Posted by: tlnemethy | September 10, 2017

What’s with the white uniforms?

I don’t get it, honestly. We make cars. People who make cars are covered in grease and paint and soap and grit. I don’t even work where people get really dirty, but I still come home every day with dirty knees and sleeves coated in gray like I’d spent all day drawing with graphite and then erased it all with my arm. My shirt cuffs have perfect little circles all over them from the end of the bolt spinning on the cloth when I’m bolting a metal bracket in place.

There are metal shavings inside my breast pocket. Luckily I don’t reach in there, but every once in a while one will work its way through my shirt and poke me, irritating me to no end. Its like the world’s worst underwire split into tiny little bits. Boob skewers.

I wear a pocket protector. That’s a fashion faux pas right there. But why? Why do I care about ink staining my uniform when I’m literally covered in grease?! Two of my “brand new” uniforms were already ink-stained when I tried them on. Ink on the leg. How does that even happen? I still haven’t solved that one.

I wear a green hat, orange earplugs, white uniform, and gray steel toes. My shin guards are child sized and dig into my calves. I wear Kevlar sleeves so I don’t somehow slice my arms on anything and my big bulky padded gloves protect everything but the precise millimeter under my knuckle that I hit every 11 seconds.

We are still a sea of white uniforms though, well maybe a sea of greasy white uniforms.




Posted by: tlnemethy | August 27, 2017

Danger, Danger

One of the first things I learned in manufacturing was the idea of safety being paramount. When you work around robotic arms and moving floors and sharp metals you have to be on your game. I was apprehensive to take this job because of all the hazards it could pose, well that and it requires me to get up at 4am. Gross.

We had to listen to countless people talk about horrific factory accidents in gory detail, at times I actually tried to shut off my ears, but alas, I still haven’t quite mastered that one. There was the lady who got ran over by a forklift and impaled, the heart attacks, the hair (and scalps) ripped off by air guns, the pistons that pushed through hands and left men yelping for machinery to be turned off while dangling helplessly, the dude smushed by the metal press, everything you could possibly think of and so much more.

I have a thing for fingers. I like all of mine and hope to keep them. Each lecturer that told us those stories made it a point to say not only does it happen, but they’ve all SEEN it happen. And to be perfectly clear, when I say ripped off I don’t mean broken, I mean completely removed from the hand. Sure, sure, some of them got successfully reattached but that isn’t really the point that I took from all the speakers.¬†Nothing quite got to me like the stories of fingers being ripped off. Nothing until they played a video of Kina Repp (I really suggest watching the one I linked¬† though it wasn’t the exact video I watched in orientation).

They played her video at the very end of my second day and I’m thankful that they did, because I would’ve left the building anyways. To summarize, Kina worked at a fish processing plant in Naknek while on break from college. Her very first day, within forty minutes of starting, she had lost her arm in a gruesome conveyor belt accident. She described it and I felt sick, I couldn’t look at her face on the projector screen and instead watched my hands until she was done. I teared up.

I could’ve been another Kina Repp when I went to Alaska to work. I had the giant rollers of my conveyor belt suck in my hand and rip off gloves, but I noticed it fast enough to react. I’m so glad she does safety talks now. I think they’re really important and every company that works with heavy equipment should have to hear her story.

I never got safety training when I was in Alaska, you know. I was a replacement worker who was flown in a few weeks late, a few weeks after the plant wide safety briefings, and they never bothered to sit me down and waste time. I didn’t know safety briefings were a thing I should ask for, I figured no one would put me in an unsafe spot. I was just doing what I was told.

I could’ve been a statistic.

0 days since the last workplace accident.

To learn more about Kina Repp, go to

Posted by: tlnemethy | January 15, 2017

Twas the night before when hell broke loose

The morning before Christmas eve (our busiest day before Valentine’s day) I got to work an hour earlier than usual. We had a lot of arrangements on the board for the day, and many more would be coming in soon because no one plans anything out and obviously Christmas eve is not enough of a memorable event to remember to order arrangements early. Grumble.

I immediately started clearing out overnight orders from the printer, a stack that was daunting enough that no one else really wanted to touch it. It took me nearly an hour to input all the orders into our own computer system, but everyone else was already in the back bustling around. I could hear vague snippets of chatter coming from the back, but didn’t bother to listen too hard since it wasn’t meant for me anyways.

Finally when I made my way to my work station and set up shop there I noticed a weird tense silence where there’d once been at least a small hum of talk. Only the radio remained, playing the same list of Christmas songs that played every day.

Sometimes there’s just a weird tension though, so I shrugged it off and started planning what arrangements to tackle first. When I opened the door to the walk-in-cooler though, I realized why there was tension everywhere. The walk in was ungodly hot. It normally hovers around the upper thirties. Chilly but not freezing. But this was like walking into a jungle of humidity. I don’t know how long the cooler had been dead but it was long enough to build up heat that made me uncomfortable, heat that made a stench grow from within. Not the nice pleasant smell of flowers, but the warm, humid smell of long hidden mold growing exponentially. It was cloying.

Taking one passing glance at the shelves piled high with thousands in premade orders, I grabbed my work bucket of greens and entered the silence once again.

I don’t know if you know this, but temperature extremes generally kill cut flowers. Roses blow wide open in the heat like they’re fanning themselves with their petals, lilies turn sheer and frail, alstromeria wilts. Let me tell you, every single on of those premade arrangements had at least those three ingredients.

The repair man did not come quickly.

We moved what we could to the already-packed front coolers and continued as if nothing was wrong.

When he showed up it turned out to be a quick and relatively cheap fix. We internally celebrated as our fingers continued to jab stems into centerpieces. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Within moments the cooler regained a chill, within the hour it was brisk. Though it seemed to be even colder than usual. I used to take my time in the cooler, picking a stem here and there to add to my bouquet. Now it seemed too cold to be in there for any length of time. I grabbed bunches at a time just so I wouldn’t have to go back. I debated putting on my coat. I blew bursts of air from my mouth when I exited. It felt cold.

The next morning, Christmas Eve, I grabbed a bunch of alstromeria from a bucket, quickly jerking them free, but instead of easily coming out I dragged the bucket off the shelf. I stopped, bewildered, pulling once more. Nothing came free. The bucket was frozen solid.

Everything in the cooler that had survived the heat wave had now been frozen.

Not the best time for catastrophic failure at all. But I guess if you’ve got to work Christmas Eve, you might as well work through an apocalypse as well.

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