I’ve been walking…

Before I report on our first full 40 hour week at Amazon – I thought I’d tell you a bit about our weekend.

Friday we took care of some housekeeping stuff, laundry and food shopping.  Our friend, Trace (http://camperchronicles.com) does a great blog and one of her recent posts included talking about meal planning as a way to save money on grocery shopping.  I couldn’t agree more.  Plus, with Bill and I both working full time this week – having a meal plan will save us time and hopefully help us eat healthier and quicker.  We decided I would make pumpkin bread for breakfast/snacks and also Manhattan Clam Chowder and later in the week one of Bills fav’s Honey Mustard Curry Chicken w/Rice.  Off to Kroger we went.  We learned that Kroger now has points like some other grocery store chains.  We earned $0.10 off per gallon so far!

There is laundry here at Heartland and the machines are clean and look fairly new, but they are top loaders.  If I have a choice, I always prefer front loader machines.  First of all, they are mostly always faster and spin the clothes better, therefore saving on dry time.   The day we went out with Dino and Lisa, we noticed a small laundromat called “Due Dirty Laundry”.  Cool name.  Best part was their machines have a quick wash cycle – let’s face it – how dirty do our clothes get?  We aren’t rolling around in mud (not with our clothes on anyways – Ha!  just kidding…) or working as auto mechanics.  I took up one double and one single machine and 2 dryers.  There is another advantage to some laundromats with front loaders – they almost always have multiple size machines, which generally will save money.  We were in and out of there in about 1 1/2 hours!

Saturday we took a ride to take a tour of Four Roses Distillery.  It is one of the places on the KY Bourbon Trail.  There are 9 all together and if you go to all of them and get your passport stamped at them all – you get a FREE T-shirt!  Woot!  Except some of the places charge like $10 per person!  Crazy!  I’m not sure if we will go to all of them – if you continue to read along you will get to find out – but I’m sure we will get to at least a few more.  I am not really a bourbon drinker, but maybe it’s time to expand my palate!  We got a late start – wait – who US?  Say it isn’t so!  We got to Four Roses just before 3pm and the lady at the counter says the 3pm tour is FULL!  We had just driven about an hour and a half to take this tour and we were not the happiest about the suggested “abreviated” 3:30 tour, but not wanting to waste the whole drive, we paid $5 and got our tickets.  Funny side note: the full size 3 o’clock tour was also $5 – not sure how they get away with that!  Anyway, we hung out by the door to the room to where the 3 o’clock tour was going to start and I struck up a conversation with the tour guide who was waiting for all the people with tickets. I told her how we were disappointed to not be getting the full tour and she said “Oh honey – there’s plenty of room – ya’ll just go get yourselves a seat!”  So, we did!  It was a nice tour of a really old facility and Heather (the tour guide) did a great job explaining the whole process.  For those unaware, Bill worked in the distilled spirits industry for almost 20 years before he accepted a position in a juice hot-fill facility.  He knows the processes very well, but still finds it interesting how other companies do things just a little differently.

Getting ready to go in
Getting ready to go in

Cool barrel display
Cool barrel display

Heather, our tour guide - she kept us laughing!
Heather, our tour guide – she kept us laughing!

Cool fountain
Cool fountain

The scales where the tanker trucks get weighed
The scales where the tanker trucks get filled with “white lightening” and weighed

Bill getting a taste of the mash
Bill getting a taste of the mash

Piece of Red Cyprus tree - what used to be used to make the fermenting tanks - it's endangered now so most places use stainless steel. Four Roses will be replacing their nearly 50 year old tanks with Douglas Fir.
Piece of Red Cypress tree – what used to be used to make the fermenting tanks – it’s endangered now so most places use stainless steel. Four Roses will be replacing their nearly 50 year old tanks with Douglas Fir.

One of the many displays in the gift shop
One of the many displays in the gift shop
The tour ended with the traditional tasting.  Why else do people really do tours of an adult beverage factory?  For the samples at the end!  We tasted their “everyday” blended bourbon whiskey, the yellow label, their “Saturday” bourbon whiskey – their Small Batch, and their “Sunday Funday” bourbon whiskey, the single barrel.  I could definitely tell the differences between them, but still not a huge fan!  Working on it though!

