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Tuesday, August 09, 2005 

Changes, part one

"Special delivery," my supervisor said as he handed me a letter.

It was last Friday, close to the end of the shift. I put the letter with my cooler and thanked him as he left the booth. An almost smile was on my face because I knew what it was.

After he left, I opened the envelope.


This is to advise you that the Summer Student program is now concluded. You are being laid off effective the end of your regularly scheduled shift on SATURDAY, AUGUST 6, 2005 unless otherwise directed by your supervisor.

Thank you for your participation.

This was no shock. I'd been expecting it for the last three weeks. They told us in orientation to be ready for only a couple weeks. When I made it to shutdown - the annual two week closing of the plant for maintenance - I heard they were letting students go. I'd put in six weeks by then and was content with leaving. But three weeks after the shutdown ended, there I still was.

I was more than content. I'd made a lot of money and had lucked out with getting the second best department in the plant. While I wouldn't say I've enjoyed the jobs (twelve and counting at that point), everywhere I worked people told horror stories about the worst department, Trim. That's not a typo. It's said with a capital.

Trim is where people squat inside steel shells with a rivet gun putting rivets into the floor between their feet. It's where people get nicks and cuts from exposed metal all day. It's where large men lift 400 pound engine parts into place with their bodies because the apparatus they have that does it doesn't do it fast enough. It's where the bulk of what we recognize as a car is put together into a car one tiny bit at a time and where damn few "good jobs" exist.

Fast forward to the following morning. My last day.

Dad and I got to the plant at 6 a.m., like normal. We'd been up since 4 a.m., also like normal. We sat in the lunchroom by his department - the union - for a few minutes, then I said I'd see him later and went to use the washroom before my shift started.

As I walked to the big common sink, dad came in. He had a big smile on his face.

"I've just talked to your union rep," he said. "They may be offering you another week."

My almost smile lost a few watts.

"The thing is, the guy you'd be covering for is on midnights, so you'll get the midnight premium," he said, laughing at my good luck.

Midnights start at 10:30 p.m. and run through to 6:30 a.m. Those on midnights are always on midnights, while the other two shifts alternate. Since their week starts 10:30 p.m. Sunday, I'd be at the plant the following night and for the next six.

Fast forward to just before lunch, same day.

I was in the booth on polish deck. The phone rang.

"Aaron!" shouted my supervisor when I picked up.

"Dave!" I shouted back. He's that kind of guy.

"How the hell are 'ya?" he asked.

"Fine, you?"

"Good, good. You got a letter yesterday?"

"Yup, told me today was my last day," I said.

"It was wrong. Come see me after lunch."

After lunch, I was sitting on the short filing cabinet by the desk at the supervisor's station. Dave caught sight of me as he was talking to someone else and held a finger up, asking me to hold on. He finished what he was saying and lumbered my way. He's a big guy with silver hair and pale blue eyes.

He got to the desk and found a piece of paper. He wrote on it for a moment and then handed it to me. Something had apparently changed since I talked to dad, because this is what he handed me.

Monday, Aug 8/05

Report to Gus D---------- (Trim)
Column D41-42
6:30 a.m.

"Good luck over there," he said and shook my hand.