Archive for April, 2004

Let’s twist again

22 April 2004 at 2:06 am
by Jonah

I searched Google this morning for “what to do for a broken toe” and confirmed what I thought, that there’s nothing but wrapping it to the adjacent digit. We don’t have any medical tape, so I just put my sock on carefully and put on my boots. That hurt, so I switched to my tennis shoes. That hurt even more, so I switched back to my boots. They seemed to have a little more toe room.

I downed a couple of Alieve and headed for work. It’s a good thing I leave myself ten minutes to spare because it was so foggy. Well, my toe isn’t hurting so much, I thought as I parked the car. Then I walked across the parking lot. The pain was excruciating. I didn’t know how I was going to work.

I raided the first-aid cabinet in the break room and tried taping up my toes, but I didn’t have much time before having to clock-in. I tied my boot back on and hobbled down to the other end of the warehouse to clock-in, then immediately took my boot back off and ripped off the tape. It hurt worse with the tape than without it.

So I grabbed my first stack of stickers and my cart and limped down to Educational Books. Fortunately, I don’t do much walking. I stand in front of a shelf and pull what I need, then move on to the next section. By keeping my weight on my left foot, I could manage fairly well.

But then a funny thing happened. Three hours later when it was time for our first break, I realized I wasn’t limping anymore. In fact my toe didn’t hurt much at all, a dull ache, but nothing debilitating. I took another Alieve, in case that was the magic bullet, but I didn’t take another one until our second break in the afternoon, but it wasn’t hurting any worse then either. It was amazing.

After that morning, my toe didn’t slow me down a bit. I even pulled 247 pieces an hour for a department whose standard is 220. That’s a whole lot FASTER than I have to go!

We finished pulling for the stores early today, so I started stocking while everyone else did something I haven’t been trained to do yet. Suddenly, an announcement came over the loudspeaker telling us all to assemble in the break room because of a weather alert. In Oklahoma that only means one thing. We gathered outside the warehouse manager’s office, as he poked his head out the door periodically to tell us where the storm cells were and where they were heading. One was six miles to the north but heading east. The sirens were going off outside.

The loudspeaker came on again, but this time with music… somehow fittingly, a bluegrass version of “I’ll Fly Away.”

Finally, the all clear was issued, but our managers told us we were free to go home if we wanted. There was another storm heading through Norman, so they all but ordered me to leave. I should have stayed and waited out the storm, but later there were several accidents on roads I traveled, so maybe it’s a good thing I left early.

It started raining as I got into the car, and it was hailing like mad by the time I pulled out of the parking lot. The drive home was pretty miserable with the rain and the water all over the road, but I made it home alive. By then, Norman was sunny and dry.

Weather in Oklahoma is so weird.

I wonder if my toe will start swelling up when a storm is coming.


20 April 2004 at 7:29 pm
by Jonah

So I’m working in a warehouse in OK City. It’s not fun, and it doesn’t pay enough, but at least it brings some money in.

The warehouse is half an hour’s drive away from our apartment. I figured out a back way to go, a pleasant drive and I’ve yet to get stuck in rush hour traffic. My shift is weird. It goes like this:

Mon: 800-430
Tue-Thur: 800-530
Fri: 800-100

Except we’ve been working an hour of overtime on Mondays. Supposedly, we work an extra hour on Fridays too, but we didn’t this last one.

The schedule makes sense if you know what we do each day. The warehouse is part of Mardel Christian & Education Supply. That’s a chain of stores that sell Christian books, music, and gifts along with office supplies and educational supplies. I work in the central warehouse, where all the product for the stores comes in. There’s a team of stockers on a shift one hour earlier than ours that receive the stock shipped to us and put it in the appropriate slots in the warehouse. I’m on a team of “pullers” who go around with wheeled carts and pull everything that each store needs, put price stickers on it, pack it up, and give it to the guy who loads the trucks. Monday through Thursday, we send stuff to about five stores each day. There are twenty stores, from Arkansas to Colorado, so it works out about right. Each store gets several pallets of product once a week. We don’t ship anything on Friday, because it would get there on Saturday. So we do some inventory and help out the stockers some on Friday and go home early.

