The shift boss pointed over to a guy standing in front of a moving line of boxes and said,” Go over there and tap him on the back and when he steps away, take his place. Stay there until someone taps you on the shoulder. You’ll get a break in a few hours. If you got to go to the bathroom, do it now. You cannot leave your spot.” I headed down to where he pointed and tapped the guy facing the line on the shoulder, He moved away suddenly. I saw a stream of herb-garlic flavored croutons headed my way. A worker next to me stepped in front of me and demonstrated my task. He lifted two boxes up and then gathered the next two, lifting all four. Adding two more he got six stacked in his hand. These he placed back on the moving belt. He jumped back to his place and picked up those six boxes, whirled around and stuffed them into a case box.
I was busy trying to duplicate his movement and send him a pile of six boxes. My hands were not accustomed to this yet and I fumbled a lot. Pretty soon boxes were beginning get backed up on my left. No matter how deftly I tried to maneuver they seemed to be overcoming me. The guys who had just showed me the drill leaned over and brushed the log jam of boxes onto the floor. He added, “You can push them off it they get too much. It slows down sometimes and we can get the ones off the floor.” I thanked him and continued with my struggle keeping up with a line of boxes that relentlessly headed towards us.
Sure enough, the line slowed to a crawl for a while and gave us a chance to clean up the ones, I had brushed to the floor. Soon, I was given a break and went tour for a cup of coffee and a smoke. By the end of my first shift, I was getting pretty dexterous. I not only could keep a steady flow of piles of six headed to my co worker, but had time to flip them if needed so they could all be aligned the same. I was turning into a piece of the machinery that pushed out boxes of croutons twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. According to production figures kept on the chalkboard over head, since the beginning of this run in August we were heading to produce nearly one box for half of the humans on the planet. At that time, the world population was slightly over four billion. We had produced slightly over two billion boxes of croutons and the machinery was still going full tilt.