Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why Coffeyville, Kansas in the Winter?

If you've ever bought anything online from Amazon.com, one of their largest fulfillment centers in the world is located here in Coffeyville, Kansas. I answered an ad in Workamper News for people to come here to work their holiday rush. We'd get a free RV site and hookups as well as be paid an excellent salary. I figured, "why not?" I'd never driven further east than New Mexico and was looking for a little different adventure after three months at the end of a 22-mile stretch of dirt and rock road in the middle of the mountains.

Coffee Creek Road

When I left San Diego the first part of October, regular unleaded gasoline was about $3.65 a gallon, sometimes more. I was supposed to begin work on October 16, so I allowed plenty of time to get there. Halfway to Kansas, I received an email letting me know that because of the horrible economic situation in the country, my start date would be pushed back to Nov. 2. However, I'd still get my site and hookups until then.

I'll write more about the trip and Coffeyville at a later time. For now, though, I'd like to take you on a short tour and tell you a little about the life of a "picker." I wrote this a week ago, BEFORE I'd had enough because my feet and knees hurt too badly to continue.

Good morning, at least I think it’s morning – things have a tendency to run together lately. Today is the end of my second week working here and I wasn't sure I'd get through last night. It was the first time several of us were assigned the entire place, not just our training area. Yes, that's because we'd been doing well, our "numbers" were on target. However . . . . This picture shows just a tiny, tiny part of one of the fulfillment centers, not necessarily Coffeyville but probably similar. Last night I think I covered just a small part of it—but my little pedometer read 7.8 miles this morning. The picking procedure is, simplified: 1) find the area, a challenge in itself 2) find the bin 3) scan the bin number 4) if needed, open the box (or boxes) 5) scan the barcode on the item/items 6) drop it/them in the tote 7) when the tote is full (or too heavy), put it on a conveyor belt. 8) repeat over and over and over . . .for ten hours, upstairs, downstairs, in my lady’s chamber. By the middle of last night, every part of my body hurt so badly I almost cried but had to keep going for more and more and more hours, until 3:30 a.m. Drag myself out of bed around noon to prepare to do it again tonight. The only thing I think about is the money and that it’s only until Christmas. Then I never have to do it again, ever! First paycheck this morning. Talking with other workampers here, most of them have been counting the days for a long time. We work and sleep, that’s about it. Watching people at breaks or lunch, the first thing most of us do is pull out the Ibuprofen or Aleve or Advil bottles. On Dec. 24, I'm getting the heck out of Dodge and heading someplace warmer to SIT and watch the sky, the river, and so forth.

I could afford to quit for a couple of reasons. First, I had applied for early Social Security and began to receive it in the form of widow's benefits. Second, gas prices have been steadily dropping like boulders. Yesterday, in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, I paid $1.48 per gallon. I'm sticking around the campground until December 12 because the $8.00 per day fee for a full-hookup site can't be beat. Most important, I've made some wonderful friends and become part of a small, temporary community here.

In some ways I envy the people who have been able to stick it out because the money is great. However, I still don't have any health insurance and don't want to risk any serious problems with my knees or feet.

So,. all of you who have been working so hard on those concrete floors, you're doing great. Only a few more weeks left.

1 comment:

Yarntangler said...

You have so quickly become an important part of this community. I know there are plenty of us hoping to run into you again.