There are two stages in job fatigue. The first is simple dread of leaving one's self-directed existence to go to work. Suddenly, slogging through the most tedious pages of a philosophy text seem equivalent to the most pleasurable drug-induced relaxation. For awhile this feeling is kept at bay by the work itself, by novelty, strain, challenge or comaraderie. But eventually it subsides, and that pervasive longing to be doing something, anything, else creeps in. I didn't reach this point until my third week on the night crew, which is probably a good sign. As I mentioned before, the work isn't that tough, and listening to music helps immensely. Last night I had some interesting conversations with co-workers and a personal Woody Guthrie/Bob Dylan marathon.
Still, I simply can't imagine doing this job for years on end. One couldn't anyway--it barely pays enough to keep a single person alive, much less a family. A second job would be necessary. Life would eventually become 'work release' from work. Last night a co-worker and I were talking about actual prisons and their oppressive monotony. I commented that, "I'm sure it makes you appreciate the boredom here at work," but I'm not so sure this is true. Never having been incarcerated for any significant length of time, I'm not qualified to say. I know prisons are horrible places. But at least in prison one can read and devote significant amounts of time to one's intellectual development. This hasn't been possible at most of the jobs I've had, including this one. I try to make intellectual games out of the items I stock, asking myself "what likely went in to the production of this product?" and "what kind of advertising would it take to create demand for this brand of organic couscous?" I find these questions don't keep me occupied for very long. Reading on break has also been difficult. When I delve into "Hard Times" at lunch, I struggle to get through a few pages. I'm not sure if it's the environment, the pressure of knowing I have a very limited window to read, or that I'm simply too tired.
At any rate, working a job like this again has strengthened my belief that intellectuals should be required to do manual labor every so often, especially those professors who engage in relatively unalienated pursuits, then complain about their 50 or 60k salaries. Sure, being in academia can be incredibly stressful, but it's positively decadent compared to many, many other career paths.
This also speaks to the value of organizing, not just for benefits and wages, but for greater workplace control. A job like this *could* be rewarding, if one was able to obtain a living wage, participate in management decisions, build comaraderie with fellow employees through struggles and decision-making processes, etcetera.