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Ann: A Love Story Ch. 73

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Amateur

Looking at my watch, I groaned as I saw it was still five minutes to 7. “Did this damn thing stop!” I said to myself as I stared at the big pile of applications that were to my right on the desk I was sitting at.

Deciding that I’d at least get a jump on things, I grabbed some of the papers on the pile and started tapping them on the desktop, straightening them so I could get them into the big box I had next to me on the floor. There had to be close to 150 of them, which was by far my biggest day out of the week and a half that I’d been doing interviews. Placing them neatly in the box, I looked at my watch again.

“Fuck…still five minutes to go. I’m going to be the last one there.”

I was in the local Vocational Education Center just west of town, where I had been every day since the previous Wednesday. I felt isolated, what with there being only one other company employee working with me. And that was Angela, the new company receptionist who was hired on just a week before I was.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Angela wasn’t at the front desk when I’d shown up for my first day of work. She was busy working in the HR department, organizing things for my first assignment. I’d been hired with the knowledge that I was going to be in charge of hiring the hourly production staff for my department. And I found out later that Angela was being temporarily assigned to me, as my assistant.

I’d spent my morning of my first day on the job filling out my employment paperwork with Steve White, the Director of Human Resources of the plant. There seemed to be dozens of different documents I had complete, but I dutifully gave them all my pertinent information, including my social security number an insane number of times. That was followed by a lengthy orientation process on company policies and procedures.

When I finished the boring part of my workday, Steve introduced me to Angela, and told me we’d be working together, at least to start. When I shook her hand, I smiled…like I thought that Bond would, and she reacting with a little schoolgirl giggle and a blush.

“Mission accomplished,” I said to myself as I stared at her hazel eyes, happy that I’d gotten her to react like she had.

Angela was a petite little thing, about 5’2″, and she had long auburn hair, the reddish tones coming out against her light tan. She was cute, and bubbly, with a wide, megawatt smile. And, she had a very nice body, with firm 34-inch B cup tits, and a nice hard little ass. Angela was young, in her early 20’s, and it seemed she was trying to make up for that by dressing conservatively. My guess was that this was her first real job, and she wanted to make a great first impression. Looking professional was a big part of that. And who was I to argue…what with me wearing a jacket and tie.

But I knew Angela was young, and as cliché as it sounded, impressionable. I’d innocently flirted with her…but I had no intention of going any further. And that had nothing to do with the fact that I’d just endured a 30 minute session on sexual harassment as part of my orientation, and that she was going to be working for me short term. It had more to do with the fact that I had a lot of work to do…work that was critical to the success of my department and the plant, and my career. I’d do the company far more good by working with Angela, and teaching her in the process.

So I politely told Angela I was looking forward to working with her, and she said the same. Following Steve out of his makeshift offices, he took me to see my boss, Jeff Engels.

My afternoon was going to be spent in a 4 hour meeting with Jeff, going over my job responsibilities, particularly what I’d be doing the first few weeks on the job. But before that happened, Jeff drove me out to the plant for a quick tour, where he introduced me to my peers. He didn’t know I’d already been there, and I deliberately didn’t let on. Anything that I’d learned through my tutorial with Ivan, and from Carol, was something I’d intended to keep to myself.

Jeff gave me the cursory tour of the front office area first, and then we headed out to the production floor. I asked some questions along the way, trying to act like I was in the dark about some things. But, I also made comments to a few of things Jeff said; things I shouldn’t have known, making them seem like they were educated guesses. And by doing that, I impressed Jeff several times with my ‘intuition’ about the production process.

In truth, several of the comments I made were just that…intuitive observations that I made along the way. I was still thinking like Bond, and for whatever reason, that made me more aware of my surroundings. So much so that I was tuned in to the concepts of manufacturing that Jeff was explaining along the way…even ones I didn’t know about yet. And the more it happened, the more confident I was getting with each passing moment. By the look in Jeff’s eyes, I could tell his confidence in me was growing too.

He took me out to one of the production escort ankara lines. In fact, it was the same line that Ivan had been working on when he, well, trained me. And it was there that I met Conrad, who was busy setting up part of the machine for a test run.

