Upon arriving into this plant, and for the first month afterward, I was assigned to train in "materials/assembly," colloquially known as the "tire room." That's the part of the plant where skilled workers assemble the layers of rubber into a shape that somewhat resembles a tire. But all of a sudden, while we were shut down around Independence Day, I was shifted into a different department - "curing." Seeing that word might make you think of the treatment of a disease, or of the process that turns ordinary pork bellies into delicious bacon. But when you're talking about tires, it's something completely different. It's the cooking of those "green" tires at high temperature and pressure to get them up to the shape and strength where they can be fitted onto a vehicle. Let me particularly emphasize the words "high temperature" in the last sentence. In these dog days of summer, temperatures into the triple digits are not uncommon on the floor - and they soar ever higher when you're going to the top of a press to replace a proximity switch. So the conditions in this plant, to say the least, aren't exactly ideal.
I don't recall whether it was asked in Norfolk or Findlay, but during the interview process, I was asked whether I was willing to work in dirt and heat. I answered yes, having been advised by Orion International not to give a potentially disqualifying response - and of course, wanting to best position myself for an offer. But there's a difference between "willing to" and "wanting to," and the latter just isn't there. This truth made itself clear within two weeks of starting here. It's not just the reality of these conditions hitting me squarely in the face. It's remembering that I went back to college after leaving the Navy, and got a bachelor's degree, so that I would not have to endure such conditions. The uniforms are light blue shirts with dark blue pants. Since we're on call, there can be long periods of monotony, without much to stimulate, punctuated my moments of action, which put all my knowledge and training to the test. Dear readers, does this sound familiar? I say again, does this sound familiar? (All right, so maybe it isn't quite that bad.)
With respect to the late great Billy Mays... but wait, there's more! I don't recall anyone mentioning in the interview process that this job provides zero - that's right, ZERO - paid vacation time in the first year, and only one week in each of years two and three. I don't recall hearing that the company locked out the local union for three months right after Thanksgiving 2011, with the taste in both sides' mouths still bitter even now. And I most certainly don't recall hearing anything, from the company or other sources, threatening Cooper's future as an independent firm. On June 12, the game changed on that front. Apollo Tyres of Gurgaon, India, executed an agreement to buy Cooper. While some minor roadblocks have appeared in the way, none of the parties who truly have standing to object (that is, the regulators and the shareholders) seem likely to do so. And so the solid ground onto which I thought I was stepping when I accepted this job offer is shifting under my feet, and I'm not sure what the future is here.
The circumstances I've described in the last two paragraphs have made me apprehensive about putting down roots here permanently. To be clear, the problem isn't Findlay. I like this city and its people. But I can't feel comfortable committing in the long term to this place, or to a relationship here, without being sure that Cooper is where I expect to be in the long term - to say nothing of whether Cooper and/or Apollo expect to be in Findlay in the long term. And of course, there's also the second game changer. You know, the one I described in my last post. The passing of my father has me questioning whether I should try to get back toward the East Coast, to be closer to my family.
I want to close out by highlighting the positive. Cooper's response to Dad's death was stellar. They paid for the two days of my regular shift I missed, and the electricians sent a floral arrangement, even though I gave them nothing more than the name, city, and state of the funeral home. This past weekend, I changed over to the night shift. I don't have enough data to fully evaluate the transition, but the early returns indicate that it'll be better on my body than was the day shift. That changeover also broke in my favor in another way; I stayed on the same rotation, which clears the way for me to travel to Ithaca for Grand Bonecoming 2013 in two and a half weeks. And the two most important positives... (a) each shift in the tire plant gives me more experience and makes me more comfortable that I'll be able to perform to the expectations Cooper had when they hired me; and (b) I'm getting paid, thus stanching the outflow of money from my bank account. Even if only a transition to something else, my time here has not been entirely for naught.