the lowdown on my new employment

well, here's the lowdown on my new job:

it's a pretty long commute but at a time of day when i generally miss most of the traffic. i'm spending about 1.5 - 1.75 hrs/day driving to and from work. driving to pick up Loren from his mother's is extra. the hours keep me from picking Loren up from school (he's less than thrilled) but allow me some time in the evenings with him on the days he's here, so not an unworkable trade- as long as his mother remains able to pick him up from school on the days i'm supposed to (probably a safe bet for the short term, anyway).

they hired me at $14/hr, and they promised me a review in 90 days, with a raise of $1 if my performance was good. it's a fair starting wage but not as good as i hoped- typical. i was hired to do install work for signage, but they had no install work on the table when they started me, so they started out giving me projects around the shop. after a few small things which took very little time, the first real job they gave me (something which took longer than an hour to do) was to apply vinyl graphics for a temporary sign for the new Seattle Public Library. i did an ok job on it, not as well as i'd hoped but good enough to deliver to the customer. everyone was very impressed even though i didn't think it met my standards. i'm not completely suprised by the quality of the finished product considering i haven't done this work in three years, but the management, owners, sales staff, project managers, and designers all came to me individually and told me i was doing a great job and how nice it was to have someone come on board with some skills. they've recently cleaned house; they fired a lot of people recently, and gutted the management. sounds like they really wanted to start over. the head installer told me the company was wide open at the moment and that new people with skills could "write their own ticket".

i was really set on doing install work because you build up hours doing electrical work and it translates to wages, and being out of the shop is generally less pressure than working while management beats you over the head with endless delivery deadlines and ever-changing priorities- business as usual in the sign game. but the managers saw my fabrication skills and called me in to discuss doing work in the shop. the head manager asked me what my goals were here, and i told him "to be honest, i'm primarily motivated by money". i told him i was focused on doing install work because i want a journeyman electrician's card and the wages that commands. he told me what he'd like to see me do was work out of the shop, and cross-train their light-fabrication department in some of the heavier fabrication skills like wiring and welding; basically show these guys what i know. in the meantime, he'd focus on sending me out on the electrical install work so my hours could get built up. he asked me to handle a prototype project which could lead to "a couple hundred thousand dollars" worth of work. i told him "like i said, i was really focused on install work, and that's my main goal, but i'll do what needs to be done." he told me if i handled this project well enough, i could easily be looking at $2-3/hr more money in six months, with rapid increases to a maximum of about $20/hr within a couple years.

so i built the prototype, which is a small sign that's at eye level, and has to be completely perfect. it was a pretty complicated little build for something small, and right at the end i made the one mistake that ruined the whole thing- drilling mounting holes in the wrong place (dumb dumb dumb!) and had to start over. when i redid the whole thing from scratch (which blew the total hours for the job way out of line and makes me look really bad) i screwed up the very same mounting holes (drilled them out too large due to misreading the design drawing- also very DUMB)- but this time the error is fixable. so it's finished, we'll see what happens with it.

in the meantime i was given another project to weld up, 5 interior signs for a Boeing complex here. they're about 30" x 3" x 96". it's one of those projects where someone else started it and now i get to finish it; and in the process they've wanted me to keep two other new guys as busy as possible on this or other projects in the works. nothing like trying to pay attention to what you're doing in a shop you don't know where anything's at, while showing two other guys how to do what you need them to do. kinda stressful. anyway, the parts someone else made for that project caused problems and i've had to change the plans somewhat to compensate. it's alot easier to take a project from start to finish than to fix other people's mistakes along the way. everybody makes mistakes; it's nice when you only have to deal with your own- no one else to blame that way!

they've also given me another project, a little decorative metal finishing for another sign; no one else wanted to touch it but i think i can do it so i'm going to give it a go. and they've given me another project (dropped it on my Friday 45 minutes before quitting time) that's got to be done Monday morning by 10:00. unfortunately it looks like the work will take longer than that and the only help i've been given is another guy who's never done this type of work before....it's been a long long time since i've done it either. they told me to come in early Monday if i needed to, which i have no problem doing- except that i remembered after i left Friday that i don't have a key to get in the place before anyone else. grrrrrrrr. and, of course, this is another project that must be absolutely perfect. it's a plastic glueing job for a marquee of a new club. it's a dicey job even for experienced people; one drop of water-thin glue in the wrong place ruins a very expensive piece of material- and i have to build two of the things. nothing like giving the new guy the hardest projects under the tightest deadlines right off the bat! welcome back to the sign game.

the place pays for health insurance for the employee; if i want to put Loren on the insurance that comes out of my pocket. they offer 1 week of vacation after the one year, two weeks after (two or three?) years and three weeks after 7 years. haven't heard anything about sick time or paid holidays. they have profit sharing and an IRA thing set up. i'm hearing that bonuses can be in the neighborhood of $2,000-3,000 when the place is making money. and i heard there's a ton of musicians there that all bring music equipment in and have a jam session during their Christmas party.

ok- now y'all know as much as i do- and prob'ly much more than you wanted, if you bothered reading this far.

i'm outta here to make the traditional pancakes/scrambled eggs/sausage brunch for my favorite young man, and try to eek some fun outta this beautiful sunny day before that young man heads back to his mother's for the remainder of the weekend.


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