A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

19 November 2004

Well Hellooooo There!

I haven't been blogging as regularly as once I did. That's because I now have a job.

Of all the lousy luck!

When last we spoke of blogging I was all set to reveal to you, O Avid Fan, the hidden secrets of the blog genre. But I find I want to dedicate this post to my current paying gig. Do you mind? Fine then:

When the S.O. left English as a Second Language and First Profession at Halloween, it fell to your 'umble narrator to earn money for sundries such as mortgage payments and food. This was starting to cause a certain amount of gross insecurity, as I had yet to stumble onto anything worth the name of work, really. In desperation, I began to try for driving jobs, and unlike all my forays into writing (some furious discussion of the writing-type-job-interview process was omitted here) thus far, paid off.

I have been hired by an "environmental" company. Garbage man--only more so. Dirtier, yet cleaner. Oooo--that's near-zen, that is!

This company roams the city area and advances all the way into the rural districts, collecting empty plastic oil containers (the core business), waste oil filters from cars and trucks (secondary business) and waste antifreeze (tertiary business). We also service and empty parts washers, pump out oil tanks, and haul what is officially known on our "special waste" manifests (the province has different hazardous waste rules from the rest of Canada, and in any case it's only hazardous if you're carrying over fifty gallons/205 litres of it) as "sludge".

I felt so validated as a language junkie to find that "sludge" was an official name for something . . .

I've been driving a truck even though (shhh!) I don't have my TDG certificate yet, although I've taken the course at least four times (and passed it, since you asked--smartie head). There's really no hazard, and how the hell else am I going to get trained on the job? Relax, I'm always accompanied by a qualified person.

The company I work for crushes the filters, shreds and grinds up the plastic, recovers the oil and antifreeze, and sends it out for recycling. We have also started retailing recycled pre-mixed antifreeze, known as "50/50". The oil goes to one company, the plastics to another, and the metal filters, I believe, to still another.

The job basically consists of navigating to hole-in-the-wall garages and service places, where we swap empty fifty-gallon drums for full ones. The full ones usually contain either antifreeze or oil filters, mostly filters. The drums of liquid (antifreeze or contaiminated oil) weigh something approaching five hundred pounds or more. The filters usually weigh considerably less--in the range of three hundred or lower. But last week we found one stop where the shop still crushes the filters--therefore removing what's valuable about them--where the drum totalled 233 Kilos or over five hundred pounds.

We're supposed to move the drums by dolly, but "in the field" the accepted practice is to move antifreeze by dolly and filters by rolling the drum. That's the only standardised part of the process, really. Each driver has their own way of doing everything. From loading the forty empty drums we carry in stock to whether or not the driver carries the tools used to seal the drums to the barrels in situ or moves the barrels to the truck before sealing, to what information is included on the labels which must be applied to the drum in order to figure out more easily where that dead mobster originated (you see, you can't just dump dead mobsters--they're usually full of lead, and thus constitute an environmental hazard).

What astonishes me is some of the snobbery I bring to the job. I'm a semi-educated man, and have always kind of stood apart from all of my blue-collar jobs. Something in me is always watching how my fellow workers comport and address themselves.

"Gerry", for example. Gerry was my first trainer. He's forty-two, married to an older woman who had three grown kids when he came along. He says of himself: "I hate people". Yet in public and to their faces, he seems polite, diplomatic, and generally reflects well on the company. But you get to know people reasonably well, if not intimately (if you understand my meaning) in a truck cab. And he uses words like "Hindoo" and "Paki". This in itself might mark him as merely a member of a certain older generation of conservative mindset which sees nothing wrong in such terms and likes to think it "calls a spade a spade" in every sense of the word. He's also something of a conspiracy theorist, and most damning of all, from my point of view, is a dedicated follower of and believer in, psychic phenomena.

This week, he made the statement that "Asians can't drive well because they have no peripheral vision. It's true--look at their eye shape."

I was flabbergasted, and this made me break cover and reveal myself to be the disgustingly even-handed liberal type I am.

"Sorry, man," I said, resisting the impulse to scream LOOK STUPID, "That's just wrong. It's a rumour--nothing more."

Gerry has offered to bet me his paycheque on this. It's not as though I can't use the money, but I don't want to cause any hard feelings--I need the job, too. Also, I can't begin to think how one phones up a reputable opthamologist, optometrist, or optician and asks them this dumb of a question.

