« Week Two »

This week at the veggie-monger's was one whole hell of a lot better than last week, but I have my reservations.

I had a one day weekend on Saturday and returned on Sunday morning, but this time I started at 11 am which is far more to my liking than 4 am. I do resent being suckered into doing Sunday work though, and the last instance I can remember of doing commercial, actually employed work on a Sunday was almost two years ago while working for AV Concepts on that fateful trip to San Fransisco with the 24' truck. And prior to that it was some long time as well. I've been able to keep Sundays from contamination for the most part. Anyhow, on this day, the first week or so at the new job, I couldn't do much. It wasn't a pain in the ass or anything, but I feel a little used when I work on Sunday, and I miss the home life or church experience that isn't being had by zipping around the city for hire. This particular day was fine and I did pretty well considering it was the first solo excursions I've done there. I made 14 stops which is pretty much on par for a day's work doing this "short driving" that I was doing—it isn't route-based. It is sort of the make up runs and last minute orders, and is very much in-out work. My bout with the cold didn't plague me; I spent Saturday trying to mend up and it was mostly contained by Sunday. It hasn't bothered me since.

The rest of the week (through Thursday) was pretty straight hours from 10-6 or a bit later, but on Monday morning, I had the brief meeting with Bob the boss. He gave me a great review (premature, thinks me) and lauded me for being "high functioning" and for respecting the protocols—paperwork and other stuff that guys tend to forget or ignore. Then it got a little prickly for me because he used this opportunity to say that he was looking forward to having me do route driving—the stuff that starts at 4 am, and that he gave me this rather more handsome wage because he thought I'd do great for the company in that route driver position, and he wanted to reward that. Now, this is where things got prickly. I don't particularly remember signing up for the route driver position, though I do remember him talking about it, but also talking about the short driver position, which is what I would prefer. I get the feeling there will be friction as I try to dodge this route driver spot with its insane start time (and correspondingly insane bedtime which would cut me off from all sorts of activities I like to do in evenings). If there has to be friction, I'd rather take a pay cut and take the hours that fit me. I am not into this idea of going to bed at fucking 7 pm, not even for a decent wage. Anyhow, for the moment, Bob thought well of me and he got me situated with some of the accoutrements I'd need for the job anyway—radio phone, hand truck and a lock for it, and the "bible" —a huge spiral bound copy of their product list with nice prose descriptions of all the veggies and fruits they have to peddle.

Work each day was pretty okay to deal with. Every now and then I got a bit overwhelmed as stacks of boxes got shuffled and I had to learn how to read invoices and track down what exactly goes with which destination. Other embarrassments came from a similar unfamiliarity with how quantities are arrived at. Certain things come from sources denominated in pounds, actual numbers, or just "case". Then, picking just the specified quantities can be interesting as they can be specified in similarly mixed ways. It wasn't unheard of to pick three fruits where three cases was what was specified—or the opposite. No one flew off the handle, fortunately, but there were some embarrassing instances of delivering a woefully short order or delivering too much and looking a little stupid. Not all of those orders were ones that I pulled, either. Some were pulled by "experts" who man the cooler exclusively. Oh well.

I drove a different vehicle most days. There were two different Chevy Astro vans which did the job but which I liked least. One had a running board that kept tripping me up every time I got out. The fun car was a PT Cruiser with a manual transmission. That was a joy to drive because it was like a little race car compared to the vans, and had a great CD player. There was also an F-150 truck which was sort of nice too, but on that day I had mixed feelings about it because the first order of the day was 600 lbs of potatoes (12 bags), and the end of the day had me taking out almost 450 lbs of watermelon (7 cases), among other things. One day was slowed down when I was assigned the PT Cruiser but when I got there it had a flat tire and it took two hours to have it fixed properly. So I was temporarily assigned one of the cab-over refrigerated trucks, which was bearable but more than I wanted to deal with, having not driven such a vehicle for almost two years now. I was reinstated to the PT after a couple deliveries. Far nicer. At least that bigger truck didn't have air brakes. I've never used a truck with air brakes except for a brief job of reparking one of the big trucks here during the week, requiring a rather nimble U-turn on a hill, and backing into a narrow driveway, and left-side parallel parking to boot! In the dark! That was a bit startling, but I did it. The air brakes were interesting and even though I drove all of about one block or so, I was really jarred with the sensitivity. It was like I was new at driving all over again. One more reason why I don't want a morning route.

There has been a lot of confusion about lunch breaks at this job. I have different answers from everyone. The first week, I didn't take a proper lunch break except once—clocked off, and sitting down. The route drivers don't seem to take breaks. Of course, I found a couple of them come in an hour late, and some get a muffin or something at the occasional stop. The word seems to be "take a break when you can but don't tell us." There have been tales that while overtime is not really appreciated much, it is looked past if your numbers are good. Other tales have said that there is a move afoot to just deduct a half hour from each day, after the fact. This of course draws ire from drivers who maybe did actually work straight through the day. I so far have been working straight through and leaving half an hour before my shift is scheduled to end. I signed a waiver that said I could work straight eight and not hold the company liable. But I'd still like a break so I can rest. I bring my food; that's not the problem. But I do get a little drowsy later in the day. Driving is very demanding of attention. So, a couple times this week, I was asking if I'd get out on time (to me—after a real eight hours' work) and some feedback came that 'your shift is over at 6:30.' When I said I worked straight through, I was told it was up to me to take a break. WTF? Everyone tells me something different. I am about to ask that my shift be moved forward an hour to 9-5:30 so that I can take the break and still get out with time to do evening activities—two of which start at 6:30 and are next to impossible to get to if I am to leave at that time, barring overtime.

So while the work itself isn't too horrible, and I am dealing with the cooler and freezer, I worry that there will be a challenge getting a decent schedule. I just see it coming. Someone's gonna tell me I don't belong there if I can't work when they need me to.

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