Our days as “old ladies with box cutters”

My dear friend Linda at To Behold the Beauty just wrote a post about something that happened while we were working at the Jail. That post got me to thinking about that interesting job and the subject of box cutters quite naturally came to mind.  Box cutters were an integral part of that job.

Terry and Mike were the two guys who delivered the majority of the products we sold to the prisoners.  When they would make a delivery (several times a week), they would bring in cart after cart of products, with the carts piled so high that they couldn’t see over them; they had to look around the boxes to see where they were going.

Terry and Mike would open some of the boxes for us while they were there, but there were lots more that we needed to open as-needed.  So, we all had a box cutter.  Those of us who audited (the usual three were Marie, Linda and me) would keep ours in our desk drawer and just get it out whenever we needed to help re-stock.

But the fillers (there were usually four of them, mostly women about our age too) were constantly needing to restock in between filling, so they would each have their box cutter either laying on the table at their “station” where they stood to put together their orders or in a pocket.  And, as you can imagine, everyone was very vigilant in regard to keeping track of their box cutter — not only because they were constantly needing to use it, but also because it would be a serious mistake if one happened to inadvertently get put in a sack with a prisoner’s order, and then sent to him!

But there were just a couple of times when someone’s box cutter did disappear.  And as soon as it was noticed that it was missing, EVERYTHING STOPPED.  That became the most important mission — FIND THE BOX CUTTER.  Was it in the person’s pocket?  Had it been laid on a shelf when two hands were needed to arrange some boxes?  But, most importantly, could it have been put into a sack along with a prisoner’s order?  THAT was our upmost worry.  So as soon as the search had started, some of us would start dismantling the bags, one by one, beginning with the last bin of orders that had been filled and working back.

After each bag was filled with an order, the top of the bag was folded over and the order slip was stapled to the top of the bag.  So to check an order you had to take out the staples and then dump out the order on the table to make sure the box cutter wasn’t in the bag.   Then you had to reassemble it.  Very labor intensive, but necessary.  Luckily, both times this happened, the box cutter was located shortly and somewhere other than in a prisoner’s order, but it reminded all of us how easily it could happen if we weren’t always vigilant.  A valuable reminder.

I guess it’s no surprise that there were occasional accidents with the box cutters too.  In order to open boxes cleanly and quickly, the blades in the box cutters were replaced regularly, so they were always very sharp.  And the fillers were always working very quickly.  So, another occurrence that would make everyone freeze in their tracks was if someone said, “Ouch!”.  Sometimes “ouch” meant a paper cut from an order form or even from the edge of a cardboard box, but a couple time in the four years I worked there, it meant that someone had sliced their hand with their box cutter.  In those cases, the “injuree” was send to the nearest Redi-Med for treatment.  As I remember, there were no stitches required in either case — just a good cleansing and a butterfly bandage.  But there was another “ouch” involved for me when this happened — all the paperwork I had to fill out because it had to be reported as a “work place injury”.  So, I had an additional reason to encourage everyone to be very careful with their box cutters.

When I was a young woman just starting out my working career, if you had told me that my last and most interesting job would involve having steel doors clanging shut around me regularly, having interesting dealings with inmates in orange jumpsuits and using a box cutter regularly in my job,  I would have thought you were crazy!

Soon I’ll tell you the story of why taking Linda with me to work at the jail was the most valuable contribution I made as Matron.

3 Responses to Our days as “old ladies with box cutters”

  1. Linda says:

    Well, I know that at least one of the injuries required stitches. Not too many, but stitches just the same. And the cut was just an inch or so away from another cut that would occur sometime later, when your Hubby gave my Hubby a very sharp hunting knife. 🙂

    I still regret that I was a failure at the filling job, but I was definitely box-cutter-challenged.

  2. Hilary says:

    I can imagine the tense moments endured until the cutter is found and I have no doubt that Linda was indeed a most valuable contribution. She sure is to the blogging world.

  3. Sandra says:

    Oh, Linda. I’m sorry I forgot you got stitches. I guess that’s easy to do when you aren’t the one getting them! 😦 You really did have a hate/hate relationship with your box cutters, didn’t you. But, believe me, you contributed much, much more in other ways. I’ll write about that soon. 🙂

    Hilary — Those were tense moments. And, yes, Linda DID make valuable contributions. Stay tuned for that story. 🙂

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