Sunday Bill took on changing the front brakes on the truck – the driver side has been making a high pitched squeal noise on and off for awhile.  Turns out he needed to replace the whole caliper on that side.  He believes a piece of rust jammed the pad keeping it from returning or the caliper slide pin got hung up (whatever that means?!)  Thankfully the local AutoZone had everything he needed in stock.  I’ll let him tell you in the following pics:

getting ready
getting ready

the worn out pad on the left, new one on the right
the worn out pad on the left, new one on the right

rubber boots damaged from getting to hot!
rubber boots damaged from getting to hot!

the new caliper
the new caliper

Pushing the pistons back into the caliper with a C-Clamp
Pushing the pistons back into the caliper with a C-Clamp

New brake pads
New brake pads

Tightening the lugs with a torque wrench
Tightening the lugs with a torque wrench
While he worked on that, I made the pumpkin bread and Manhattan Clam Chowder.  Yum and yum!  I know most people prefer the white New England Clam Chowder, Bill and I both love that as well, but we also really love the red.  I’ll tell you this – the red is much better for you – no cream with a bunch of fat calories!  It was awesome, nice and hot in our thermoses during our lunch breaks.

So – to let you know our schedule, we will always be off Friday’s and Saturday’s.  Sunday’s are also a day off, except if we decide to do voluntary overtime, when it is available,  or when mandatory overtime is required.  It has been said that L shift (our split shift) gets the least amount of overtime.  We shall see if that holds true.

Now – without further adieu – what you’ve all been so patiently waiting for – the Amazon update!

Let me start by telling you all – they offered VTO (voluntary time off – which is without pay btw) all week long.  We chose not to take it.  We are here to work and make money – Cha-Ching!  Not taking any VTO means we completed our first full 4 10 hour days!  40 hours of walking!  WOW!  I do believe it is safe to say I have NEVER done that before!

Physically, I am doing ok.  We are both doing ok.  I did take 2 Aleve every night before bed, that’s it.  We do our stretches.  Amazon is somewhat anal about their stretching – they require you do them!  At your 2 start-up meetings every day, once at the beginning of your your shift, once after lunch.  We all do them together, as a team.  Someone leads, sort of like back in HS gym class, some of us even wear the goofy looking shorts – ME!  HA!  We stretch all over, about 8 or 9 different ones in total, and we have to hold each one for 8 seconds!  Some of the “leaders” take the stretching more seriously than others, but I take it seriously, I don’t want any injuries.  Plus they really help keep you from hurting.  I’d be lying if I said I’m not sore, my feet aren’t tired, or my back wasn’t tight, but it physically isn’t horrible.  Better than I thought I’d be so far.  So – good news there.  Bill is holding up well also, his feet are sore, as well as his lower back, but overall, he is good also.

Now, the unexpected part.  It has been a bit of a mental challenge for me this week.  To give you a bit of background, jobs I have held in the past have been very patient oriented.  It was part of my job to chat and ask everyone how they are and hows the family, etc.  You know, the lady at the desk who makes you feel comfortable, which is especially important at the dentist since so many people are NOT happy being there.  When I did my volunteer work, I was also always with people, talking about what needed to be done and getting to know the people I was volunteering with.  I am still friends with a lot of them today.

In contrast, there really isn’t anyone to talk to all day at Amazon.  This is a very “lonely” (only saying that for lack of a better word) position.  There are TONS of people (wait – I’m in KY – there are plenty of “folks”) around, but they are all doing their own thing.  Most don’t even offer a “hello” or “excuse me” (when squeezing by the narrow rows) or even a head nod.  It’s not to say they are rude, just busy going about their own business, reading their own scanners, on their way to their next pick.  I’ve had to ask questions, and when I have everyone has been very nice and willing to help, but this just isn’t a chatty job.  I am a chatty person.  I did briefly talk to my trainer, Bridget, yesterday while waiting for work and she said she understood and that you do get used to it, being in your own head all the time.  She has been with Amazon 11 years and has done all the jobs and said she won’t do any other job, unless just temporarily filling in, again.  She loves picking.