I was in training my first two days. It’s not complicated. I look for the corresponding numbers and letters indicating in which slot the product I need to pull is. There’s a number for the aisle, a number for the section, a letter for the row, and a number for the slot. But for a day and a half, my trainer watched me pull stuff. It must have been very boring for her. I told her she needed a rolly chair, and she agreed.

On the third day, I got to work without a minder. I also got my very own big blue metal cart (it looks like a bookshelf, with three shelves, on wheels) with a plastic container in which were some pencils, a marker (which I lost today making a tight turn, I think), a brand new tape gun, an extra roll of tape, and a safety knife labeled “KAREN.”

Yesterday, I heard someone yelling, “Karen! Karen!” I looked up and saw that one of the stockers was waving my knife, which I had dropped and forgotten to pick back up.

I hate the safety knife. You can only use it if you’re holding the blade button down with your thumb, which means you can only cut one direction. And I have to be careful putting it in my pocket, because the knob catches and opens the blade. Now THAT’s safe. But we have to use them, so my trusty box opener lies dormant at home.

My cart also comes with a ladder labeled “ZACH” and a hook on a broomstick. Both of these are for reaching product that’s just too far away otherwise. The hook is cool. It makes me feel like a whaler. I tend to use it a lot because it’s easier to grab than the ladder, but I’m sure I’m using it improperly, because I use it to pull down boxes of product from the top shelf whenever I discover my slots are empty and must be restocked. I try to catch the boxes as they fall. It’s okay. I don’t pull anything much that’s fragile. They won’t let new employees pull gifts until they’ve been there six months.

Along with my cart, I was assigned two departments to pull–Educational Books and Childrens 2–and my own aisles to sweep–9-12. For every store, I pull all the product they need in those two departments, and then go see what’s left to get in the other departments. I usually end up doing three runs for each store.

All of this is fine and good. It’s not complicated, and it’s not really hard, although I can barely reach the top level of slots, standing on tip-toe and stretching my arm as far as I can, and I have to kneel down to reach the stuff on floor level. But the problem is that this whole process is timed. Every time I get my department printout and stickers, I have to clock-in that run into a computer. Once I complete the run, I clock-out on the computer again (then put my stuff on one of the pallets waiting for that store). The computer then knows exactly how much product I pulled and how long it took me. Each department has a standard for how fast it can be pulled, and I have to meet that minimum requirement.

For instance, Educational Books is an aisle with nothing but Ed Books on either side. I’m supposed to be able to grab 220 pieces of product in one hour. That’s pretty dad gum fast. We’re not talking about a system that eliminates dawdling. I have yet to reach the standard going as fast as I possibly can.

Fortunately, I have 3 months to get up to speed. Still, it’s nerve-wracking and exhausting. I was wondering how in the world I was going to get faster. But on Friday, my trainer, who is also the team leader’s assistant, gave me my results for the week. I was at 81.5%. And that’s counting the first couple of days when I was still trying to figure out what the heck I was doing. She said that was excellent time for a first week. “Some people aren’t that fast after several weeks,” she said. I was even at 99% for a couple of runs. That made me feel quite relieved.

And I am getting faster. I can now find the locations by glancing at the once cryptic combinations of letters and numbers…without really thinking about it. I can rip stickers off quite quickly and change their orientation with my fingers in a moment if I have an upside down book. I know where my runs begin and end and don’t have to wonder around the warehouse looking for them.

But it’s still exhausting. It’s getting hotter too, so I spend most of the day sweaty and thirsty. Today seemed like it would never end. We can’t leave until it’s all done because the truck has to go. The guy who’s in charge of the dock was even running around trying to help us because he’s the very last to leave. Finally it was time to clean up. I even swept an extra aisle because the guy it belonged to was busy doing something else. Then my trainer asked me to stack pallets for the forklift driver to move. I picked one up, but the guy on the forklift told me to leave that one because it was the wrong size.

