One, two, three, four, five, six apples fall into a bag. It should be seven though.
Green lamp lights up again—this time above a hole on the right. Seven apples fill the bag but there is no sign of the seventh apple from the first hole. The next green light goes on: this time eight apples fall through the hole. The missing apple is found! Triumphantly, I transfer it to the first bag, seal it and put it on a belt—just like I did with two previous bags a moment ago.
The bagging machine has sixteen green lamps placed above sixteen holes. Each hole, in its turn, has a stack of plastic bags attached to it. The machine runs in rounds spitting out seven apples through each hole with a short pause between the rounds.
There are four of us: Emelda, Kasia, Muin and myself. Sometimes our supervisor, Jayson, helps us out. Each of us works with a certain amount of holes making sure that there are seven apples in each bag after each round.
As the machine works fast, there is usually no time for counting til seven: it is easier to recognize patterns instead. The most common patterns are:
- space shuttle (two columns: three apples on one side and four on the other);
- imperfect pyramid (three apples in line at the bottom followed by two rows with two apples in each row; common enemy, perfect pyramid, has only six apples (three-two-one));
- giraffe (two columns: two apples on one side and five on the other);
- mandala (six apples in a circle and the seventh apple in the center of that circle);
Once bags have seven apples inside, we seal them and put them on a moving belt, which takes them to next sections (first labeling, then boxing).
And so it goes: eleven hours a day, six days a week.
Why am I here?
New Zealand has a Working Holiday scheme agreement with more than 45 countries, allowing
cheap labor force young and healthy foreigners (age 18-30) to work and explore their great country. If demand for unskilled workers remains strong, Immigration Office tries to meet it by allowing Tourist Visa holders to work for a limited period of time—this is how I ended up in Hastings packing Bostock’s finest organic apples.
There’s more to this though.
I am here…to make the modern technology save its face.
You see, the bagging machine isn’t perfect and has to have someone to fix its imperfections. For example, the machine cannot rearrange apples once they are in bags, or get stuck apples out of its internal parts, or fix plastic bags if they aren’t inflated properly, or…
We, humans, can do that! And we do. And we will. Season after season, year after year.
Until the machine is finally perfect.