Monday, July 4, 2011

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xxiv)

The night supervisors were a married couple in their late 50’s or early 60’s who had apparently been working at this same job on the same night shift for over 20 years; and the one job skill they each possessed, that no one else in the world had, was that they could code all the orders received from stores for fruits and vegetables more rapidly each night than any other people in New York City.

Coding of all the orders by clerical hands was required, in order to enable all the blue-collar white male workers in the warehouses, located on the floor below this Hunts Point Terminal Market wholesale firm, to rapidly know which specific fruits and vegetables should be placed in bags, boxes and cartons and then onto trucks for delivery to which specific supermarkets and mom-and-pop grocery stores.

Computer technology in the Spring of 1971 had still not developed enough, so that small business wholesale firms could automatically match the phoned-in customer-store orders to a code by low-cost personal desk computers; and then automatically batch and create packing order instructions for warehouse workers without the aid of clerical worker intermediaries. So the night supervisors who could rapidly code the orders and rapidly divide the ordered fruits and vegetables into batches were still then considered indispensable by the wholesale firm’s owner.

The problem and catch with this night clerical job, however, was that the night supervisor responsible for training me to code and divide into batches the fruits and vegetables that were ordered was also an impatient, sourpuss, straight, non-intellectual workhorse who also didn’t really know how to train and break-in a new clerical worker. And when the typical newly-hired worker predictably failed to immediately learn rapidly enough the system of coding and batching that she and her husband had been doing for the last 20 years, she would push to get rid of the new hire fast—since the extra task of training a new worker was taking time away from the time she needed to keep the coding and batching that she did going forward at a rapid enough pace during the night shift.

Another incentive she had to quickly prove that any new hire couldn’t do the job was probably that it helped her create the impression in the wholesale firm owner’s mind that she was an indispensable employee; because mastering the firm’s complicated coding and batching system was so difficult a skill to develop that only she and her husband—and not any young eager beaver worker, who might be willing to do the job for a much lower hourly wage rate—were the only ones who were able to master it and do the needed night work rapidly enough year after year.