It’s very easy to get sucked in to the mentality of the people you’re working with. Things that didn’t bother you before suddenly become worth fretting over. Throughout my time temping I often found myself complaining about finding time to complete an order and leaving enough time for odd jobs I might have to do at the end of the day; why they hell do I care if I finish this shipment of five-inch-slide cable-ties that so desperately need to be in Tiverton by the end of August? I might not be here next week, leave them for someone else.
I even began joining in in outlining the short-comings of other staff. “Why does George get two weeks off all at once?” I might say; and I might be the one covering for George! If he hadn’t had to drive to Wiltshire for The Fruitarian Society’s Annual Foraging Fortnight I would have been sat at home eating Mum’s yoghurt, watching Loose Women and having staring competitions with the dog during the ad-breaks. I’d never even met George, he sounds like he knows how to have a much better time than me, and I’m criticising his work ethic.
Among those with time off, it was Sparky I was told to look out for on his return. With a nickname like that, I prepared to meet a character – a real loose cannon. After all, I don’t know about you, but if I’m told to ‘look out’ for someone I often assume this means at the very least they have some quirk about them – or that they’ve lost control of the forklift truck again. As you may have guessed, this was not the case with Sparky. “This bloke invented slow motion”, quipped Mike once, “It’s quite pathetic watching him really.” So we watched for a while, and it really was sad. Sparky was the butt of the joke – even his name was a reference to his struggled approach to the simplest of tasks – everyone made fun of him and I thought they should be ashamed. This sympathy I had quickly faded once I had the opportunity to work at his pace. My god was it slow! All that needed to be done was to send a pallet of packages through, one box at a time, and the machine would automatically spray on the ‘best before’ date. Once that was done, it was just a case of stacking boxes on an empty pallet. It literally couldn’t be easier unless you got rid of the ‘best before’ part; but then it would just be a job invented to waste people’s time – something that honestly happens in factories more often than you’d think.
For Sparky, however, this was all too taxing and he took full advantage of taking a few breathers; resting at every available nugget of time. It didn’t seem to occur to him that it was the end of the day and once we finished he could waste the minutes away, go to sleep if he was really put out – have a lie down in front of the runaway forklift for all I care!
Needless to say, this episode left me in sour relations with Sparky. The next day I was jibing someone else about how much faster my production line seemed to be going than theirs, they pointed out that I had five people working my line and they had only four. “Yeah but we’ve got Sparky, so it’s even” was my response. And it was then that I realised what I’d become.