My days spent on the actual steel line were pretty painful. I had burns and bruises at all times, my fingers ached, my feet hurt, and I spent most days cursing out that asshole from NA who I thought was doing me a favor offering me the job. It paid so little, my benefits were negligible (although it was the first time I’d had any) and I spent my days surrounded by obese Midwestern white guys who were mad that black guys had stolen all their jobs. Looking around, I didn’t see any black guys so I wasn’t sure what work they were referring to. Anyway, racism is really easy to justify for people too stupid to do research to inform their bias.
I certainly did work my way up in the line though. My first job was janitorial crew which was alright, I worked only at night and only alone. I’d turn on some 1980’s buttrock and push my cart around, picking up, mopping, organizing, etc. It was somehow relaxing. After a couple of years, I was promoted into a production worker role which was basically operating equipment and tools, drilling holds, performing operations necessary to keep the equipment humming along, and lifting things to carry over there, and over here, and down there and up over there. The job kinda defined blue collar-ness and I felt important doing it.
After a year doing this, I became the production floor safety manager assessing environments, ensuring that hearing protection, eye protection, protective clothing and shoes were worn by all workers. Ensuring that every felt safe was important. This was the first time ever that punctuality and attendance factored in and I found myself really motivated by the idea of timeliness. Walking into work late because my biggest fear, not for fear of any managerial reasons, but because it would offset my entire day if I spent the morning in a hurry.
I suppose this blind fear of being in a hurry is what lead to my promotions until eventually I found myself managing the line. I’ll never forget the first time I bought a suit that wasn’t intended to trick kids into letting me into their apartments!
This was also the first time I had ever been offered a salary rather than an hourly rate and I had to google how to figure out what my salary translated to hourly. Now, I don’t know how I pulled this off during an in-person salary negotiation but it worked and I found myself sitting plum with a salary, health benefits, a 401k and some “corporate perks.” I never thought I’d be this guy!