Conrad was a big guy, about 6’3″ and a little over 200 pounds…with a dark goatee and a toothpick sticking out of his mouth. He was in his middle thirties, and he seemed trying awfully hard to portray himself as a biker…the kind of biker that gave real bikers a bad name by being so stereotypical it was comical.

Most of the guys that I knew that rode Harley’s let their bike do the talking for them. You just knew it was part of who they were by the way they carried themselves. Sure, they wore some leather, and the occasional black Harley T-shirt. But it wasn’t what they wore that made them a biker. It was what was ingrained in their souls; like the bike was an actual part them, and that was what made them cool. A real bike isn’t a biker because they ride a Harley. They ride their Harley, because it’s a part of them.

But Conrad…he went out of his way to act the part, which made the whole thing seem phony. He was dressed in a dark green jumpsuit, with the sleeves cut off for effect. His long dark hair was slicked back, looking almost greasy….and it was held in place by a Harley bandana he’d made into a headband. In fact, he had lots of Harley paraphernalia; from Jewelry to the boots he was wearing…and the more he had on, the more I knew he wasn’t really what he was pretending to be. Conrad was what my biker friends jokingly referred to as…a ‘weekender’.

When Jeff and I approached, Conrad stopped what he was doing long enough to look me up and down. I could see him laughing on the inside as he saw me there standing in my suit, a hard hat on my head and safety glasses over my eyes because we were in a zone of the plant where they were currently required because of the installation. That Conrad wasn’t wearing either didn’t surprise me…it went with the ‘rebel’ persona he was trying so desperately to sell.

“Conrad, this is Neil. He’s…”

“The new guy. Yeah…I get it Jeff,” he said in a gruff voice, never taking the time to look at me. “Hope you’re comfortable in that suit. You must be planning on sitting on your ass a lot dressed like that. Maybe Jeff didn’t tell you, but this is a working man’s job.”

It was a classic intimidation tactic. He was trying to put me in my place in front of our boss. It was obvious that he didn’t think I had the chops to cut it on the job, and this was his way of trying to get the upper hand in front of Jeff. It helped that Carol had clued me in ahead of time, because it eliminated the shock factor. But frankly, I saw Conrad and his attitude from clear across the plant. And I’d dealt with his kind my entire working career.

Sticking out my hand, I ignored his attempt to control the situation, and said, “Nice to meet you, Conrad. I’m looking forward to working with you.”

Conrad looked over his shoulder and sneered. “Work…what would you know about work? I’d love to shake your hand pal, but mine are dirty. I work for a living.”

“I’ll take that chance,” I said, my eyes narrowing, showing him I wasn’t letting him off that easy.

He glanced at Jeff, who had a little smirk on his face. Jeff gave him a nod, in essence telling him to play nice. Conrad reluctantly pulled his right hand out from inside the machine and slapped into mine, trying to give me a death squeeze. But I knew that would be his next tactic, and I beat him to it, gripping his hand tightly before he had a chance to do the same. I squeezed hard, pulling his arm a little to make him off balance. The move forced him to stand upright so he wouldn’t fall over, pulling his other arm out of the machine as well.

“Huh,” I said as he tried to fight back the grimace that was starting to appear on his face.

“Huh…WHAT!” he replied loudly, going for volume to try and make me…well, I guess he was going for afraid, but I just smiled.

“Did you change your clothes at lunch?” I asked, letting go of his hand.

Conrad started to massage his palm, and then he caught himself and his arms flinched back. Jeff let a little snicker, and Conrad eyes went wide. I had him backpedaling, and he said, “What are you talking about…I’ve worn this all day…why?”

I could see the anger starting to boil, but I knew he wasn’t going to do anything. He was all image…and I knew at that moment that he had nothing to back it up. Sure, Conrad was big. But I wasn’t exactly small, and he knew that I was staring at him face to face.

I looked him up and down and said, “Because…you’re making it out like you’re working real hard, but I don’t see anything on your little outfit. For a gear head, you seem to be pretty clean.” Knowing that he hadn’t transferred any grease or oil from the machine when we shook hands, I held it up in front of his face without even looking at it. I sincan escort smiled again and said, “See…nothing. It looks to me like you’re working really hard at not working.”

