I’ve decided to give my take on our experience in Amazon so far and give Linda the day off.
Starting a new job can be an unsettling experience. We all hate that feeling of being newbies and it usually takes a few weeks to settle into the routine of a job once all the training is done. Now that we've been at Amazon for a little while, I can safely say I am getting a good feel for what I like and what I don't like.
Training at Amazon for the job of "picking" (our job) is minimal. It's one of those things where you learn more effectively while actually doing it. Most of what you “learn” in the classroom beforehand is overwhelming and hard to process without context.
Basically, our job entails grabbing a cart, loading it up with plastic containers called totes and then looking at a scanner display that instructs you where to go in a huge grid of sectioned areas called Mods. When you get to your bin, you find the item you are looking for, scan that sucker and put it in the tote. Once the tote is full, you put it on a conveyor belt and continue with an empty one. Sounds like fun, right?
For the first week or so it was and then it wasn't. What went wrong? Familiarity and boredom snuck into the equation. We are essentially spending ten hours a day doing the exact same thing, over and over and over. The actual job is easy but the walking miles at a time is hard on our bodies.
I figured it would be physically hard and I've already lost some unneeded weight. I'm happy about that but it's my mind that is having the most difficulty. By the third quarter of our daily shift, I'm beginning to lose my sense of direction. Now granted, I'm already directionally challenged but this is different. Because of the repetitiveness of the job, my mind goes completely numb.
Consider this analogy of the four quarters of our daily shift. I liken it to a sightseeing helicopter ride to the Sahara Desert. Let's break it down by quarter:
1st Quarter: 6:30am - 9:00am
We are excited to get on the helicopter. We have lots of energy and are alert.
2nd Quarter: 9:45am - 11:25am
Things are going well until the captain says they are experiencing engine difficulty and just before the end of the quarter the helicopter crashes.
3rd Quarter: 11:55am - 2:30pm
I am the only survivor of the crash. I'm in the middle of the desert and not sure what direction to go. I decide to start walking in the direction of the sun. My spirits are down but I go on. After days of walking, I have lost complete sense of my direction and myself. I am a babbling mess unable to perform basic tasks.
4th Quarter: 2:45pm - 5:00pm
Although my mind is completely wasted, I sense that rescue is coming. It keeps me going a little bit more. I have occasional flashes of functionality and awareness until finally a plane spots me and I'm saved.
This may seem really convoluted but it's the image I have in my head during our shift every day. The morning is the best because I'm rested. During the second quarter I'm already beginning to feel fatigue and some mind numbing. By third quarter, I have checked out mentally and it's the most excruciating segment of the day to get through. Quarter four gives me hope again because I'm on the home stretch.
By the end of the day I and everyone in I-Shift look like extras from the Walking Dead. What went from a peppy "Good morning!" greeting in the morning, deteriorates to a head nod and a grunt at midday and deteriorates ever further into a vacuous stare by day's end.
During the day both Linda and I see some interesting things that are worthy of conversation. We are sure we'll remember what it is but we never do. We both look at each other like zombies when we try to recollect. Hundreds of items pass by our eyes all day every day so it's really not all that surprising that we can't remember anything.
We are on a 4-day schedule at the moment but soon the week of Black Friday will arrive and, with it, an extra 10-hour shift of mandatory overtime. That will continue until December 23rd - our release date.
Every day so far there have been volunteer time off (VTO) opportunities. We had been resisting them although our little hearts quickened each time the text messages came in. Last night, when another VTO was announced for today, we jumped on it. It will mean losing a day's pay but we had to do it for sanity’s and before peak season begins.
On the positive side, we have met some really great people and that's one of the big perks everyone talks about. It’ll be interesting to see how we deal with the upcoming 50-hour work week. I’m considering wiring myself with some kind of device that shocks me when my mind starts to wander. Hmm, wonder do they have that at Amazon? :)