The hardest position to fill.

For a small print shop, the hardest position to fill would be for Press Operator.  Today it is nearly impossible to find a good one that doesn’t cost you a fortune.  You can find a ton of them, just most are not that good.  With the explosion of digital printing options press operators are becoming scarce. When we went digital in my current shop, the press guy went from 60 hours a week, to 40 hours per week to 30 hours per week to not here at all over the course of about 3 months. We still get jobs from time to time that we can’t run on our digital equipment, so we send those out.  Cheaper than hiring a pressman and maintaining the equipment. 

My first attempt at hiring a press operator was chronicled earlier in “Please don’t hit him…”. That guy was an interesting story.  My longest serving press operator was also chronicled in “Oh I got a better story…”.  But they are not alone in being oddities at the position.  Enter the third weirdo we had at that position, Kevin.

Kevin was unique among press operators.  He was deaf.  The interview process was a bit difficult as neither myself or the owner knew sign language past  a few words, Thankfully he could read lips pretty well and could talk, sort of.  When he talked slower, you could understand him but he sounded like someone talking with a hand over their mouth, all the words were muffled. So we go thru the interview, he seems to at least know his stuff, and we give him a press try which he passes.  So we hire Kevin.

Things start off well.  I got in before everyone else so I just made sure my production board was updated and in the order I needed things done when he came in.  occasionally he suggested a change in the order to make things easier on him, and if no problems we went with that.  He seemed able to pick up on small problem with the press by feel, catching a roller bearing going out before it caused major damage.  I would come to the back sometimes and he would be dancing to the beat of the press.  He said he could feel the rhythm of the machine as it ran. Things were going well.  

About 6 or 7 weeks into his tenure, I hear words coming from the back of the store.  It sounds like “Shit!” “Fuck!” “Dammit!” “Shit!” and so on, loudly, muffled but I can tell it is Kevin swearing.  So I turn towards the back and all I can see from around the corner are envelopes flying across the store, followed by a new swear word with each batch of flying paper. By this time the owner has come out of his office as well and we both head to the back. There we see Kevin bent over the delivery end of the press while it is running, grabbing out a handful of envelopes, looking at them and saying the next swearword in his repertoire as he flung them unceremoniously across the back of the store. 

We ran up and asked him just what the hell was going on and he said (after a few times of repeating it) that he couldn’t get these envelopes to run, he sucks as a press operator and he is sorry he let us down.  He apologized, cleaned up the mess and then without us noticing it, he left.  it was around noon so we just figured he went and got some lunch.  2 hours later he isn’t back.  Not answering emails or texts, nothing.  Next day, he doesn’t show up for work.  Repeated calls, emails and texts go unanswered.  We’re kinda freaking out here as we have jobs to get done.  A lot of them.  So I start sending my stuff to other locations to get done.  I pick one farther away so they are less likely to try and poach my customer, but that makes it as pain to get paper there and to pick up the finished product.  This goes on for about a week, so we assume he just quit.

Then all of a sudden he shows back up, all sorry and crap, asking if he still had a job and he won’t do that again, He just had a breakdown and needed time.  We took him back, because we needed someone, but began looking for a replacement under the radar.  3 weeks later, an almost exact repeat of that situation happened again, only this time he ran out the store after shutting down the press,  I learned how to run a press that day while on speakerphone to at least finish the job that was there.  I had a lot of waste, but we got it done.  Then began looking for a replacement in earnest while sending jobs back out.  That is when things got weirder. 

First, when taking my stuff to the other location to get printed, I mentioned about our press guy going crazy.  It came up in conversation that he was deaf.  “Oh, did you hire Kevin?” is what he asks me.  I am looking at him kind of funny.  We checked on his references, he didn’t have that store listed on there, and the one he had listed that was still open gave him good marks. So I said yes and asked how he knew Kevin and he informs me that Kevin worked in HIS store for about 3 months before doing a freakout and leaving.  He then tells me that he also worked at 2 OTHER locations with the same result after a few months at one of them and leaving the other after a lawyer tracked him down about child support payments. . So apparently this guy is getting around.  Nice to know that, a little late!  

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