flanging 83

I have focused so much on flanging that I should mention some more press operators.  We have a few welders, a few shippers, a few maintenance men, and other people doing odd jobs, but the majority of employees at Brighton are either flanger operators or press operators.  So these are several I remember.

Art H. was as colorful of a country boy as you’d ever meet.  He was a good worker who came in to work every day and tried to do a good job, but he could get easily flustered when things didn’t go right.  And he expressed his frustrations very well.  He was in a department meeting of press operators once when Geoff L. said something, I don’t know what, to set him off.  Art told Geoff he had a shotgun on his wall that was just a-quivering to be used. Threatening your supervisor with a gun is not politically correct, or even legal, most likely. That may have been the reason the department meetings came to a halt.  But Geoff didn’t discipline Art.  I’m not sure how many years Art H. worked at Brighton, but he was still employed there when he had a heart attack and died.  I think he was in his fifties.

Another press operator I’ve got to mention is Gene S.  He was in his twenties when he came to work at Brighton.  He was strong, and because of this he was put on the only press in the shop, number 26, which didn’t have a manipulator.  Which meant the heads had to be turned by hand,  True, the smallest heads were pressed here, but some larger ones were also done there, and it was the most physically demanding press to operate.  That’s why no one wanted to run it.  Almost no one.  There’s Robby S., but that’s another story.  Anyway, another reason Tom H. got him to run a press (almost) nobody else wanted to run was because Gene wasn’t the brightest bulb in the light fixture.  Hell, he had more than one filament burned out.  At the time I was running a flanging machine near 26 press. Whenever I would break a bolt I’d toss it over onto the floor by it.  Gene would find them, then look to see where they were falling out of his machine from.  Finally, he showed them to Tom H.  Who recognized what kind of bolts they were, and came over to tell me to cut it out.  Since Gene quit I’ve continued to toss bolts over there.  Force of habit.  Sorry, Robby.

Gene S. had a voracious appetite.  He was a rail, but could wolf down mass quantities of food.  He’d finish his substantial lunch, then go begging for more.  At one point he started getting into other people’s lunches without asking.  Someone, I don’t know who, stuck some Ex-Lax into a sandwich he brought in.  Sure enough, by lunchtime his lunch box had been gotten into and the sandwich was gone.  And Gene was running to the bathroom the rest of the night.  So that put a stop to him filching lunches.

Another time Gene was helping out in the pickle room when this young polisher asked him for help.  This was after I had transferred back into flanging.  A young guy had been hired and trained by John R.  He had finished roughing out a big head, and was now down inside it with a patent wheel grinding out the remaining pits.  But he hadn’t raised the polisher arm up out of the way, like I always did.  Instead he was working around it.  So he called out to Gene to jog the machine, in order to spin the turntable around so he could get to the section now under the arm.  Now imagine this.  He asked someone who had never turned on his machine before to turn it on.  While he was inside it.  You should never allow two Darwin Award candidates to work together.  Gene turned the machine on, but he didn’t turn it back off.  The turntable began spinning, and the young guy was bouncing around inside the head like a rubber ball screaming at Gene to turn it back off.  Luckily, Gene didn’t also turn on the polishing belt.  It would have skinned the young guy alive.  I don’t know how long the guy was trapped banging around inside that spinning head before Gene figured out how to cut the turntable off.

But that’s not the best Gene S. story.  Not long after he started working we got a foul smell in the locker room.  So people began sniffing around to see where it was coming from.  It was coming from Gene’s locker.  When asked what was stinking in his locker, he showed us.  It was a shop rag.  That he used to wipe his ass with.  He told us he didn’t trust toilet paper, there were too many chemicals in it.  So he wiped his butt with a shop rag, rinsed it out, then put it back in his locker.  Of course Tom H. made him throw it away.  I don’t know what he did after that.  Probably just quit wiping himself.

Stan C. drove a forklift some of the time he was at Brighton, but he was mainly a press operator.  While driving a forklift he was the one who ran over a golf cart, with someone in it.  That’s probably the reason he became a press operator, because after that he was barred from driving a forklift.  To his credit, Stan C. didn’t do the most damage with a forklift.  That honor goes to Rick A., who worked in shipping most of his life, but later became an inspector.  He set a big load of steel down on someone’s pickup truck.  This was a vendor or a customer who had driven back into the yard for some reason.  Rick flattened it.  He also wrecked several machines.  He finally had his forklift license revoked when people noticed he never looked behind when he drove in reverse.  He said his arthritis was so bad he couldn’t turn his hear around at all.  There’s another good story about Rick when he worked in shipping.  He had bladder problems and had to go to the bathroom a lot.  Someone else who worked in shipping, I forget his name, hated Rick, so he complained to Geoff L. about Rick being gone so much and not doing much work.  So Geoff restricted Rick’s trips to the bathroom.  Then the same employee who had complained discovered Rick peeing down the drain in shipping.  This guy not only ratted Rick out again, but he threatened to knock the crap out of Rick if he ever did it again.  He didn’t like working around an open sewer.  Geoff reprimanded Rick once more, but eased up on the bathroom restriction.

