Seattle Sprocket & Flange

As you might guess, Seattle Sprocket & Flange makes sprockets and flanges, but they also make barbed wire, bedsprings, corrugated boxes, etc.

I'm temping there, but in an office, not on the factory floor.

Orientation on Tuesday was the opposite of the disorienting orientation at Walgreens.

At Seattle Sprocket, the classes were taught by employees, enjoying an hour off the floor. First they showed an obviously homemade video on the history of the company, while the employee paused it to occasionally add witty comments. Then there was an hour on safety, which added up to "If someone or something seems unusual, tell your boss." Then there was an hour on not pinching female employees' butts and not calling employees demeaning names. 

The guy teaching that third class said the company is very progressive, despite a carved archway over the front door that says, "Seattle Sprocket, est'd 1878." There's even a workplace rule against dead-naming employees or clients, something I haven't seen specifically banned at any other job.

After those three one-hour classes, the afternoon sessions were for people working with forklifts or trucks or heavy machinery, with separate classes for people who'd be working with heavy chemicals, or doing security or janitorial. None of that's me, so my training and orientation was over after three hours.

And they fed us! Bananas and apples and oranges on the table during the morning sessions, and sandwiches catered for lunch — even for the temps, going home at noon! I took a seafood sandwich as I left, ate it here in my recliner, and it was fantabulous.

If the company is as well-run as its orientation, they'll last another hundred years.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

In most offices, 'paperwork' is a misnomer, because the documents have all been scanned, but Seattle Sprocket doesn't scan documents. The paperwork is actually paperwork, and in the payroll department, nobody's filed the documents for years. They've been saving the filing for me. That's what I'm doing, literally filing literal pages into literal folders.

It's wondrously retro, if you don't mind paper cuts, and lifting boxes of paperwork. Half my work-time is spent sitting down, sorting papers into alphabetical order, and the other half is either standing up or bending over in a room full of filing cabinets.

The bending argues with my body. Being decrepit (from the Latin, it means 'headed for the crypt'), I don't bend like I used to, and also, the chair is rickety, and it's difficult and uncomfortable getting out of it.

It is astounding how a little work can hurt so much, if it's been a long time since you've done any work. After my first day on the job, I hobbled to the bus stop, and felt jolts of pain with every pothole on the ride, then struggled to my house, limped through the kitchen to make some dinner, and spent fourteen hours in the recliner, hoping I'd be healed enough by morning to walk easily to the bus stop.

A good night's sleep set my bones back in working order, but it's painful getting home every afternoon. Today was my third day, and my new idea was, every time I stood up in the file room, I did twenty seconds of twisting and toe-touching to keep my limbs limber. It helped, I think, but I'm still zorked and in pain all over.

Maybe people my age shouldn't have to work. 

♦ ♦ ♦

On the plus side, the room I'm working in is full of confidential information, so the door locks, and I have the key. I'm the only one allowed inside, except a nice enough boss who pops in 2-3 times daily to see how it's coming, or to access a file.

This means there are no dumb conversations, and no dumb co-workers to get to know. I can open the windows for comfort, and we're in the industrial district so I can see, hear, and feel the trains going by. (Have I ever mentioned that I love trains?)

In going through thousands of payroll-related documents, I need to at least glance at every page, long enough to find the employee's name. And I can't help noticing that maybe this company really is a little bit progressive.

In fifty years of working, I'd never heard of "employee loans," but it's a thing at Seattle Sprocket. I've seen payroll docs for about thirty employee loans, including some still being paid, and some fully paid off. Among the reasons: "Need a second car, $5,000," "Funeral expenses, $2,000," etc. The company takes payments out of payroll, $150 per month on the funeral loan. And they don't charge interest, which blows what's left of my mind.

Another document was a guy's termination, because he was going into prison, and the notation from his boss was, "Please enclose a note with Hector's final check, that we'd love to have him back when he's released." I don't know how that hit Hector, but it hit me like a bolt of quiet lightning.

♦ ♦ ♦

Fueled by aspirin and exhaustion, that's my first few days at Seattle Sprocket & Flange. It's supposed to be a two-week gig, and it hurts but I'll survive it.

Actually, it looks like I'll be finished early, midway through next week, unless they throw additional tasks at me. Which I wouldn't mind if they didn't.


← PREVIOUS           NEXT →


  1. What a place. There's a French movie, based on a play I think, called Potiche. The name means "vase" but has the same implications as "trophy wife." It's set in the '70s, and an old factory owner bastard falls ill and his wife takes over. It's a comedy, not too serious, but the set design is great, Deneuve is 80 and still gorgeous in a way that even my 14 year old self would admit, and she and Depardieu (playing the aging socialist ex-flame) are so charming. And in my head this is how Seattle Sprockets came into being.

    1. Sounds like an interesting movie, if I can get past Depardieu, who's always grated at me. Deneuve would be enough, not to mention the storyline.

  2. It's basically a fairy tale-type story set in a pretty grimy '70s spot. Nothing that happens is "magical," there's just a tone of unreality that is kinda pleasant and nice. And Deneuve breaks into song once, even though she really can't sing, and you're just like yeah, of course this is happening:


    Depardieu is just unavoidable in French films that get enough momentum to at least get subtitles, much less a US release. A French tax. His younger self could be brilliant (Too Beautiful For You, Wajda's Danton, A Pure Formality or Colonel Chabert) but he became a sloppy caricature. Not surprising he became a sex pest if he wasn't all along.

    1. I never gave Depardieu much thought beyond amazement at his nose, until his 1990 Cyrano de Bergerac. I didn't even see it, only a clip on Siskel & Ebert, which convinced me of its awfulness (though I think they both liked it). His sex violations are repulsive, of course, but I'm sure *most* successful men are disgusting in much the same way, so it's only incidental to my distaste for the actor.

      That song is pleasant, and I'm planning to enjoy Potiche when I work my way down to the P's.

      Curious, I IMDB'd Ms Deneuve, and found that her first movie role was at the age of 14. It *had* to have damaged her, and no diss intended, but her life since then has been unlike anyone's I've ever known. I wouldn't trade any of that for what I've had.


🚨🚨 If you have problems posting a comment, please click here for help. 🚨🚨