Friday, September 30, 2016
We were given our assignments first thing in the morning and were on Piler #2 with Marie, Marvin, and Robert. Lee was assigned to be the operator and the rest of us were helpers. Since the area around our piler (Piler #2) was still a muddy mess, they put us on Piler #3 with a very experienced team who had done the harvest several years in a row. They were super helpful and around 11 the foreman was comfortable enough with us that we were able to open one of the two lanes of our piler. The whole team seriously did great. We communicated well, helped each other, and were really having a good time. The weather was also great, in the 60’s, and overcast with the occasional sun breaks. We even had a rainbow or two. The work is also not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. There are places and times between trucks to sit down, and you are encouraged to do so during any down time, or when a big truck is dumping its beets, or if there’s a large enough gap between trucks. Our vehicle was close by so we could get water and snacks whenever we needed to, and the port-a-john was very close and at least for now extremely clean. Yes, the work is dirty, but it’s clean farm dirt, and their processes were excellent. As someone who studies processes and efficiency professionally, I do not say that lightly.
Around hour 9 though (3pm) we all started to get a little tired and by hour 10 it was getting a little tough. Marie had a step counter watch and by 3pm she wa at 8,000 which was pretty good. She said most days she had to got to some effort to get to 6,000. Around 4:30pm, I went to take a beet sample, and picked up the sack wrong and felt a sharp pain in my left shoulder muscle. I let my team know and they were great. I wanted to finish the day so I just asked the others to take the sample and focused on tasks I could do mostly one-handed. I told Bill my foreman (who is absolutely awesome by the way) about it right away and he said I could stop and fill out an incident report, but I really wanted to wait. It actually started to feel a little better, but at 6pm when we were relieved I went and filled one out. All I can say was it was 100 times better than I thought it would be. Yes the weather was great, and yes, it was day 1, but I kind of liked it. I will say though that I am not a huge fan of wearing a hard hat 🙂 – Trace
Trace wanted me to explain how I got to be an operator. It’s not really that complicated, first they ask everyone if they’ve ever had any experience doing it, and then they ask if anyone would like to be considered for training if an opportunity comes up. I had been up in the cockpit of one of the pilers when we did our orientation, and it looked less complicated than a 10 input video switcher, so I figured I could learn it pretty quick. Besides, it’s beets, not rocket surgery. So when they asked for volunteers to be trained I raised my hand, assuming that after a few days they would put me next to an operator to observe and get trained. The next day we came in and they had posted the list of crews, and it was me as the operator, and Trace and three other new people as ground crew. But the guy that taught me did a great job, and it’s really not that different from directing live television, but with more dirt and less bitching from audio engineers.
The pay is $1 more per hour, which is not a ton, but it adds up, especially when 4 hours of each 12 hour day is OT, and all 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday are OT. Plus there’s a 5% bonus at the end of the harvest, so that’s also pretty cool. I’ve worked less for more money, and harder for less money, but it’s still a blast. Today one side (lane) of our piler was not used because it was too muddy, so I’ll be very curious to see what it’s like operating both sides instead of just one. I really think it will be a little easier, because once you get into a rhythm it’s easier for me to stay focused non-stop and go back and forth between the two lanes than constantly be stopping and resting every five minutes. Sort of how like driving interstate is less tiring than stop and go city traffic. We’ll see. I identified some likely places to mount a Go Pro and I’m figuring out when and where I can grab footage here and there over the next few days so I can put together a short video that shows the entire process of bringing a truck through. Because that’s what we do. Over and over and over and over. 800 trucks in each 12 hour shift, on 6 pilers. I have to say it was really a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to doing it again tomorrow. Sorry this little blurb wasn’t all that funny, but I’m really tired, and really hungry, and besides, beets aren’t all that funny either. Beets are serious bidnizz, ya’ll. – Lee
In the meantime here’s some pictures of the process – Trace
So all in all good day with a great team. It’s Day 1 but feeling good so far.
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