Friday, November 23, 2012

As Gomer Would Say..."Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!"

Sorry about the deception but Joan and I made a couple of decisions 2 weeks ago and decided to keep them quiet until we could execute a couple of surprises on our families. So after week 3 of Amazon we decided to take Johnny's advice (Johnny Paycheck that is) to say "Take this job and..........." After 240 hours of standing in a noisy assembly line we decided we'd had enough. Joan had tried every pair of shoes she owned; we had bought the expensive Dr. Scholls inserts; Joan had even gone so far as to purchase an expensive pair of shoes commonly used by nurses with springs in the heel and soles; all to no avail. Joan was miserable and I wasn't feeling that good myself. We talked about whether we could finish the entire holiday season and knew that we would  not be enjoying life the next 6 weeks if we tried. So we decided to start our holiday trip back to Florida early. We went into Amazon HR the next day, submitted our resignations and headed towards warmer climates.

We drove to Las Vegas and set up in a campground intending to research storage options there and in Tuscon hoping to avoid having to winterize the MH. Since we're working in Colorado next summer we elected to leave the MH out west and only take the car back east. After speaking with the campground manager they offered us an intriguing option; leave the MH there parked in a site with power for the frig and heated water bay. The MH would be located between 2 long-term tenants of the park and directly across the driveway from 2 park employee's homes. And the rate was better than the majority of quotes we'd already gotten. OK!

While we were in Vegas we did some of the touristy things. We visited the Lake Mead Recreation area and took a tour of Hoover Dam. We drove the strip and you should have seen the line of people waiting to get into the Pawn Stars shop! It's amazing the affect TV has on folks. We also got to visit with Joan's cousin Theresa and her husband Brian. We went out for a great steak dinner and they took us up to a lodge in the mountains for after dinner drinks. We're planning to see them again when we return to pick up the MH; maybe even get in a little off-roading in their extreme 4X4 jeep. We finished prepping the MH and bikes for storage; making sure the batteries were charged and adding fuel stabilizer. Packed up the car and headed east.

Most of Joan's Family
(there were only 27 attending)
Joan is the oldest of 7 siblings and all 5 brothers. her sister, their spouses and children, her mom and dad were traveling to Alabama for a Thanksgiving reunion. We hoped it would be great fun to surprise them. After 4 days of driving we arrived at her brother's house near the reunion site in Alabama. And as everyone showed up over the next few days we did manage to surprise them; all but one who heard about Joan being there from someone who's name will be withheld to protect their safety.

Doug, Steve, Sue
Our original plan was to surprise my family in Atlanta the week after Thanksgiving as they were all meeting in NC for the holiday. My sister and my oldest son live in Atlanta and my parents would be driving through there, staying with my sister for a couple days after Thanksgiving. But fate stepped in and gave us another wonderful opportunity.

Jim, Erin, Vickie, David
The plans for them to spend Thanksgiving in NC had to be changed and all of them met in Atlanta instead. My son and DIL's house is only 90 miles from Joan's brother's so about an hour after eating with Joan's family we jumped in the car and drove to Atlanta to surprise my family. When we arrived everyone happened to be on the back deck so we clandestinely walked around the house and stepped around the corner and smiled! My sister was stunned; I thought she was going to fall down. And my parents were really surprised as well. We spent the rest of the afternoon with my family.

Our plans now are to spend a couple more days in Alabama; then a couple of days in Atlanta before heading to Florida. We'll be in Florida through Christmas and then head back to Vegas.

Stay Tuned. More to Come.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Oh Happy Day!

Week 4 and Amazon hasn't changed. 'And that's all I'm going to say about that'. Joan and I just had to get out of the city for a while to try and relax; recharge our batteries. So we took a drive in the country. It was a nice drive and really helped us recoup; kinda changed our perspective a little.

Today is a big day. November 16. Yeah, November 16....that's it. "What oh what could it be?" you ask. It was the start of something big. Really big. Something special. Really special. Something so wonderful...."How wonderful is it?" you ask......something so wonderful I hope it never ends.

On Wednesday November 16, 2005 I knocked on Joan's door and we proceeded to go out on our first date! It was the first time we had met. On one of our first dates we went out to a movie. "What movie?" you ask....The remake of King Kong starring Jack Black. Joan was the tallest girl I had ever dated and I still remember how awkward it was holding her hand during the movie. Usually my dates' arm was short enough to fit inside of my elbow when I held their hand. Not so with Joan. But we got past that awkwardness and here we are on the date of a lifetime.

Happy Anniversary!

Stay Tuned. More to Come.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

On a More Serious Note...........

When Joan and I came home Monday night after finishing our second week at Amazon we were both extremely tired and sore. Joan's feet are still giving her a lot of trouble and for some reason my shoulder was bothering me. I didn't mention it in the blog but the last week we were in Mt Hood I took a tumble while getting down off the back of one of our work trucks. I had put my hand down on the bed of the truck for stability. For some reason the material of the glove and the sand on the bed of the truck didn't like each other and my hand slipped just as I put weight on it when I jumped down. This resulted in my left arm being pulled into what felt like an unnatural position and for a few days my shoulder was stiff. I guess all this lifting, moving, stretching, etc has aggravated it and it aches. That being said, please consider I didn't sleep well last night as you read the blog... I may not be my usual sunny self...........

