When I worked at Gunstones Bakery, (See my Gunstone posts) I stumbled across my piss taking soulmate in the form of a 6 feet 7 inch Polish guy called Peter. He ran one of the production lines that made sandwiches for Marks & Spencer, and he instantly struck me as extremely enthusiastic in doing the best job possible in the least amount of time. It was the sound of his broken English accent that caught my attention first. Everyone across the very large factory floor couldn’t help but hear him calling out enthusiastic and encouraging words to the people who worked on his line.
Standing by the machine I was in charge of, I would look across at the source of the voice and watch his red hair net marching up and down the line, aided by his stilt-like legs, clapping his hands, focusing on all of his ‘players’ to get the best out of them. I watched with amusement as he occasionally paused his goose steps to linger around one of his team members who were not working to their full capacity. He would shout words of encouragement, immediately followed by an encouraging slap on the back for the recipient. More often than not, as Big Peter continued with his hand-clapping march down the line, the recipient of his enthusiasm would flip him the middle finger, quickly followed by a ‘Wanker’ sign, which I found very amusing.
I got to know Peter when I was asked to help out on his line after I had finished what I was doing on the piece of machinery I was working on. I very quickly got to know him and discovered his sense of humour actually reflected mine. We enjoyed each other’s company so much that when I helped out on his line he would spend lots of time stood by my side, working alongside me, talking and laughing.
The fact that he spent most of his time with me meant a vast reduction in the amount of time he had previously spent on his relentless clapping and shouting. (Result for everyone else on the line)
We actually had one slightly panicked but very amusing accidental incident that neither of us took responsibility for but both of us knew it was a shared cock-up. We were deep in conversation, bouncing ideas off each other, laughing and not paying attention to the sandwiches that passed before our very eyes on the fast moving belt. The sandwiches we were producing had to be a certain weight to pass final inspection before they could be packaged for distribution.
A loud, panick stricken voice from the next department boomed for the attention of Peter . “Stop the line, stop, stop, they’re underweight!” Peter hit the red stop button and shouted “Fucks sake!” He then stormed up to the plastic curtain that separated the departments and stood momentarily talking to the person who had discovered the mistake. Peter whizzed past me, hissing “Fucks sake!” Whilst looking at me with a ‘Help me’ expression. The management had somehow miraculously appeared at precisely the wrong time for Peter. One of the management, a nasty piece of work, immediately jumped down Peter’s throat, barking expletives at him. Peter turned around and called to the people on the line to “Go for break”. I knew what was coming because I usually helped Peter spot a mistake with the sandwich ingredients, helping to keep production going without to much of a hiccup. I went down to the plastic separator and asked how many were underweight? He replied with “About 4 thousand”.
Peter caught up with me, heard the other guy say 4 thousand, shouted “Fucks sake” and said “We need to get rid of the underweights, and fast”. I replied by stating the bleeding obvious, “Management already know mate!” Pointing towards the office, to which he replied by informing me it was their idea to get rid of the evidence.
The ‘Incompetent’ mistake would look bad on them, so they wanted them to ‘Disappear’. They would make sure the vast amount of waste would vanish into the system. So, Peter and myself grabbed huge plastic bags of the underweight sandwiches and ran to the waste bins, about 100 metres away, empty the bags and run back for more! We filled 3 waste bins up, big bigggg bins, until they had ‘Disappeared’!
At the precise moment the last sandwich had been thrown away, the team reappeared to carry on with producing the remainder of the sandwich order.
Myself and Peter missed our break, I took my place on the line whilst Peter marched up and down the line looking flustered, but still managing to ‘Bark’ words of unfeeling encouragement! Every 5 minutes he would walk past me and whisper “Asshole” to which I would reply “Dick”.
Over the months, poor old Peter made a few similar cock-ups without any assistance from me, which unfortunately resulted in his demotion. Apart from taking home a lighter pay check, he seemed happier. I eventually trained Peter to work my machine and eventually, we worked side by side for a few months before I was made redundant, laughing most of the time.
He taught me how to say rude things in Polish, and insisted I pronounced them with feeling, which of course, I did.
It was during our witty and less than serious conversations together that he told me about his first job in England after his arrival.
I’ll relay what he told me in the next post.