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Motor Home Factory Worker

By Clay; originally posted on the blog Comet’s Corner.

After receiving an Associate’s Degree at a community college, and a 6 month stint selling tokens from a booth at an automated gas station, (that ended badly, don’t ask), the husband of one of my wife’s many friends at her work suggested I get a job at the place where he worked, manufacturing Travel Queen motor homes. I couldn’t find an actual picture of one, as apparently the company went belly-up in ’78, after the second round of gas rationing. This one looks similar in size and design, and also, the exterior appears to be made of fiberglass. The only difference is the color scheme.

I remember the day I was hired. I was on time for the 9 AM appointment, dressed in my best casual clothing, new jeans and shirt. I had just entered the man’s office, when he got a phone call, and asked me to wait outside. Then he was busy on that phone all day, or dealing with “emergencies”. At the end of the day, he called me in, and because I had sat there patiently all day, I guess he wanted to give me a job. He asked, “Well, can you paint?” I answered that I had done some painting, and got the job.

I was put in an area called “Final Finish”, where the motor homes were already assembled, for the most part, but such things as bumpers and grills, plastic light housings and logos, aluminum steps to gain access to the roof were added. Also, the stripes were painted on, using masking tape and long rolls of thick paper to shield the areas not to be painted. Then, the whole of the exterior was to be buffed, using buffing compound and buffing machines.

Unfortunately, the knucklehead buffers would often buff through the paint stripes, and they had to be touched up again. I learned to mask off the stripes, spray paint, buff, make bondo and fiberglass repairs, add all the missing parts, but a problem soon developed between me and the rest of the crew. The company tried to fix it by assigning me to another job, operating a table saw cutting lengths of wood used as framing, but after only an hour or so, I marched into Bill Bowen’s office and told him, “I can’t do that, the noise from the saw makes me nervous.”

From an employer’s point of view, I had done pretty well so far, was always on time, hadn’t missed a day, and was respectful to supervisors. And in the month I had worked there, I had learned some useful skills, and was good at them. He decided to return me to “Final Finish”, but away from the crew, working outside the building, to do the buffing, the touch-ups on the paint stripes, and adding on a few things, such as the logos and plastic light housings. The crew inside decided to leave a lot more things for me to do.

The masking and painting was easy, I had already learned that, but the buffing was hard. The buffing machines weighed only 10 or 12 lbs, but it isn’t easy to hold them up for hours on end, controlling the centrifugal force generated by the whirling, and the buffing compound flew everywhere!

They had a guy whose only job was to go around every coach with a tube of silicone, to seal the joints where the various major parts fit together, and this poor guy had thousands of gobs of dried silicone all over his clothing, because he wiped the excess on them as he worked. He’d run a line of silicone along the joint, and then use his finger to press it in. The line he left on the joints was uneven, looked sloppy, almost as sloppy as his clothing.

I found a piece of stiff but flexible plastic, cut it to 3 inches square, and rounded off the corners with a grinder. I gave it to him and suggested he use that, and carry rags in his pocket to wipe it off with. Well! It left a much better and uniform line of silicone on the coach, and it was soon noticed by the fella who did Quality Control. They transferred that guy to work outside with me, and added a couple more to my crew, as they had noticed that my workload had increased, because of the bad attitude of the crew inside. So within 5 months of being hired, I was promoted to Leadman, with a buck fifty raise, and that guy no longer looked like The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

This was one of the better outcomes of “The Effects of Aspieness on Willing Workers”, but alas, it was to end badly, for other reasons. There was “involuntary overtime”, wherein they would select needed workers, lock us in, and not even let us call home, until a coach or two had been completed. Also, the snack vendor who came for lunches and breaks didn’t come to sell us anything for supper. Too many times, I was required to work from 8 in the morning until 9 at night, with no notice that we would be selected to be locked in. I didn’t appreciate being a slave. I didn’t show up for a required Saturday shift, which they had only told us about as we left on Friday. Took family to Disneyland instead, as planned. Got canned.

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