Several things happened at work this week. With the increase in the number of temporary workers, the employees have been split into two groups for breaks and lunches. I don't know why but Joan and the other two members of our carpool are in one group while I'm in the other. And all of us got our information on overtime schedules. If we go to a 50 hour workweek, we'll be asked to work a 5th 10 hour day each week. If we go to a 55+ hour workweek we may be asked to work some 12 hour days. On days when orders are slow Amazon does allow voluntary time off; unfortunately we are unable to take advantage of it as our carpool members work in different shops and we can't be sure all of us could get off. So let me give you an example of one of our typical days.........

5:00 am - First alarm (I have another set for 5:05 just in case)
5-6:00 am - dress; fix, eat and cleanup from breakfast; fix and pack lunch;
6:00 - 6:40 am - carpool to work; arrive at Amazon (it's still dark outside)
6:40 - 7:00 am - place lunch, jackets, keys, phones, etc in locker (none of this is allowed in the warehouse). Walk to work location (keep in mind this is a 1 million sq ft facility with 3 floors; we're on the 3rd floor) clock in before 7:00 am
7-7:10 am - morning announcements and stretching
7:10-9:30 am - work-STANDING
9:30-9:45 am - break (keep in mind a 5 minute walk each way and pass thru security if you go to the break room
9:45-11:30 - work-STANDING
11:30-12:00 pm - clock out for lunch; (same 5 minute walk each way to break room/lockers to pick up lunch)
12:30 pm - return to work location; clock in by 12:30 pm; new work assignments and stretches
12:35-2:45 pm - work-STANDING
2:45-3:00 pm - break (same as morning break)
3-5:30 pm - work-STANDING
5:30-6:30 pm - clock out; pick up stuff from locker; carpool back to RV (it's already dark again when we leave Amazon)
6:30-bedtime - fix and eat supper; do whatever we want if we're able; prepare for tomorrow

That's about it 4 days a week; 5 when we go to Mandatory Overtime

And while we're working it's almost like sensory depredation. At least for me that's what it seems like. The department we work in is extremely noisy. It's mandatory we wear ear plugs. The noise includes:
- multiple older mechanical conveyor lines
- thousands if not millions of little roller wheels in the chutes along the conveyors
- hundreds of forklifts, golf carts, floor dolly/jacks; all of which are constantly moving, blowing their horns at every intersection of walkways, driveways, storage aisles, etc (safety process)
- and all the other thousands of mechanical devices you would expect to find in this type of an environment
- and don't forget the loud speakers. I know Amazon is trying to make the environment as pleasant as possible so they allow music to be played in the various work areas; but to be heard over the noise in our area it must be blared; and blared it is. Don't get me wrong, it's not the type of music they play, it's just the decibel level it's played at.

All this while having little pieces of foam stuffed in your ears. We are given light gloves to wear if needed; and for us they are. So your sense of touch is distorted as well. There are productivity goals; and they are challenging. Amazon gives new employees 4 weeks to meet their goals. And the work environment does not really allow for conversation with the person working next to you (at least not in our department. This may be different in other areas.

So to summarize:

- Long days that start before the sun rises and end after it sets. Sometimes we feel like vampires
- Short breaks and lunches
- Little or no interaction with others; no meeting new friends or developing new relationships; not enough time
- Loud, noisy work environment
- Standing for 10 hours a day
- The work itself is not that hard. It is however repetitive and sometimes boring
- Little or no time (or desire) after work to go out, shop, clean, do laundry or explore
- Lots of house cleaning and normal chores to do on your days off
- The pay is good compared to other workamping positions we've investigated; not so good compared to our previous jobs before we went full time
- Amazon gives employees a discount on anything they order online

Please don't get me wrong. There are lots of folks working for Amazon; both full time and workamping, and it seems to work well for them. Amazon provides a great opportunity for workampers, but it's real work. Our specific work responsibilities may result in Joan and I having a very different perspective from other Amazon workampers. If we can just get past the extreme discomfort from standing all day I think we'll be OK. But for now its really kicking our butts!

Other than that we haven't done much this week to talk about. We went to one of the local casinos; not to gamble but to eat. It was really good, and reasonably priced. We've heard about another casino that has some great restaurants and may try it while we're off this week. We attempted a short drive out into the country on one of the side roads, but we were forced to turn around about 7-8 miles out as the road shown on the GPS entered a private rock quarry. The weather forecast is for temps beginning in the high 30's and approaching the 70's the next few days. Thursday and Friday is forecast for 20's and possible snow.

We're still looking for a Saint for Tired Feet. Let us know if you have any suggestions.

Stay Tuned. More to Come.