code black + night shift + extended hours = a kabayan’s perfect storm


[Note: Precious Reader, you may or may not have a similar definition, but I have derived “code black” from its original usage to one that refers to a dire, or emergency situation, originally in medical environments but now to everyday work situations. Thank you to Mahal’s friend Jessica for lending use of her laptop and therefore helping making this post possible. Thanks for reading! ]

AT WORK, a mini “perfect storm” was brewing.

Less than a week ago our inward goods department received a massive delivery of nearly 2,000 tons of raw material that needed to be received, processed and tidied away over the previous weekend, give or take a few days. For us, a site that wasn’t equipped to process that volume over such a short period of time, this promised side effects and consequences both dismaying and unforeseen.

The other half of the perfect storm?  Beyond the usual rostering issues, four staff (including your loyal kabayan) were doing the work of six, owing to forced light duties on an injured worker, and emergency leave for another. The result was, whether my kakosa (cellmates) liked it or not, we were up for 12-hour shifts or working  alone. Neither prospect was appealing, and it was entirely possible that if I was unlucky enough, I would do both.

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11 am. Deceptive calm. Salamat kay Bathala (thank God) it turned out I wasn’t working alone, but I was stuck  working 7pm to 7 am, and the graveyard shift just made it a little more challenging.  Even before 11 pm during shift turnover ( I was just keeping the afternoon shift boss company my first four hours), clouds were forming over the horizon. The pipes and spouts were struggling to accommodate the waste product from the huge shipment less than a week ago (see above) and this resulted in overwhelming the machine preparing the raw material, if you can imagine waste product going nowhere  at 1 ton/hr backing up into this tiny machine, so that by the time all the pipes and spouts had clogged up through four floors, the guy I was keeping company was long gone (I had a shift partner backing me up but she had just arrived and had problems ofher own). Oh well…

After 30 minutes of clearing dozens meters of spouts, I was covered in dust and sweat, making me look like a stressed swamp monster. Remember, I hadn’t gone through a third of the 12 hour shift and I was already wasted, as in batteries nearly dead. Only the thought that I had a four-day weekend waiting and generous overtime pay kept me from collapsing. At least the eff-up wasn’t enough for me to shut the factory down I said to console myself.

Famous last words.

2 am. Eye of the storm. Where 3hours ago the machine handling the waste product was overwhelmed, now the machine handling  the main by-product was almost choked, again because of the volume and blockages on the pipe and spout angle. This time I REALLY had no choice but the temporarily shut down the factory, a last resort  as the shortened Easter week tightened an already tight production schedule. We spent between 45 minutes to an hour clearing the chokes on the spouts, clean the machine processing the by-product, restart the machine and of course the rest of the factory. I was mildly dehydrated that night from running around and no exaj (exaggeration), compensated by drinking around 10 glasses of agua. And still felt thirsty.

For only the second time in my 10+ years with the factory, I changed work clothes mid-shift for a fresh outfit as (again) I was drenched with sweat and dust, and there was still around 6 hours before the shift would end.

4 a.m.  Tailwinds and flying debris. Our troubles didn’t end there. The cranky old exhaust system, one of three responsible for keeping the whole factory dust-free, had also given up after a valiant struggle against sheer volume and dustier-than-usual raw material (which generates around 75% of total dust). Of course, this was due to the massive deliveries the week before.

Because the machines processing the raw materials were my assistant’s responsibility, I was relatively less stressed, but I still had to help her (there was no one else) and she had gone above and beyond the call of duty helping ME.  All told, it took us  another half-hour to a good part of an hour clearing up the last mess. By then the first blush of the dawning sun had started peeking through between the nearby hills. For perhaps the first time since I could remember working in New Zealand, I didn’t take a proper 15-minute break for nearly 12 hours.

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By the time morning shift guys had arrived, we had experienced in total three weeks worth of problems. In twelve hours. 

Still thankful to be working in New Zealand, the land of opportunity, but today your kabayan Noel certainly earned his bread.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!

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