkling of my day. Is it any wonder I ache all week?

Break passes too quickly two hours after starting work sitting with others from our group at round tables in the employee, excuse me, Associates room. There are vending machines, refrigerators, a microwave, a coat closet, and silent sufferings. The two time clocks sit menacingly right outside each of its doors. A wide cement hallway leads us back through double swinging doors onto the floor again all too soon.

Finally, it’s lunch. We need to wrestle with the demon time clock again; I get into my locker to pick up my fanny pack with my car keys, and hustle towards the front entrance and North 40 to my car and a blissful hour of kicking off my shoes and immersing myself in my latest book. I clock watch constantly, afraid I will be late. They have drilled it in: if you are late, you can be fired! I leave the car’s sanctuary after 45 minutes to have time to walk the long way, go to the bathroom, visit the locker and clock back in on time. Then it starts again.

My energy typically flags after lunch but not nearly so much as after our afternoon break at 3 p.m. That is the worst part of my day; I am bone tired by then as I watch my workmates swallow cokes two at a time and munch on candy bars and junk food. Half of their earnings must be spent on that crap! I only drink water I bring during the day. But somehow we all manage to go back out onto to the floor and complete the tasks for that day. Many days now we don’t stop until 5:15 or 5:30 although technically we should be done at 5 p.m. We are released; we hurry back to punch out and hope the machine spits out its “badge accepted” so we are official to hit the swinging double doors as a free soul for the night. I remove my badge lest I be accosted by people all the way out of the store, “Do you know where xxx is?” I limp out to my car and pull out of the parking lot with a crowd of shoppers; after work is typically the busiest time for the store. Thankfully, it is a short drive home; I wind around the sharp bend and spot the bay again and gaze out and analyze it all over again: tide going out? tide coming in? boats on the water? what height the waves? and yes, I want to be out there once again. Shortly, I pull into the RV park, park the car, gather my lunch box and other stuff and unlock the door to my hungry cat greeting me. Ah, sweet release. I have about three or four hours before I will feel like going to bed and face another day to get up and do it all again. I end my day with shoes off and sitting once again with my heating pad on my back.

Despite this, I am thankful for this job. It is just what it is, and surprisingly makes my days pass very quickly. I guess at this point that is the most I can hope for. And who ever thought I would become a Mod Queen and like it? There could be worse designations for an oldster like myself.