Trust me, the job wasn’t as glamorous as you’re thinking. I know–chip checker, you’re thinking I got to taste test chips and see if they were edible for human consupmtion and determine their quality. This job was so far removed from that. I did however, get all the free Frito Lays products I could consume in my 10 minute break.
This story is going to take a while to develop, but stick with me, I promise it will be worth it. The whole reason I even thought of my days as a chip checker are actually related to my current job. As part of my training, I have to spend an evening sorting mail at the facility–not really what I was expecting. Because, in reality, it’s not “part of my training.” This is their way of making all employees feel like equals. I’m not exactly sure how my spending 3 hours in the warehouse makes me “part of the team.” You see, tomorrow morning, I’ll put my college education to good use, get dressed in cute clothes and continue to call on customers. I have no problem doing manual labor. I have no problem spending some time in the operations side of things. I just don’t like the reasons why I’ve been told by management. I don’t like that I have to do it so that those working in the warehouse think I “feel their pain” and “understand their job” and other such nonsense. Because, let’s be honest, it’s not like I’m going to spend a day with the executives of the company learning their jobs! So, because of my attitude toward spening 3 hours sorting mail, I was called “entitled.” I actually think “elitest” would be a better term, but I’m not here to make qualifications on my entitled elitism.
Well, I was actually quite bothered about being called entitled; and not because I disagree, I can totally admit to feeling entitled. I have a college education and because of that education doors have been opened to me in the realm of employment. So, yes, I do feel entitled to the jobs I apply for, the jobs I am offered, the jobs I work. I paid my dues in the form of 4 years at a university. And, even with all that, if I needed to work to support my family and the only job available was in a warehouse, I guarantee I’d work every day (without complaint) to care for my family. That’s just who I am. What I realized is this: many people don’t know my background, the jobs I’ve had in the past and the things I’ve done (no, nothing illegal, or unethical or immoral) to pay the bills.
This all brings up back to the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college. I was back in Texas (oh, how I love Texas!) I’d applied for several jobs, talk to temp agencies about summer work and even applied for a paid internship at GTE (General Telephone Exchange—which I’m pretty sure no longer exists!) Well, I hadn’t heard back from GTE (my first choice of a summer job) or from any of the other places I’d applied. So, there I was with Jessica (my dear and funny friend) and Justin (my brother) sitting in the office of an employment agency after being home for almost 2 weeks. The woman across from us had a job to offer. It was only temporary and certainly wasn’t a job we were looking for (we did want to build our resumes and skills for post-college employment) but it was a paying job. So, all three of us agreed that together it wouldn’t be so bad and we’d take the work!
Thus began my 3 days as a chip checker for Frito Lay. (I don’t know that “chip checker” was our official title, but its the title we gave ourselves.) The next morning we awoke at the unearthly hour of 3am (ok, it was probably closer to 5am, but I was a college student it felt like 3am). My brother and I left our house to pick up Jessica and then headed on out to the Frito Lay plant in Plano, Texas. We arrived at 7am with our brown sack lunches and bleary eyed from the early hour. (In fact, I’m pretty sure that Jessica and I made my brother drive and slept in the back seat) It was then that we met Carlos (I remember because he had a gold chain necklace with his name in beautiful gold cursive that he wore each day) and “supervisor guy” (I really wish I could remember his name, but I can’t) It was also here that we learned exactly what our duties would be as “chip checkers.” You see, they’d shipped a batch of original Lay’s potato chips over the rockies and back. Apparently, this is not how transports are to take place. Because when bags of chips go over and back the air pressure does something to the bags (some get over full of air, some bags explode, some have no air left in them and others are still intact and acceptable to be displayed on the grocery store shelves). So, the 4 of us were tasked with checking the air volume of each bag of chips and sorting them–garbage or back into a box for shipment to a retailer.
As you can imagine, after about 20 minutes, this job became quite tedious. The clock moved very slowly until it was time for our break. At the deisgnated time, a whistle would blow (ok it was really more of a signal sounding) indicating that everyone on the warehouse flor could take a break. Everyone’s work day started at the same time, breaks were at the same time, lunch was at the same time and we all ended our day together. So, when the whistle blew, we took our break. The best part of the break—because we were in a Frito Lay plant, there were all sorts of Frito Lay treats free for the taking. Suddenly this job was looking up!
And so it continued for 3 days. Wakig up early, heading to the plant, taking our breaks and lunches at the designated hour. “Supervisor guy” was very funny and entertaining. He gave us all nicknames–I was “senator” because I was majoring in Political Science. He drove his fork lift over to check on us; brought us new palets of chips to sort though and in general looked out for us crazy college students doing this job.
Needless to say, with all the boredome, we had to come up with some way to entertain ourselves! So, by 10am on day 2 found the solution. When a bag of chips is so full of air it’s about to explode, it’s very easy to pop the bag and spary chips all over the person at who it’s aimed. Well, that’s excatly what began. And by the end of the day the three of us were covered in chip crumbs and the stentch of deep fried potatoes. We made a complete mess of the corner of the warehouse where they had stashed us, but had so much fun working those 3 days.
So, I worked my 3 hours at the facility the other day. I learned mail is dirty! I learned the process of how things arrive, are checked in, scanned and sent on their way. I even spent 3 hours scanning, sorting and tagging a bin of mail. I learned the process that they wanted me to learn to help me with my job. However, this second go round of working in a warehouse I learned so much more. Back in college, I was far to young, naive and entitled to learn the lessons that I learned this past week.
First, I was put to shame by the women I was working with. They were far faster and more efficient than I was at the task at hand.
Second, these women are hard workers! There was no chit-chat, no goofing off, nothing but hard work. They got to work immediately and didn’t quit unti lthe job was done.
Third, and most important in my opinion, I learned why many of these women were there working from 5pm to midnight. Yes, this is not an educated group of people, but this is a good job that pays well. But, the real reason they work this shift–it allows them to be home with their kids. These women are dedicated to creating a better life for their families and are willing to do what they must to make that happen.
I’m sure back in college when I worked in a plant/factory/warehouse many of the people working at Frito Lay were in the same situation. But, at the time I was too entitled to realize that. But now, I’m not the same person. I recongize and appreciate the work others do; work that I am grateful I don’t have to do. I am grateful for the doors that are opened to me because I had the opportunity to continue my education post high school. But, more than anything I’m grateful that I was given a second opportunity to learn the lessons that I should have learned back when I was a chip checker.