So I dropped the pallet… like an idiot, on my toe. Embarrassed, I pretended like it had missed me. But I couldn’t walk without limping. By then it was time to clock out, and I limped down the depth of the warehouse to the parking lot. It hurt so bad, I took off my shoe to investigate. It hurt, but it didn’t hurt like a break… at least, I didn’t think so. It doesn’t hurt too much if I stay still, but if I flex any muscles attached to my right little toe, it hurts like heck. I’m wondering if I really did break it. But I think there’s not much you can do for a broken little toe, except maybe tape it up.

I told my team leader about it (he’s an interesting character I’ll have to write about later), and he said to tell me how it was doing tomorrow. It stinks because my job requires me to be on my feet all day. This is going to slow me down a lot.

A sad day

19 April 2004 at 9:22 pm
by Jonah

Well, the gerbil died today. He apparently committed gerbilcide. We found him stiff in his water bowl, as if he’d drowned, but the bowl wasn’t deep… he could have stepped out of it easily. So we’re not really sure what happened. Berck thinks he might have had a seizure and fell into the water bowl and drowned before he stopped seizuring.

I think he faked his death so we’d put him in the dumpster and he could be free to roam the parking lot once again.

I should write about my job at the warehouse, but I’m too exhausted at the end of the day to do much.

This last weekend, we finally got the last of the things unpacked or put away. And the vacuum cleaner arrived, so now it doesn’t look like we’re living in squalor anymore.

Berck trimmed his beard last night, so he doesn’t look like a mountain man anymore.

A more productive day…

16 April 2004 at 4:13 pm
by Berck

So groundschool today was all about weather. Doesn’t really interest me much, even though there’s a whole lot I don’t know that I need to. I wonder how much of it we’re going to be questioned on. I find meteorology only slightly more interesting than geology.

Don popped his head in the ground school class to tell me know that we’d be flying at noon. After the plane got back in, we did indeed fly. Winds were still out of the south, at 18 knots gusting to 22. Windy, but under the 25 knot limit so we could go. Like Dale says, “If you don’t like flying in the wind in Oklahoma, you can wait until June..”

I found Westheimer tower as well as OKC approach live streamed on the web and listened to it for several hours yesterday. Which was a good thing, since Don had me make most of the radio calls today. I’m all fine and good when it comes to who I’m talking to and who I am, but the actual getting out what I need to say is hard. “Westheimer tower, Cessna eight zero niner one echo on bravo for south departure runway two one.” That one was easy, I had lots of time to think about what I had to say. But the ATC guys all talk so darn fast, I’m still learning how to listen to them. “Niner one echo, left turn to the south approved, cleared for takeoff.” While I was departing, Don contacted OKC approach and asked for traffic advisories. Without flinching, the controller responded, “Niner one echo squawk four zero six and ident.” I had no idea you could request traffic advisories 10 miles south of their airspace. She never contacted us again, and I didn’t exactly catch what you’re supposed to say after you no longer need advisories and are switching back to tower frequency.

We spent most of the flight doing not so interesting, but hard enough for me to do things. He had me climb to 4,500 feet and had me practice flying different airspeeds while maintaining altitude. It’s harder than I would have thought. He had me flying right at the stall warning at about 45 knots with 10 degrees of flaps, “eee….eeee..eEEEeee…” That ended up being good practice, and I need lots more. To maintain altitude at 45 knots you fly along pointed something like 20 degrees upwards and just mush along. Since there was about a 40 knot wind, when we turned into the wind, we were just hovering over the ground, going nowhere. Then, it ought to be fairly easy to maintain the same altitude, retract flaps, add power, and return to 100 knots. Hah. I generally gained 250 feet every time I tried.

Don covered a bunch of the instruments with little rubber things, which was certainly kept me from looking at them. Later in my training, I’ll have to wear a hood or foggles to keep me from seeing outside the plane.