Other than this sort of ingrained racism, he's a pretty nice guy. My grandmother did it too--but in a ninety-year-old-woman it was sort of charming, and she truly meant no harm by it. But Gerry hasn't the excuse of not knowing any better.

Davey is in his very early twenties, and reminds me somewhat of myself at that age. That fantastic self-assurance, that air of knowing all--although I doubt I ever had his sense of entitlement, I was too Catholic for that. But I apologise to all those who knew me at that age. I have thus far restrained myself from reminding him that I have more miles in reverse than he has behind the wheel.

Davey uses the same language as George, but it's different, more vicious, in a way that I can't quite define. Maybe it's the way he sort of spits the word "Pinder" or "Hindu" or "Nipper". He works another job on weekends, and this causes conflict, as does his generaly irritating personal manner and contempt for clients, fellow road-users, or generally anybody but himself.

He missed his calling. He should have been a Vancouver or Saskatoon cop.

But he takes his responsibility for training me quite seriously. Indeed, they all do. Each of them solemnly tells me how to do the job their way, and then gets mildly upset to see me using what I learned from the other guy. But Davey treats each run as a race. For him it's all about beating the company record for full barrels (Gerry--33 in a regular, non-overtime day) or breaking the speed record on his route (downtown urban areas). I haven't yet explained why that's a stupid idea. Can you see it?

If you do more stops faster, then the boss will add more stops. Eventually the route will get so cumbersome that only you can do it at that speed. So if and when someone else has to fill in, that person will always have to mop up leftover stops the next day.

As it is, the boss is in for a rude shock. Until now, I have rarely taken my breaks, neither coffee nor lunch have interrupted my day for more than a half hour in total. As soon as I have my own truck, I will start taking them. And if I wind up doing fewer stops? I think the phrase I'm groping for here is "boo-₤µ€λin'-hoo".

It's not that I don't believe in a fair day's work for a fair day's pay. It's just that I feel strongly about workers rights. The pay's not too bad, but for this sort of hard labour it's not terrific, and regardless, the standards for this job were set with the labour code in mind, which specifies certain things about a lunch break. The lunch break is unpaid--that means in my average ten-hour day I've been donating half-an-hour per day up to now. But not for long, baby.

Likewise, I don't put in for half-an-hour of overtime, but in return I expect no argument when I do put in for it. So far things look pretty good there.

Overall, I'm enjoying the job, and being back in the workforce (although it looks like my Murphy Trap has sprung--of more the which anon). Due to the heavy labour I've lost about eight pounds and expect to drop a few more. So although I took two years of college to escape this sort of job, I'm pretty happy with this type of work right now.

Except for the little writer part of me that's screaming all the time.


At 5:25 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

great posts deserve a great comment but I can't come up with one except to say I've heard that uninformed rumour about asians and peripheral vision too.....

funny how these things travel

At 8:10 a.m., Anonymous G Eagle Esq said...

Bonjour M Metro



In Singapore in December 1941, the British faced the prospect of imminent Japanese attack, confident in :

1. their guns pointing SOUTHwards towards the Sea when for at least a Decade, it was clear that any Japanese attack would come overland from the NORTH

2. refusing to move vital stores from the North of Singapore to the more defensible South, because they didn't want to upset Civilian Morale

3. the SUPERIOR WHITE Leadership of :

3.1 their Admiral (apparently a short man) who insisted on BLUNDERING POINTLESSLY about the South China Sea in the Prince of Wales as if (like Ludwig Mountbatten off Crete in 1940) determined to offer the most inviting target to Japanese aerial attack

3.2 General Perceval who was determined to surrender to a vastly inferior Japanese Army that was at the end of its tether and on the point of disintegration

4. the FACT that Japanese People were ALL small and short-sighted and could not see or walk or fly straight

It came as a shock to EVERYONE including the Americans & the Brits (but not to the Japanese or the Chinese who had been persecuted since 1937) that Japanese Naval Aviators & their Planes were the BEST in the World while the Japanese Soldier was Second to None (except perhaps the Germans & the Russians), despite existing on minimal rations

Yr obedient servant etc


At 11:56 a.m., Blogger Metro said...

Your presence on my 'umble blog is all the comment I need. To have you intimate that this is a great post is praise beyond my expectations.

"Shucks, Ma'am. T'weren't nuthin'"

@g eagle esq
It is a foolish commander indeed who underestimates the fuzzy-wuzzies of any ilk.

Was it you who remarked that the Bismark's rudder was jammed because the fast-tracking guns could not account for the limping slow trajectory of a Swordfish biplane?


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