It was just the second week at work for me in my first ever job. I was into the night shift right away. Since we were on an overtime mode, the first batch which I was into at that time and which started at 6.00 am in the morning, would close only at 6.30 p.m. My first department where I was posted was the precision machine shop. As a rookie engineer, I had to learn to man the line with an experienced supervisor. In the process, I also had to pick up the technical aspects. I was given a potpourri of small things to do every day while into this like getting the drawings, route cards, material and tooling ready for the upcoming job. I also had to co-ordinate with the crane operators and helpers to unload jobs that got completed on machines. Besides this, I also had plan machines for any jobs that came up at random as a deviation from the normal production plan. The supervisor was a young guy and was supportive.
Did I enjoy it in full? I would be lying if I said yes. For me, it was like a career shock when I got into all of this together, all of a sudden. Coping up with night shifts, dealing with reticent labour, getting used to the noise, heat and smell of a shop floor and adapting to a new kind of learning and that was learning on the run. But I think, the ability to persist was both my strength and my weak point. It was a weak point, as once I sensed something little good in it , I would continue and try to see if I could find more good things in that space and remain. But as in the case of all situations, in the middle of this struggle, there were a few things that I loved. Production technology was my passion and so the very fact that I was in the midst of a huge variety of machines overwhelmed me in a positive manner. I loved the pair of heavy industrial boots that I wore and it was beautiful to see it when I non-chalantly stepped over the huge bluish silver metal chips mixed with coolant. I wished at that time, that I should have had one of those yellow industrial helmets with the company's logo on it, but I knew I would have to wait for a while for it. Up above, on the truss roof structure, it was great to see flocks of pigeons and to listen to their cooing and grunting once a while. Some of them even took a ride on the carriage of huge machines when it moved as part of a machining process. It was fun to watch. The smell of the golden shower tree, just outside the machine shop was different, sometimes superb and sometimes too acute for the nasal faculties.
In order to get the tools for the several lathes ready, I had to very often explore the insides of a little steel shelf. It had a huge stock of High Speed Steel (HSS) tools lying haphazardly inside. The insides were pretty unkempt too. Many of the tools could not be used and one had to be extremely careful so as to get back without getting the hands cut. After a few encounters, I decided to do something about it. The second night shift stint everyday as I noticed never happened in full. Beyond 9.30 pm, the whole administration office aisle turned into a mortuary. The workmen would be snoring to glory in the air-conditioned area, but me and my supervisor, were expected to be awake as guardians of the work ethics. So I thought that the best time to do this would be beyond 9.30 pm. And so one night, I set to work and took out the entire contents from the shelf. Some workers, who were getting to sleep a shade late, saw me and passed some jeering remarks. “The new fellow is trying to discover something in the middle of the night?” shouted one to the other as they went by. I hung on. I segregated the good pieces from the bad ones and arranged them inside with neat tags. The bad ones I kept aside for the supervisor’s scan. Besides this, I also spotted a bunch of costly ceramic inserts (modular cutting tools) that were to stored at another proper place and consumed. My young supervisor appreciated me for what I did but beyond that it just went unnoticed, not that I was looking for further kudos, but then, I wanted this new system to happen.
I moved out of that shop in six months as part of our rotational training and when I checked back a few months after I had left, the shelf had attained its old state again. It pained, when I saw the shelf again. When I look back now after 25 years at work, I have come across many such haphazard and improper entities at work and I have rolled up my sleeve to clean up real dirt, or to take issues out of the dark corners, talk it out and clear the road for the team or even overhaul long pending jobs as part of special task forces. These actions only created more animosity amongst people around me and what stood out was that it never garnered real top management support.
But still, even today, my mental faculties never curtail my tongue and my hand to address issues and to clean up the dirt. When I leave the place, like a writing on the seashore, it get’s washed away. Who will appreciate a garbage collector? Very rarely do people do that. The world mostly sides with limelight and shining work. Every morning, I hear the garbage man yell out his frustrations on people dropping waste on the road and the footpaths. But I don’t think anyone takes him seriously. The same state continues. It’s the same that I have seen in organizations, common social gathering places or even with my roommates.
But then, will I stop? Never!!! Traits will remain.