After lots of this sort of thing, we flew back to the airport. The controller told me to report on 2 mile left base. Which was helpful for where I was, but that was the only lefthand pattern turn I’ve ever flown. Years ago, they established righthand patterns for runways 21 and 17 to keep planes over the west side of Norman, which used to be uninhabited. Now there’s just as many people out west as there is downtown, but the right patterns are still there. Since the wind is always out of the south these days, I have yet to fly left traffic, except the first day, which I don’t remember anyway. We did a touch and go, flew the pattern and came back for a full stop. I could fly the pattern all day and practice landings until I get it right. Which I’ll get to do, but not for awhile yet. Don would apply corrections as I destabilized us.

Taxiing in 20 knots of wind is a lot of work. Full rudder deflection wasn’t enough to keep us going straight when we were crosswind. I had to use the brakes just to keep us in a straight line.

I get to sleep in tomorrow. No ground school on Saturday, and I don’t fly until 1600. Yay.

A bit windy…

15 April 2004 at 1:16 pm
by Berck

Winds are 22 knots gusting to 31 at OUN right now.

Yesterday, D. agreed to swap planes with another instructor because the one we were flying had a glideslope indicator, and the other did not. Since I wasn’t about to be shooting an ILS approach in my private training, not to mention that OUN doesn’t even HAVE an ILS approach (though, when you point this out, they scream, “We have a localizer, and the rest is being installed, we should have an ILS approach in July!) giving up our plane was no big deal. But the other instructor ended up taking his plane anyway, and then someone else took mine. They have real scheduling problems. The only 172 available was only available for an hour, so I asked D. if we could do some pattern work, and he said sure. We made 4 trips around the pattern. The first one D. demonstrated the appropriate places to turn and made a nice touch and go, then gave me the plane on the climbout. Runway 21 has a right-hand pattern, and there’s no way to see the field as you turn crosswind (the wing is in the way), which makes it difficult for me. I think I’m just going to use the DG for the crosswind turn from here on out even though I’m not supposed to be looking at the instruments. The other way to do it is to find a building that you should be headed toward, but that’s more difficult. (landmarks are hard to come by out here….) It’s funny, for this part of my training I’m not going to be looking at the instruments, and then later I won’t be allowed to look at anything else…. The nice thing about this landscape is everything is laid out on a N/S-E/W grid, so it’s really easy to fly a straight ground track.

The next couple of touch and goes were some combination of me flying the approach in and D. actually getting the plane on the ground. The last landing I did a pretty good job, I thought, and started flaring when D. kicked major right rudder to straighten the plane out so we didn’t land too much sideways.

It was only half an hour of flying, but it was a good half-hour, I thought. D. let me know that he’d be getting his wisdom teeth removed today and so he was going to schedule me to fly with Don DelFranco, a more experienced instructor, for the next three days.

He scheduled me for 11 today, which was sort of a pain since ground school doesn’t get out until 1130. Dale said that wouldn’t be a big deal, and he ended up letting the whole class out at 11. Then, I looked around, and couldn’t find Don anywhere. I finally started asking, and they said he wasn’t around. So I found his mobile phone number, called him, and he said that D. told him it was supposed to be at Noon, didn’t he call me?. No. Sooo… I got a weather briefing and after hearing the winds, got a sneaking suspicion that I wouldn’t be flying at all. With nothing better to do, I preflighted the plane and as I was finishing that up, Don arrived.

“So, does everything look good?” He asked.

“Well… other than the wind,” I replied.

“Yeah, I don’t know why the dispatcher didn’t tell you. We don’t fly privates if the wind is over 25 knots.”

I wasn’t really surprised. In fact, I didn’t untie the airplane because I was pretty sure we wouldn’t be going anywhere. He said he’d call me later today if the wind dies down enough. That’s not likely to happen until the sun’s about to set, but maybe there will be enough time to fly. I’m really looking forward to being about to fly with Don. We talked for a little while, and he seems to be a much more capable instructor. He said he started flying last February. He finished up everything in 7 months and they offered him a job instructing, and he’s been there ever since.

Bicycling in a 30mph headwind is way too hard. I thought I was never going to get home, and it’s downhill.