Posted by: cousindampier | 28 May 2011

Packhouse Monotony and How to Get Through Your Day

The day begins at 6:45.  That is when snooze is hit for the first time.  The alarm is reset for 6:50.

6:50 rolls around.  The alarm buzzes again.  I test the air with a hand and think about how cold it is.  How much I miss central heating.

How that is really an American thing to worry about.

Eventually I get up.  I have to be at work by eight.  Huddled in warm clothing, hunched over a bowl of oatmeal, trying to drink coffee which is still far too hot, some mornings I curse this job.  Other mornings I just think of nothing.

Awake but asleep.

On good days, I’m not really awake until 10:30 or so.  The first part of the day moves quickly, as my befuddled  brain gives reality the finger.  Other days, also good, I imagine interesting topics to write about – I have a lot of these built up.  Or grand stories, with fantastic plots, though I always fail at making the central character realistic.  I think about sports and what I am missing, how the Mariners are doing.  Whether to come home in July or work again.

On bad days, time slows.  I look at the clock, stack three boxes, look again, and time has moved backwards.  I grow thirsty, my lips parched.  I feel lethargic and muddled and depressed.  My feet begin to hurt.  Even the thought of money – each hour, an extra $13.00 – fails to pick me up.  I just want to crawl into bed.

A day at the packhouse breaks down into four parts.  From 8 to 10:30, I work.

Fifteen Minute Break.

10:45 to 12:50 I work.

Thirty Minute Lunch.

1:20 to 3:35, I work.

Fifteen Minute Break.

3:50 to 5:35 I work.

Fifteen Minute Break.

And then, at 7, the day ends.  The last boxes are set in place.  I meet up with the Chileans and Argentines whom I live with, and go home.  To make dinner, prepare lunches for the next day, and then to sleep.  Maybe to go to the grocery.  Maybe to watch an episode of Man vs. Wild, or American Dad.  Or maybe to just pass out.

The stacking itself is not always awful.  It is rather like a day-long workout.  This means nothing to me in the mornings, when I wake with aching shoulders and bruised arms, or when I feel too tired to get up and run.

And the consolation of this job – the thing which moves the day along – is that, no matter the overall type of day, there is still a portion if it which is good.  A few hours, when I can dream about what I want to do next (travel through Europe, down the Rhine and then the Danube Rivers) or think of something to write (Is Zeppelin II or III a better album?) or imagine what it will be like to get away from this job and see more of New Zealand.

Which, I suppose, is the point.  Working abroad is just work.  I’ve got a little money on my credit card I need to pay off.  I have student loan payments which I need to make sure I meet every month.  Those are the base reasons for the job.  Beyond that, the work is to see the country.  To spend some time in Wellington and Auckland, to travel through the South Island again, to camp and hike and get outside in what is one of the most beautiful pieces of land on earth.

And, hey: I’m not picking kiwifruit anymore.  That job was awful.

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