Three Teeth From the Top

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A story of determination to succeed which ultimately resigns itself to the reality of the situation.

Submitted: January 11, 2007

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Submitted: January 11, 2007



A few years ago, I worked at a wood panel laminating factory. The outfeed station specifically. My job was to manually lift the freshly laminated 4 x 8 sheets of plywood as they came non-stop off the line. I would stack them 25 high before banding them and moving them with a forklift into the warehouse for shipping.
This was inarguably the worst job in the place. The worst recognized job, at least. The guy who cleaned the men's room behind the 50 hard laboring and hard living workers after the morning lunch wagon visit really had the worst job, but his didn't even register on the chart. Nor were the prospects of the position such that he ever would. At least I could look forward to working the laminator some day if I played my cards right.

Sure, I'd have to work my way up to it. If I applied myself, I could probably get promoted to the infeed station within a year. Those guys were living the dream. Sitting on a forklift all day, moving stacks of plywood into position on the conveyor belt... I'd bet for a nearly double digit wage at that. I'd just have to wait for one of them to go out on a worker's comp claim or get fired for being drunk on the job. Either seemed likely within any 12 month period.

Although the machine supervisor, Ed, still had a few teeth, I could tell by their condition that he had already given up on them. Hell, I would have too. 3 teeth aren't really enough to be functional anyway. I thought that maybe after a few years spent runnng the laminator I'd make a play for his job. Boy, would he be surprised when that day came! Sitting in a plexiglass cube and lording over 5 laborors while chain smoking butts all day would be an even sweeter deal than running the laminating machine. I bet he was making 12 bucks an hour, easy.

Yes, I would bide my time. As I lifted the large panels from the conveyor, I wondered if I would become the supervisor before he lost all of his teeth. I tried to imagine the life cycle of a tooth when left to it's own devices. Taking into account the positions of the hangers on, which were left upper canine, right upper incisor and right lower incisor, I realized there were no tight crevices in which particulates could become trapped. Surely this would decrease the rate of decay to a slight but measurable degree. I was pretty sure he was a drinking man, so I wondered if the antiseptic properties of alcohol provided any benefit to his teeth. I concluded not. Surely he'd been drinking and losing teeth concurrently for a long time. I estimated his age to be mid-50's, but it's difficult to tell with someone who has lived that hard.

For ease of the calculation, I put him at 50 and gave him the benefit of the doubt that he probably didn't start losing teeth until he was 20. That meant he'd lost 29 teeth in 30 years, roughly one a year on average. I extrapolated that in some time between 2 and 3 years, he'd be completely toothless. Of course, I realized this overly simplified formula left plenty of margin for error, but it nonetheless provided me a necessary timeframe in which I could work to achieve my goal.
With agressive optimism, I figured I would spend 6 months at the outfeed. There is a certain pride in working one's way up from the absolute bottom, and I intended to harness it to my advantage. The next logical move would be the front end, loading plywood onto the conveyors. I'd probably be there for a year, 18 months tops.
Joe, the guy who ran the laminator's controls didn't look like he had much left to give. If the stars lined up, he'd be ready to hang his hat right about the time I could expect to move up from the infeed station. That would put me at two years out from my humble beginning, with one tooth left to beat and one year to do it.

About this time, I realized that one year spent running the controls would not necessarily a machine supervisor make, especially when somebody already holds the position. Since Ed was unlikely to be moving any further up the ladder, I'd probably be stuck running the laminator until he either retired or died. Even as badly as I imagined he lived, he'd likely be around for at least another dozen years.

I came to that conclusion on my third day working there. This coincided with me earning enough money to meet my rent payment that month. I silently conceded my defeat to the triple threat of old Ed's remaining teeth. With 3 days pay in hand, I left for lunch, knowing I wouldn't be returning.

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