Sociolinguistics in Practice: Paper Mill Talk, Part Two

Anthony Burgess’s “A Clockwork Orange” (1962), with its intuitive vocabulary, has inspired me to document my linguistic environments. I will write about a different environment each week without explaining any vocabulary used. My hope is that readers will gradually learn what these words mean as they read on and notice if I insert a word that does not belong. Through this, I will explore belonging: does knowing the words of an environment help increase belonging, even if one has never been in the environment themselves? 

Year two. Dreading the hours, missing college, already tired at orientation. B tour? Or A or D or C tour? B tour. Monday Thursday Friday days. Then nights, Tuesday Wednesday Saturday Sunday Monday Thursday Friday. 12 + 12 + 12 = money so I can go back. College life is easier than this life on 45. But what? New machine, second hand, no wrapper, offline with Randy? Shack and break room for noon lunch and midnight lunch? Morning stretches too. I can watch 45’s third hand go back and forth backwards all shift, while I sit and watch and drive to Randy and sit and watch and drive to Randy? I just need to take from the upender and leave on his upender on the offline? Easy. Familiar faces but strangers. They know me as 45’s back and forth backwards, slow, Denise survivor driver. But Dan, and Brenda, and Ntxhuav, and Nick, and Paul! So nice. Friends from the downstairs winders and shipping and 45 and 9 coater and L/M stop and talk and help me with cores and orders and the core cutter and the headers — too hard with the long forks. I do miss the green towmotor. And the gas towmotor! I felt so strong and fast and cool, but at least I don’t have to get someone to change the tank for me. They still help with the core rack because I don’t know how. But my old friends smile and say hi — this was 2019, so it was easier to hear me — tap on my shoulder, yell from the towmotor, visit. Very glad to be good at this new job and on 36 with Dan and not 34. ASRS so cool. Put rolls down fast with the clamp truck or the prong truck or sometimes even with their forks, but only if it’s rework. Pearl, poly?? Or some other grade I loathe or love or wish was from 9 coater so it would be bright and not dull like 19 or 13 coater. 9 calendar so slow, so always wish it came off the coater. Not the ASRS or manual stacker though because that means rework and that means straps tight and not gentle and easy. It means depending on operator so all 7,000 pounds don’t fall on me, 19-year-old me. But lift up up up big roll on big steel core up high; I control the hoist and put it in the backstand and bring it to the left into the chucks so the operator can inflate the chucks, make it stay, lower the hoist when they nod. Bring the hoist away. Need to know if there will be a splice or a paster or a web break — what to do. Which way was the arrow pointing again? Oh, no, take it out and spin it around again. That’s better. Hang it up or set the sheet on the ground? Ooh, fifteen degree splice with the red pluster tape? Or the easier sticky blue and nice blue? Make sure to follow the special instructions! Mark the splice on both ends with an arrow, a half moon sharpie, a nice neon “splice” sheet? No web break, great. But not a roll-for-roll so you need to wait, the core cutter can wait, the battery changing can wait, the ordering headers can wait. Fast shift but slow order. 12 hours are not hard. My partner said I’d be on this all day, all the 131 pallets are here (my favorite) but I need to get 030s by the baler. Some time, so I do that and see Jeff and say hi and then return and roll ready so I do that and get my 36 poly and the 42 regular for the WO5672 order; it’s hot so D tour will be on it next. What kind of cores? 3” or 6”? I hope they’re pre-cut. Joe trained me well but 6” core cutter is hard. L/M can help cut for me so no worries, just 10 6” 62” usually here but 45 on it and busy so need them cut. Good thing she could help; ASRS and west dock drivers going fast, crazy, scary through the mill. I’m too slow. I would have waited by the pallets and made my operator wait and pull the set for me and leave them on the conveyor. But I was there and I could let out the air and put the stickers on the headers and the belly of the roll. There. Good rolls, no defects. Just a two-cut. Pull the shafts out, move the hoists, down the conveyor, help the operator re-shaft with the two 3” 30” cores. 2pp. Put the air back in, they got it from here, I kick, upend, drive to offline, come back. Rinse, repeat. About 20 more times. Then set up on WO5672 for partners so wait for the operator to set up and I can get the pallets and headers and cores in the core cart all set up. Then sweep, empty garbage, sit. Joe’s my partner, he doesn’t care, he knows, it’s been 19 years. Just two for me. I’ll be back on Thursday to repeat this again with a different work order and different special instructions and different partners at night. Then Friday days and Tuesday Wednesday Saturday Sunday Monday Thursday Friday nights Tuesday Wednesday … all summer. Year two was a good one for me, 36 helper.