2010 Monday Oct 18 There was some shuffling going on this morning at work as the owners tried to evenly balance the work force. Eventually I was moved to the front of the lead wagon as opposed to the rear, where I usually worked. We were nearing the end of sorting the first wagonload when people at the back on both sides, started shoving their millet to the front and began cleaning up. At first it was only two people on each site, but then as they started to pile up the waste millet (leaves and stems) other people started to push theirs down to get out of the way. The wind had been kicking up dust in the barn all morning, and now with the garbage being tossed around, there was even more stuff flying around that was getting into people’s eyes.
I spoke up and said, What’s the friggin rush? Instead of twelve sorters, now there are only four, and you’re putting all the garbage on the good millet, and there’s also dust flying everywhere, making sorting unpleasant and unsafe, as it’s no fun getting it in your eyes.” As an aside note: I got a piece of millet in my eye on the second day I started and it burned and felt like I had a piece of glass in my eye. It took me a few minutes to wash it out, and then my eye was still sore for the rest of the day. If the millet leaves cut work gloves to pieces, slivers of these dry leaves and fragmented seed pods can also damage the eye, not to mention that the millet seeds are also very small and can cause damage to the eye. So working with millet in this environment is no joke. Other people working there have also gotten it in their eyes , so it is a definite workplace hazard.
A guy at the end of the wagon on my side (that I had talked to briefly before) yelled down to me, “What’s your problem.” I said I don’t have a problem with what other people are doing unless it directly affects me, and what’s happening now is affecting me, so I’m speaking up to let them and you know that I don’t like it.”
He began to say stuff that didn’t make sense, but I could tell that he was trying to dig at me. I interrupted him and asked him what he meant and what his intent was? He suddenly turned deaf and dumb and shouted that he couldn’t hear me, and that I was mumbling. I commented that he could hear me perfectly well, but that now that his unloving intent is being exposed, he’s playing deaf and dumb. I said that he has no problem attacking another when he thinks he can win, but that he doesn’t like it when he gets called out and exposed for the asshole he is. There was no comment as he left the wagon and went off toward the other wagon, pretending he was looking for something.
As I was the last person on the end of the wagon on my side, I continued to try to sort the remaining millet but between the dust and the garbage being piled on the wagon, I finally just grabbed the remaining armful and tossed it into the breakage barrel beside the wagon. I tried to sort it from there but it was not working out so I just grabbed the armful again and tossed it back on the wagon, on top of the garbage. The guy that drove the tractor looked at me, but before he could speak, I said, “You guys are in a friggin hurry, so either sort it, or take it to the field, as I’m not sorting it.” At that point another person tossed more garbage on the wagon, covering most of the millet I had just put on. He looked at me and without saying a word, got on the tractor and started it. A few moments later, the wagon was pulled out and a new wagonload brought in. No one said a word and the remainder of the clean-ups that day went smoothly with everyone sorting millet until the end, and then pitching in on the clean up.
I realized later that this experience was coming at me on two fronts simultaneously. I was being attacked, both physically and verbally. Physically by the millet being pushed on me by others around me, and verbally by the man at the other end of the wagon. I also realized that I expressed my disapproval to both of them, in the moment it was all happening.