My Grief Challenges

Packaging Chain-saw Chain January 26, 2014

Saturday morning, while washing dishes, looking out all the windows, thinking over the past week, my mind suddenly went to my packaging chain-saw chain days. Oh how I loved that job !!!

When I was hired, into that department, I was fearful of every machine and every task . 

For example: the I.D. marking machine. I had already heard how most hated that job. One had to stand in front of a machine, place the chain in a holding place where a pen type object engraved the specified I.D. It was most important to replace each chain on the post and position it came from, for quality control purposes.  I was so certain I would be the one to  find a way to place the chain wrong and break, everything. Or, I would bump the rack wrong and spill the 50 plus chains.  Or, pray tell, I used the wrong marker code. I remember, many employees through out the chain making department, coming over, expressing their concern that I had been at that machine so long. They had never seen anyone else have to be on one machine for so many hours, for so many days.

I, also, remember when I first learned to work the machine that would package the chain into plastic bags: 20 to 100 per shipping box, depending on the link size. I was sure, after being told the importance of not letting my fingers go past a certain point, that I would  be the first to not release the chain at the appropriate time, possibly catching my hand, sending it  down the opening, causing me great damage. At first, I was, also, greatly perplexed as to how so much chain could fit into, what I thought were small shipping  boxes. I had seen many other workers perform the tasks so effortlessly, could I, one day, be among their ranks ?

One other area I will mention: rinsing buckets. I had to learn how to load  full buckets of murky-filthy solution onto a pallet jack. You see, each chain making person, would clean/mop  their station after a rack of chain had been completed. The packaging department was in charge of rinsing and refilling the buckets and placing them at a few designated areas.

Imagine, if you will, hauling 6 mop buckets, full of liquid, back and forth, on a pallet jack, quite a few feet, trying not to slop or tip them over.  You see, I had witnessed someone spilling the buckets. Oh my, what a mess !!! I was sure the task was going to be too hard to learn.

Well, I had made it to a marker !  It was my time for a review. This would determine if I would be able to keep my  job.  My boss told me that she had never seen anyone so slow, at each station. My timidity-lack of confidence, grated her nerves. I showed no signs of being able to multi-task. Those examples give you an idea of how the review went. My boss said she did not know why, but she could not fire me.  I remember leaving that little room wondering what nugget of good could come from that review. 

 I went back to my assigned area, deep in thought, and super afraid I would mess up, even more. The work, in each area, for most, was too repetitive. I am one of those, who does not mind repetition, in regards to anything. After work, that day, memories started flooding in, of other jobs and just plain life. I cannot think of any task, in my whole life, that didn’t take every possible amount of effort to come to a somewhat okay outcome.

 * Please do not take this next part as bragadocious.

In time, I had to quit the packaging job. Oh how I loved the job. In fact,  I became so good on the I.D. machine-no one could compete.  The plastic bagging machine. No one could pass my numbers. I had, even, figured out how to get the packages into shipping boxes, so tidy that it looked like I had only done half a rack. As for the mop buckets, I had figured out how to maneuver the pallet  jack so nothing spilled.  I had learned all stations. I could package any chain into any container neatly and proficiently. Oh, one more machine, the clamshell machine, very daunting, at first.  Later, I was told to slow down, when running it. The  machine kept overheating. I had been able to encourage coworkers, by teams and shifts to see who could package the most chain, neatly and accurately.  There were 2 guys that no one liked working with. They were slow, sloppy, and didn’t care about anything. They became my last challenge. I was so proud of them. The 2 of them even enjoyed beating my numbers with the reel chain packaging. Folks were working together better, attitudes had improved, swing shift had become the popular choice, to schedule onto. Lastly, I had taken a class on operating a forklift. I was taking a test, when a worker, from another department, had told me that he thought my answer on one of the questions, was wrong. It wasn’t. Needless to say, he passed his test, as did I.  I loved driving the Hyster. It was a blast to be able to help others out when they had gotten into a tight forklift situation. Those little rigs were so fun to drive. !!! 

Back to why I had to quit. I had so many chemical sensitivities, which affected my asthma.  I ended up being sick more than I was able to work. Because I knew I would need to find another job, I had been driving around, looking. The first hiring sign  I saw was a hanging on a tiny building, in Gladstone. Thus began my bus driving adventure. A job I love, with its many challenges. Let me tell you what, I frustrated my trainer so much, because of my slow learning, that he developed ulcers, for a fact. His boss told me.

On my last day packaging chain-saw chain, I was given a going away and thank you party. I do not know how all those folks,  from several departments, kept it a secret from me.

So why did I write about  that time in my life ? Maybe God is using those memories to let me know that it takes me longer than most to figure how to make a situation work, or to see how I can grow from it. The past couple of weeks have been excruciating, regarding Shawn’s goneness. I guess it is going to take me a bit longer to get through this grief stuff, if my past learnings are any indication .

Bye, K


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