Sunday, August 8, 2010

Well, Let's See...

By now, I think everyone who knows of me through blogtopia knows that I'm a press operator by trade. I haven't said much about the print shop in months, but I'm still employed there. Started there when I was 29, and later this month, I'll turn 40, so that more than one-quarter of my life working for one company -- and I've worked for at least a dozen since my high school years. Not a small achievement.

Thing is, though, I haven't operated a press since March, nor have I worked three twelve-hour nights since then. I work five days a week now -- the "normal" work schedule. These days, I split my on-the-clock time between putting proofs together (proofs are to printers what blueprints are to architects) and burning plates for the other operators. Overall, I prefer what I'm doing now to running a press. It's easier on the body and, well, like I said, I'm pushing 40. College kids and adults in their twenties are best suited to factory floor labor.

But while I prefer the lighter physical burden of what I'm doing now, I don't prefer it by a whole lot. Making proofs and burning plates for five presses that usually run around the clock has its own drawbacks. For one thing, on most work days, I eat my lunch while I'm working, especially if I have a few dozen or more orders that need plates. The way the machine is designed, I can only burn one plate at a time, and that process takes anywhere from 1.5 to 3.5 minutes per plate, mostly depending on the plate's size. In most weeks, I burn 600-700 plates -- and I've had a few weeks where the total approached 900. The plates have to be burned before I go home, no matter how long it takes. If I sit down for lunch, I could be staying longer than I want to. And then there are the proofs on top of that.

I was given these tasks because the pre-press department responsible for them needed an extra body badly, and my name came up as a suggestion. The company had bought another print shop back in January, and it had one pre-press guy doing there what took five people to do here. In essence, our pre-press department was working for two companies, and they were just about exasperated from the workload and long shifts. Now that I'm on board, everyone usually clocks out at a decent time. They love me in that department.

I'm just really surprised I'm still doing this. Originally, I was given a 30-day estimate on how long I'd be in pre-press; then they'd put me back on the press on nights. I'm into my fifth month of this. Part of the reason I was taken off was because this other company does the kind of work the press I was on normally gets, and much of that got outsourced to that place. The press' reduced workload naturally justified having one less operator assigned to it. So I was moved.

There's just one little thing: that press is back up to four operators again. And I'm not one of them. I hear that some, perhaps much, of the outsourced work will be coming back to us, so having that press fully staffed makes sense. Which begs the question: what does the print shop plan to do with me?

I've heard six rumors, five of them plausible. One says I'll be temporarily laid off. Another says I'll be laid off permanently. A third says the lineup on that press is temporary, and I'm slated to go back to it on nights when the right time comes. A fourth says I'm going back to the pressroom, but on another press -- which, depending on the press, I may or may not take a liking to. A fifth says that they're going to keep me right where I am, making proofs and burning plates. And then there's the implausible rumor: they're going to make me some sort of supervisor. That I strongly doubt.

I tend to think the second rumor is most likely, followed by the first, then the third. Business starts to slow down near summer's end, and they don't really need me in the pressroom -- they're sufficiently staffed. Maybe they'll want me there eventually. But I really have no idea.

In the event of a layoff, I have several options. None of them are great, but in the short term, they'll do. I don't intend to stay unemployed for ninety-nine weeks, though, that's for damn sure. I know which sorts of jobs are always hiring, and I know which ones I'm cut out for. If need be, I'll take one of those, perhaps two, while I'm looking for a better job. I have no kids, no pets, my rent is reasonable, and my credit debt is much lower now than it was a year ago -- in fact, I've gone from owing money on six separate accounts then to owing money on just one now. This is a far more manageable affair than it would have been if I'd been laid off last year. I'll manage it.

I did tell myself years ago that I didn't want to still be running a press when I was 40. Well, I'm almost there, and I'm not running a press, am I? But this isn't exactly what I had in mind when I said that. All I was thinking of was a simple career change. Be careful what you wish for, folks.

That may be in the works anyway. If they keep me where I currently am, I'll stick around a while longer. If they move me back to the pressroom, I'll work in the pressroom -- and on my days off, I'll likely be doing applications and interviews. I couldn't really do them now if I wanted to, since Monday through Friday, I leave the apartment around 7:40 in the morning and don't get off work until 5:30 or later -- there is no useful time for job-hunting left. But if they lay me off, then I'll have nothing but time. And if they do, I'll go.

Time will tell how it plays out...

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