Anyway, Stan C. was a press operator most of the time.  He was agreeable and pleasant and fun to work with, but towards the end he missed a lot of work.  He became an alcoholic, and was probably doing some hard drugs, although I don’t know for sure.  He became reckless.  Which made him dangerous to be around.  If he didn’t care what happened to himself, how much would he be concerned with what happened to you?  But there is one humorous story.  We were all outside at lunch one day sitting around a picnic table when Stan got a splinter in his butt.  He wanted the foreman, Tom H., to get it out for him.  Of course Tom refused.  But Stan was insistent, and threatened to go to the medical center to have it removed.  I think he and Tom went into the locker room to have a look at it.  Knowing Tom, he probably pulled that splinter out.  He and Stan were pretty good buddies.  But that couldn’t keep Stan from eventually being fired for missing too much work..         .

Flanging 78

Before Trinity bought Brighton we didn’t get many visitors.  The Hocks were extremely secretive about their process.  I suppose this was because the founder, Alvin Hock Sr., supposedly sneaked in to watch how a competitor fashioned heads.  At least that’s the story I heard.  Anyway, it got worse once Geoff L. installed the new machining arms.  Whenever someone would be escorted through the shop the arms were covered up.  Geoff didn’t want anyone else to know what kind of machining arms we were using.

But since Trinity bought us, all that secrecy is gone.  We now have a lot of visitors come through.  Mostly they are prospective customers being escorted by salespeople.  They come singly or in pairs, or sometimes mobs.  They all have to wear PPE (personal protective equipment) such as safety glasses and ear plugs and hard hats.  But since they stay in the aisles and don’t come close to any machines, they don’t have to wear steel-toed shoes.  Most of these visitors are sensible enough to wear sensible shoes, but I have seen women come through in heels.  Our floor is so full of holes and cracks it’s a wonder none of them have twisted an ankle.  Anyway, these customer reps are shown all our operations.  They’ll stand in the aisle and watch me flange or machine a head, never saying anything, just watch, as the salesperson explains to them what I am doing.  Then they’ll move on.

We also have vendors come through.  They are people working on something in our plant.  Such as digging a pit and pouring a concrete foundation for a new piece of equipment to be installed.  Or someone installing new exhaust fans or pouring new concrete outside or repairing our roof.  We’ve even had people come in during the night after second shift left, when we weren’t running a third shift, to clean and paint the machines.  All kinds of people.  We’ve had window washers come in the spring.  People to replace our fire extinguishers.  People to stock the vending machines in our  break room.  Cintas gathers dirty work uniforms and delivers laundered ones.  One of the most interesting vendors to come in stocks our automated supply cabinets.  We’ve never had a stock room, with an attendant to dispense supplies.  If we needed something we rooted around looking everywhere for it.  It was very disorganized.  Our current plant supervisor, Mark L., finally got tired of people coming into the office and rooting around looking for stuff.  So vending machines were brought in and stocked with our most common needs.  It’s great.  You log in with your time card, like a plastic credit card, so they can keep a record of who is taking what, and the machine spits out whatever it is you need.  It’s one of the best improvements made since I’ve worked there.

We also have a lot of truck drivers.  They used to wander all over the shop, but lately they’ve been restricted to staying outside or waiting in our break room while they are being loaded or unloaded.  Truck drivers are a colorful lot, you see some strange-looking characters climb out of their cabs.  They always help the shippers with the loading and unloading.  They have to sign off on the load, agreeing it has been loaded to their satisfaction.  Which doesn’t mean the load is always secure.  We ship some huge unwieldy heads, and loads have shifted and broken loose during transit.  So far no one has been injured by any of our heads, none that I know of.  Although the office once got a call from a company about thirty miles away who reported that a bunch of our heads were laying in a ditch alongside the road.  Apparently the driver had lost the entire load and had kept going.  He must have known the heads fell off.  I don’t know what happened to him, if he was a new driver who freaked at losing his load or what.  But the company who saw the heads were a customer of ours and recognized what they were and where they came from.  So another truck was dispatched, along with a crane, to load them back up,  There have been other mishaps in shipping our heads.  When we ship really large heads by truck they are flagged as ‘oversize load’ and are escorted.  Somehow one such load was badly misjudged.  It was sitting too high, and got jammed in a low underpass on Interstate 75.  Sometimes, loads are so big they have to be shipped by barge.  Only Brighton is twenty miles north of the Ohio River.  So they have to be moved by truck to the river.  This involves plotting a serpentine route through the countryside to avoid anywhere the load won’t fit through, and traveling by night to avoid traffic, and having a police escort.  This can take days to move something really big down to the river.  It’s not always easy shipping the big stuff we make.  We frequently form big heads, then cut them in half to be shipped, and the customer will weld them back together once the halves are in their plant.

These are some of the welcome visitors we get on a regular basis.  But we have plenty of unwelcome visitors, also.  I’ll cover those in the next post.