So, I’ve been facing some demons in my own head this week.  I am not used to being so “alone” like this.  I am chatty.  I am an extrovert.  I have an interest and curiosity about people.  It is difficult for me to not be chatty.  So, my mind has been a going a bit crazy while I push my cart from place to place to place to place.  I get bored.  I’ve been thinking all week, this job would be 100% improved if we were allowed iPods, but we are not.  UGH!  If I could be bopping around to Madonna or Michael Jackson or U2, I’d be a happier me!  Instead, I find myself making up stories about the family I am picking stuff for.  Wait – to be clear before I continue – as a picker I have NO IDEA who I am picking the stuff I pick for.  I see NO names or identifying info.  I am not even sure each “tote” is for one family or order, I just see an item and I go get it.  I then put the item in a tote, which sits on my cart.  The scanner tells me when to “fill” the tote, which means I need a new tote.  So, I might pick a few baby items, then dishwasher detergent, then a child costume, then a chlorine dispenser for a pool, then an “adult” toy.  Yes, an adult toy – all shapes, sizes, colors, etc.  I guess if you want to buy that kind of item, Amazon is the way to do it discreetly.

Got off topic – me – imagine that!  I know – it’s hard, but try!  I have found myself thinking a lot about Andrew, who would have been turning 21 on the 19th of this month, but I need to banish those thoughts because they will bring tears.  I have thought about Nana, after 13 years, thoughts of her do not always bring tears anymore, like they used to.  I find myself thinking about Alaska – where we want to go next summer (we are actively searching for a workamper position there – more on that later).  I’ve been thinking about my kids – leaving them behind in PA, how could I do that?  Of course, when I am “sane” I know that is crazy, they are adults, but this is how empty my mind gets, walking and mindlessly reading my scanner, picking the next item. After a while, I will see how well I can memorize the scanner while walking to the next pic, to see if I find the bin and item without looking at it again until I have to scan the items. I find myself counting my steps, that’s when it’s really bad, counting steps.  I find myself thinking – What are we doing here?  Which of course I know the answer to, but it has crossed my mind in a few moments after I haven’t seen anyone for about a half hour.  It gets crazy.  I guess my challenge won’t be as physical as it will be mental.  I have been told there will be an opportunity to sign up to do gift wrap, I will have to wait to see if that still sounds good when the time comes.  I love wrapping gifts.

For those who are asking, “Do you REALLY walk for 10 hours?”, the answer is YES. We walk for 10 hours, except for those brief moments when you arrive at your destination bin and have to look for your item, find your item and then you are off – to the next bin.  Or, there might be a brief time when you are waiting for the packers to catch up to all we’ve been picking and there is a few minutes when your scanner says “no work”.  If I don’t lose weight and get my butt in shape while I’m here, something is seriously wrong with me.  I know people who’ve been here 5 or 6 weeks already and they are down 10 or more pounds.  I have 10 pound to lose and if I lose a few more, that’s ok too.  What I’m looking forward to is getting my jeans on and zipping them up without having to suck in, which is what happened a couple weeks ago.  UGH – they were so uncomfortable, I had to change.  That’s what happens when you gain 10lbs.  Guess the good news is I could zip them at all, right?

So, there you have it, my crazy thoughts about working at Amazon.  The physical job isn’t as bad as I was expecting, but I guess I am in fairly good shape.  If you are unable to walk or have trouble on stairs, you would be in trouble trying to work as a picker.

I believe I will give you a “most interesting picks”.  I didn’t think of it until yesterday, so I only have one this post, and was a product labeled “Bachelorette Party Straws – Pink” – any guess what it is?  If no one guesses I’ll tell you next time.  This should be fun!

We need to continue to work on our meal planning and execution.  We did ok this week, with the chowder and curry chicken.  We also had hot dogs, eggs, salad, and other stuff to fill in.  The pumpkin bread was really good as a snack.  I definitely didn’t feel like cooking during the week, except simple things like the eggs, so I think doing the more involved cooking on Sunday is a good idea.

I mentioned Alaska earlier.  We are looking for a workamper position for summer of 2016.  We have applied at several campgrounds, I have made some cold calls and we have been in touch with a few managers.  Thoughts of this can become all-consuming, somewhat like when I was planning for us for this lifestyle, only this has been a lifetime bucket-list item for me, since before I knew what a bucket list was.  It started back when I was in 4th or 5th grade when we each were assigned a state to do a report on and I was assigned Alaska.  I don’t think I had ever heard of Alaska before that, not sure, but since then I have wanted to go there.  Someone else did Hawaii and I always wanted to go there also, but Bill and I took care of that on our honeymoon.  I’ll keep you posted on how the search goes.  If any of you, my faithful readers, have any suggestions on that I am listening!

I also want to mention – I generally do not post once per week – I don’t want to promise that I will – but I did want to let you know how the first full week went.  I will probably go back to my every other week posting.  I do promise to make notes of anything important – including my most interesting picks.