It was just before 11pm on a dark October Saturday night. I sat at a computer placed on a tiny wobbly desk in the middle of the huge factory hall. To my right there was a large packaging conveyor belt line, connected to a large boxing robot. To the left, a smaller line that only ran on weekdays.

Lights were bright, except over the shut down line. Why waste any energy? It created an eerie contrast in light.

The floor was spotlessly cleaned, exactly how it was left by the afternoon shift crew that had just finished their hours.

The only thing that disrupted the otherwise pristine factory was a pile of connected packages that snaked their way into the packaging machine. The machine itself was blaring various alarm lights and bells, vaguely reminiscent of a carrousel at a carnival. The machine was also exactly how it was left by the previous shift. At least they cleaned the floor.

The signs were clear. There was a long shift ahead of us.

The packaging machine was stuck. It was Saturday night. Mechanics were asleep at home, as they should.

The computer I controlled had only one purpose. Here, I entered the results from a series of measurements I did on the product, taken at repeated twenty minute intervals. Twenty-four measurement rounds a shift. The machine was purposely unconnected to anything, certainly not the internet. You may wonder why, but I don’t know the answer. All I had was a spreadsheet and my keyboard.

The current shift crew was everywhere and nowhere. They looked worried. One thing was certain – these men and women were not going to make it to their 26.000 package quote today. Although they were a team, it was a team of headless chickens.

This machine was not going to run.

What was I – a ‘quality assurance officer’ – going to do about this? Exactly. I did absolutely nothing.

The place was clean, the machine stuck, and I was not a mechanic. Neither were any of these things my responsibility. I was there to assure the quality of the packages. I was also there at this specific time to make 200% of my salary, and as I had travels to finance I wasn’t moving anywhere, anytime soon.

The people that work night shifts in places like this are not the best conversation partners. Being the QAO, most of the shift crew shunned me. I was the bringer of misfortune. If I talked, it meant they would have to change settings, which would culminate in not reaching the 26.000 target. It was very quiet that evening, as most had quickly realized that this would not be their bonus night.

I don’t like being bored to death, but I can assure you that having absolutely nothing to do but stare at spreadsheets, on a Saturday night, in a stagnant  half-lit factory hall, got awfully close. Lol

In this company, there was one rule that was more important than anything else. No phones allowed.

I did the unthinkable. I raised my middle finger to the system. I got my phone from the locker room, and fired up my Kindle app. I read something about building a website at the time I think. I figured that the least I could do is learn something instead of reaching peak braindead in the eight hours ahead.

A couple of pages in, I was approached from behind. A middle-aged Turkish woman tapped my shoulder. I turned around, and aside from having seen her in the corridor once or twice, I wasn’t sure why she was here, as she was certainly not part of the current shift crew.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she asked. “Phones are not allowed under any circumstances. Give me your phone immediately.”

“No, I will not give you my phone. And who are you?” I asked.

I remember her name was Fatima, and first she claimed to be my boss.

“Well, I have never seen you, so you’re certainly not my boss. You’re also not on my shift… So who are you, then?”

After a bit of back and forth, it turned out Fatima was the team leader of the previous shift crew.

Fatima, it turned out, was responsible for this entire shit show of a mess.

Fatima was also not pleased by me reading a book. “Nobody can have a phone. You want me to report this to your superior?”

“So. Fatima, look… As you may have experienced, the place is currently far from up and running. I obviously can’t go home, because I should be there when the problem is solved, and packages start running off the belt again. I can’t sleep here either, because sleeping on the job gets you fired. What do you want me to do, because I’m not going to bore myself to death.”

“But you can’t use the phone. It’s not allowed. You can do other things…”

“Such as?”

“You can mop the floor…”

“After your crew just left it spotless? No thank you.”

Fatima was getting annoyed. “I’m definitely going to call this in with HR.”

I scribbled my name on a piece of paper. “Make sure to let them know my name,” I said. “Best to tell the lady with the big glasses, she doesn’t like me very much.”

There was a confused look on her face.

“Why don’t you just go home? It’s more than an hour after your shift. It’s almost midnight on a Saturday night. Trust me, I have places I’d rather be, but given that I can’t leave, and have nothing better to do, I will read a book and make the best of it. To be honest, I couldn’t care less what you think of it. I will also resign before the end of the month, so don’t you worry about me. I’m not your problem.”

Fatima nodded. “I will not report you. This time.” She smiled, somewhat triumphantly. One of us must have misread the situation…

The conveyor belt never ran that night, meaning that I could have seriously bored myself to pieces. Instead I finished my book by the end of the shift.

I’ll do anything in my job description, but don’t bore me with silly bullshit.

Now. After reading this silly memory of events of about nine years ago, you might wonder: what was in the packages? Was it a) Crack cocaine? b) Rubber tyres c) Q-tips, or d) wet wipes? Let me know in the comments below. The winner will receive a blog post devoted to a topic of choice, as long as it will not be a boring one.

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

5 thoughts on “Booooring!

    1. I think Fatima enjoyed being the team leader and pressing people and bossing them around. I’m not too sure she was fit for the job. This company was totally weird. Only uneducated minimum wage laborers, and they just randomly picked one of them to lead the team. Who needs leadership qualities or training? Just promise a bonus at 26.000 packs per shift.

      Liked by 1 person

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