Late October 2014 I made my way south to the town of Campbellsville in Kentucky where I’d lined up a job working at Amazon for the Christmas holiday rush or “peak” as they called it. Being that Campbellsville is a small town with a finite number of workers, Amazon invites people with RV’s to work as part of their “Camperforce” program. All up there are about five hundred people brought in…Amazon pays for you campsite for the duration plus an hourly wage with time and a half for overtime and a completion bonus based on the number of hours you work. I was meeting my friends Carolyn and NR there who are also Airstreamers that I’d met at Alumafiesta in February. We were all set to become “Amazonians”!
Carolyn and NR arrived a week earlier than I did so I was able to get a bit of the low down before my orientation. Essentially, the first two weeks were spent working half-day shifts (5hrs/day 4 days a week) in order to acclimate to being on your feet and the other physical aspects of the job. After that we’d ramp up to 1o hour days 4 days a week, then five days a week with optional overtime to 12 hours a day five days a week if there was demand. In the end, I only most I worked was a 50 hour week for about four weeks of the eight weeks I was there altogether.
My assigned job was ‘picker” and my shift was from 5:30pm to 4:00am. A picker is given a scanner which tells them where and which item to retrieve, place that in a tote and then when full (but NOT OVERFILLED), place the tote on a conveyer which would send the tote to the appropriate sorting and packing area. The warehouse was huge and it took about fifteen minutes to walk across at a good pace. No phones for photography were allowed and you would pass through security much like at an airport upon entering and leaving the warehouse. You had to pass through security to get to the larger break rooms so potentially you’d walk through security four time a day…all off the clock.
It’s difficult to describe what the warehouse looked like inside…it seemed like miles and miles of shelving in different areas called “mods”. Some mods had four floors and from the top you could just the tangle of conveyors and shelves and pallets full of every product you could imagine. It was very disorienting at first and just trying to find a bathroom was a nightmare…even when you asked one of the seasoned regulars: “You need to go past VDF through to building B and it’s right there to the left of Chrisplant”. What??? I’ll just get some Depends.
There were about twelve shifts at Amazon and unfortunately Carolyn and NR were on a shift which started a half hour before mine as they were ‘stowers’ which was part of ‘inbound’ while I was a ‘picker’, part of outbound. We had planned to carpool but that had to be nixed. The job of stowers was to take product sent to the warehouse by vendors and find a space in the bins (a section of a shelf) and then scan the item and bin location. The pickers would then retrieve those items wherever they may be…it all seemed very random as one bin could contain gift cards, diapers, batteries and a dildo. Very interesting. Pickers were under pressure to retrieve X number of items per hour and not have downtime between picks. This was all monitored by managers and if you were found to be too slow or “off task” for too long…you would be spoken to about your performance.
All in all it was a very interesting experience and I met some great people with interesting stories to tell…and I have so much respect for the full-time people who worked there as I honestly don’t’ think I could have done it for longer than the eight weeks I was there.
But it wasn’t all work…there was a lot to see it Central Kentucky, an area known for it’s bourbon distilleries.
There were visits to Wild Turkey with it’s amazing new visitors centre:
And Maker’s Mark which had an incredible ceiling installation by glass artist Dale Chiluly:
And the Kentucky countryside was beautiful…full of horse farms and rolling hills. Not too far from where I was staying was Mammoth Caves National Park which is the largest known/navigated cave system in the world.
There were a lot of social activities at the campground, Green River Stables, as well including a Halloween party and Thanksgiving dinner.
I also hosted a Thanksgiving dinner in my trailer for two great friends I worked with Stevie & Jo (they kept me sane…somewhat!)
Christmas was fast approaching and rumours spread as to our end dates. Conversation shifted from our sore feet to our onward plans. On December 20 we were released and then we all went our separate ways but lasting friendships had been formed. So I drove home to Rochester for Christmas, leaving the Airstream in Kentucky until I would be back to continue the adventure.