“Hey…what gives you the right to come in here and talk to me like that!”

“Well, for one, I’m a Supervisor, just like you. I’m not going to pretend that I can operate the equipment like you can. But the truth is…I don’t have to. My job is to make sure that my crew gets production off the equipment, which I’m really, really good at.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“That means I can tell the difference between an operator that’s busting his ass to get the job done, and one that’s working hard at not working.”

Conrad stood there, his mouth open, not knowing what to say. Jeff looked at him and busted out laughing. Slapping me on the shoulder, he said, “Well, that…was funny.”

“Want to hear something else funny?” I said as I grinned at Jeff.

“Sure…what is it?”

“Well, I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, but in our industry, the percentage of OSHA visits to new facilities is 25 percent higher than the national average. There’s better than a 40 percent chance that we’re going to get a visit between now and the plant start up. That’s unless, of course, you’ve already gotten one.”

“Are you serious?” Jeff said, his jaw dropping open a little.

“Absolutely. OSHA loves to come into plants that are installing equipment, because they can assess the riggers and installers for violations at the same time their looking at the company itself. It’s kind of the two or three birds with one stone theory. They get a bigger bang for their visit. And Junior here is going to cost the company at least five digits in fines, because he’s not an hourly employee…he’s a supervisor.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Conrad said in a defiant huff.

“It means…that you’re held to a higher standard, because you’re supposed to be setting an example and teaching safe practices to the workforce. And it means that if this company was smart, they’d make sure that if they’re going to employ someone that’s so blatantly arrogant about flaunting his lack of respect for company safety rules…that fine will come out of his salary.”

Jeff stared at me for just a moment, and then he looked at Conrad. Jeff then looked at the safety helmet that was on top of the machine…the one with the Harley-Davidson sticker on it, which meant that it obviously belonged to Conrad. He picked up the helmet, along with the safety glasses that were next to it, and handed them to Conrad.

“I suppose you think this means something,” Conrad said as he put on the helmet, giving me a nasty stare in the process. It was one of the dumbest comebacks I’d ever heard, which meant that either he was scared to say what he wanted, or he really wasn’t cleaver enough to come up with something better.

“I’m not sure what you’re getting at, Conrad. I’m just looking out for the best interests of this company. My livelihood depends on its success this plant, and that means a lot to me. I’m surprised it doesn’t to you.”

“Wow…you sound more like a fucking suit every minute,” he responded, the contempt thick in his voice.

And the essence of his statement cut the core of how he viewed the world. First, it didn’t surprise me that he cursed. I was more surprised that he’d held it in before that. Just as Carol had said, Conrad was a glorified operator…he didn’t have the tact or the capacity to manage people. The fact that he was showing his hand in front of his boss didn’t surprise me either…because anger and false bravado always trumps judgment with people like that.

“Well, they say that what you wear says a lot about a person, Conrad. But James Bond wore a suit, and he still kicked ass. Clark Kent wore one too…and he was Superman.” I looked at Conrad, now standing there in his pristine green sleeveless jumps suit, and his white hardhat and safety glasses, and I let out a little snicker.

He was a walking caricature of someone trying to look macho, and he puffed up his chest like a rooster when he saw me chuckle under my breath and shake my head a little.

“What’s so funny!” he snapped.

“Nothing…just like I said, what you wear says a lot. By the way…loved your work in the Village People,” I said as I gave a little wave.

I turned and walked away with Jeff, who was wiping away a little tear from trying to hold in his laughter. As we rounded the end of the production line, heading toward a second one that was being installed, Jeff looked at me.

“You know…not that I’m complaining, because that needed to happen eventually. But you know you probably made an enemy right there, on your first day.”

“Who are we kidding, Jeff. Conrad looked at me as the enemy the moment you introduced me to him. You heard him. All I did was let him know that I wasn’t intimidated by his act, and now he knows that I know things that HE doesn’t know, which demetevler escort makes him very nervous.”

“Like the OSHA stuff,” Jeff nodded.

“Yeah…there’s that, and that I know a goof off when I see one. That obviously struck a nerve.”

