How Factory Worker Puts Days & Nights Together (Inside
Mary Miller’s alarm goes off at 3:45 a.m., six days a week. At 5:00 a.m., she begins work at a Wisconsin factory that makes seats for private jets. It’s a job she’s been doing for eleven years. She’s always loved working with her hands and putting things together: before she built seats, she worked in another plant, assembling cabinets, dressing-room walls, and checkout counters for departments stores. Before that, she assembled large forestry harvesters.
Making airplane seats is hard, precise work—even harder and more precise than you probably realize if you’re picturing a typical economy-class airline chair. For private jets (Mary mostly works on seats for Dassault Falcons), there’s a lot more going on. For example: “On the arm of these seats, you activate a lever and you can go forward, backward, sideways, or turn in a circle. There are lumbar support pads, which we install, and that includes electrical wires. There are seats that have leg rests that you have to put together. Some chairs I build are fully electric, with a remote control that comes out of the arm of the seat. You can lay flat in these and sleep.”
Mary works directly with two other people—her colleagues do most of the subassembly, with Mary helping, and then she does the final assembly. It takes about four hours to build a standard chair. “I love the job,” Mary says. “I’ve gotten so used to it I can basically do it in my sleep, but when we’re doing a new seat, with new technologies, that’s the hard part.”
Mary and her husband, Tom (who works at the same plant, as a machinist), got their first Sleep Number bed around the time that Mary started working at her current job. “I was on my feet all day and my back started to bother me,” Mary says, “and so I thought that would help—and it did, to a certain degree.”
They recently bought a new Sleep Number bed, and Mary reports that it’s helped even more. “Now I can sleep with my head and my feet slightly elevated, and when I get up in the morning, I can walk down the stairs normally, where before it was a painful process,” she says. “By the end of the day, I’m back to square one when I get into bed, but it does help, because I get to take that pressure off my hips by raising up my head and my feet. I just love the features of the new one. The DualTemp pad has been a lifesaver for me because I get really hot at night.”
The new bed has been such a hit, in fact, that Mary has started going to bed earlier: “I just want to get in that bed,” she says. “Before, where I wouldn’t go to bed until 9:30 or 10, I’m actually going upstairs at 8 or 8:30.”
And then, at 3:45 a.m., the alarm rings again, and Mary is rested and ready for the new day.
If you could sleep anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia. It’s my favorite place to be. We walked that mountain twice a day when we were there. If you planted me on Kennesaw Mountain, in a Sleep Number bed, that would be my favorite place in the whole world.
What is your Sleep Number setting?
Mary’s is 30 and Tom’s is 50.
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