After waiting for a couple minutes, it seemed that Josh had forgotten and so I wandered down the hall to the break room. I stood nervously in the corner, awkwardly holding my hat and watching the people. There were few conversations going on, and most people were watching a poker tournament on the miniature television in the corner. This side of the room was covered with a crusty window that looked down on the factory floor below. Everyone was dressed in white uniforms and aprons, and at least to me they looked uniformly tired and old. One of the women walked over to me and asked if I was looking for someone.
"Yes, " I responded, " I'm supposed to meet Josh, but he's not in the office."
"Of course he's not," she said sarcastically. "I'll page him for you." She picked up the receiver hanging next to my head and said, "Josh Harris to break room, Josh Harris to break room." I could hear her voice coming out over the intercom on the other side of the glass.
The woman waited and talked with me until Josh arrived. He was a tall and muscular man, probably in his thirties, who without wasting time on chitchat, handed me a pair of earplugs and a hair net. As I placed my hat on top of the hair net, he led me out of the break room and onto the factory floor. The heat and the droning noise of the machinery washed over me like a wave, and I don't think I would have been able to hear Josh if he had tried to talk to me. He led me down an aisle through the machinery and took a left at the very last machine. A hunched old woman was standing in front of a conveyor belt, fiddling with something on the computer next to it. A tiny Mexican woman stood on a platform behind her bending over something. Josh walked up to the woman at the conveyor belt and tapped her on the shoulder. He turned to me and said. "This is Sherry, she'll show you what t do." He gave Sherry a smile and walked away.
Sherry's face was wrinkled but tight, as if she were clenching every muscle in it, as she was able to bark back at me with lips still pursed, 'What's your name?"
"Kirsten." I tried to yell back several times before she finally heard me.
The Mexican woman descended form the platform and looked me up and sown before turning to Sherry, "If she's here, then I'm going to run to the bathroom, " she said as she walked away.
Sherry nodded at her and turned to me and yelled, "Grab those baskets." Her finger was pointing towards a shelf that had several types of both empty and full plastic baskets.
"Which one?" I tried to call back.
"Grab those baskets!' she yelled back louder.
I moved towards a stack of empty red plastic crates and picked on up quizzically.
"Not those!" she exclaimed with frustration, "The ones on top!"
I reached for a similar crate that was sitting on the second shelf behind the metal platform.
"No!" she yelled again, clearly upset by my stupidity, "Go up there." she pointed an exasperated finger at the platform.
Once I was on the platform, Sherry told me to take the baskets from the top shelf and, "keep dumping them." I lifted a red basket full of cinnamon raisin English muffins and dumped it on the table on the other side of me. I later learned that this was called a "shaker table" because it vibrates so that the muffins move from one end to the other, where they fill up slots that then release them to be bagged. After throwing one basket on, I turned to look at Sherry to make sure I was doing it right. She just glared at me and yelled. 'Keep dumping them!"
I felt uneasy as I kept dumping the muffins, but Sherry told me to. When I had thrown on several baskets and there was a big pile in the center of the table I hears Sherry yelling again.
"That's too much! You jammed it!" she snarled, pushing me aside.
She told me to grab some empty baskets, and started to fill them with the muffins I had just thrown on the table. Her yelling ha attracted one of the foremen who came to help. My eyes started to water as Sherry berate me. I felt like I was in a horrible helpless nightmare. When the crisis was over, the foreman, who introduced himself as Hal, told Sherry that he was going to take me with him. Sherry seemed all too pleased to get rid of me, and Hal, who could tell that I was upset, decided to give me a tour of the flour.
"Don't pay any attention to Sherry, " he said, "she's going to retire in a year and doesn't have any patience for training new people."
I don't remember much from my private tour with Hal. I was thinking about the training I had gone to the day before. We watched videos most of the day that talked about personal safety in the workplace. They had made sure that one particular film was given a couple hours distance from lunchtime. That video was about hand safety. It was one if the shorter videos of the day, and just consisted of pictures of limbs, mostly fingers, that had been severed of mutilated in factories. The narration repeated a mantra of, "These hands..." followed by something dramatic like, "These hands... feed the ones you love." Then one of the supervisors had come into tell us about the time he had to pull a finger out of the slicer. Actually being in the factory made these dangers seem more realistic, and I kept my hands close to my body, afraid to touch anything. When I first heard about the job from one of my friends I reacted like a greedy cartoon character from a cartoon with dollar signs in my eyes, and didn't hear anything besides how much money I was going to make that summer. Now, faced with the reality, my thoughts drifted back instead to every Charles Dickens novel I had ever read.
I also thought about what the woman from human resources had said, as we were about to leave training,
"If when you get here you find that this isn't the job for you, tell someone. We have a lot of people who just take off on their lunch break and don't come back, and then we have to go looking for them."
Now I knew why, I wanted to leave too. I wasn't sure which was more terrifying: telling someone that I couldn't handle it or sticking it out.