“I have to admit, Neil…I’m not that up to speed on the OSHA regulations as I probably should be. What’s the likelihood that we’re going to get a visit?”

I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I really have no idea, Jeff. I made all of that up.”

Jeff stopped in his tracks, his mouth opening wide. “What…you did?”

“Yeah…but it all makes common sense. I can’t imagine we wouldn’t get a visit at some point before operations start. Besides, guys like Conrad are going to make my job harder. If he’s not going to follow the rules, how am I supposed to get my people to? I have to tell you Jeff, I’m a little surprised that you…”

“Actually, that’s the first time I’ve seen him without his safety gear. I think he was trying to make a statement for you…and he ended up getting one instead.” Jeff said we headed to the other line being installed.

I could see Ivan as we walked toward the machine, which made me nervous. I didn’t want Jeff knowing that Carol had brought me to the plant the day before. That would have ruined everything I’d said to Jeff to that point, and I might have lost his trust. But when Jeff introduced me to him, I relaxed.

Carol must have spoken to Ivan about it, because he never said a word about already knowing me. In fact, he was very convincing in his acting. He pretended like he’d never met me, going so far as to explain a couple of basic things about the production line. Ivan didn’t have a lot of time, though. He had to attend to a problem one of the people in his charge was having. So, he wished me luck, and Jeff was soon whisking me off to another machine.

This machine was in a different part of the department…one that I wasn’t going to be in charge of. And that was a shame in a way, because I actually had a lot of knowledge about it. There was a similar machine back at my former company, although that one was a much older model than the brand new, state of the art machine in front of me. This one that had many more bells and whistles on it than the one back at Beck Manufacturing. But the guts of the machine, and what it did, were the same as the one back in Indiana.

Standing next to the new one was another big guy. He was 6’2″, and a little on the chubby side. He had graying hair stuffed under his helmet, and safety prescription lens on his wire rimmed glasses, along with the mesh side panels that snapped on for protection from the sides. He was wearing jeans and a light blue short sleeved work shirt with his name embroidered over the pocket.

“Fred, I’d like you to meet Neil. Neil, this is Fred…another one of our Supervisors.” Fred gave me a halfhearted smile, but he shook my hand when I put it in front of him.

“Nice to meet you Fred. How’s it going?”

“I’ve had better Monday’s,” he said in a huff. “Jeff, we need to get the tech back in here for fix this machine. I’m telling you, they didn’t calibrate it right. There’s no way to set it up on center and make the air vacuums release in the proper position. The damn thing either drops it too late…or holds on to it too long. I keep scraping good product.”

“Fred…we’ve had them in here twice since we…YOU…signed off on the installation. We’ve already used up our two free maintenance visits, and we haven’t even started live production yet. Besides, they insist that there’s nothing wrong with it…and it was running when the left both times we called them in!”

“I’m telling you, Jeff…there’s something wrong that they’re not telling us. I’ve been in the business 25 years, and I know!”

I stepped forward, looking inside the open guard over the conveyor belts that led into the heart of the machine. The same guard Fred had his head stuck under when we first walked up.

“You know, we had one of these where I used to work…well, it was a lot older, but…do you mind if I give it a shot, Fred?” I said as I took off my jacket and handed it to Jeff.

Fred scoffed and said, “Be my guest…it would be nice to have someone else show Jeff I know what I’m talking about. The damn things fucked up.”

I rolled up my sleeves, and tucked my tie inside my shirt between two of the buttons so it wouldn’t get caught in the machinery. Taking the wrench from Fred’s hand, I reached into the machine and loosened four big bolts on both sides. Grabbing an actuating shaft, I ran my fingers along the inside of a cam deep inside the machine, feeling for a notch.

Finding it, I pulled on the shaft, lining it up into position, before I quickly tightened a bolt on each side. I felt the cam again to make sure I had it aligned the way I wanted, and then I tightened all the bolts to secure the position. After that, I opened the safety brake and backed up the machine manually with a crank wheel, clearing out the most recent jam up. Once I had that done, I engaged brake again and lowered the guard.

Knowing everything was clear, I handed the wrench to Fred. “Wow…this one is really different than the P732 we had back at Beck.”

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