Friday, 9 April 2010

What A Spaceman Had To Do For A Living No. 2: Moving Boxes.

In the previous post, recounting the hilarious ups and down of my working life, I mentioned my stipulation to employment agencies that I refused to work at anything that involved animals.
Of course a lapse from a principled stance always helps in confirming why one's beliefs are entirely valid.

I received a call from my 'appointed personal task co-ordinator' saying the agency understood and fully supported my refusal to work with animals but would I, as a big favour to them, consider doing four hours work for a company who's vital research involved the use animals?
I knew exactly the notorious local establish they meant.

I can't mention the organisation's name, not in fear of reprisals from out-raged ALFs whose beliefs I, very nearly, broadly sympathise with, but from the wrath of a huge mega-corp that will reduce my life to dust if I so much as even slightly intimate in a round-a-bout way that the 'vital' work they undertake, (ensuring that when I take two bottles into the shower my skin won't be removed in lumps, my hair won't turn a dazzling shade of blue and my moobs won't become any further enhanced than they already are) doesn't justify, allegedly, force feeding innocent bunny rabbits pomegranate and mango shampoo.

I turned to look at my, then, tiny children.
'Daddy' my daughter said 'my brother and I are so hungry, when shall we eat again?'

I turned back to the phone,
'Four hours you say?'
'Yes and if you finish before the four hours are up you'll still get paid for the full four'.
'Definitely NO animal involvement?'
'Non what so ever'.
'All that will be expected of you will be to move some boxes from one thermotainer to another thermotainer'.
'O.K.' I said 'just this once, I'll do it.'

I felt part of my soul fall off and die.

The unmarked company transport (with blacked out windows) arrived outside the house before the phone handset hit the cradle.
We sped past the permanent ALF protest camp, through three razor-wire topped fences into the belly of the beast.
Once 'safely' inside I removed my balaclava.
A set of security checks (involving a body search to make sure I hadn't smuggled a camera in) and I'm taken to be introduced to my allotted task.

The first thermotainer was old and decrepit. The interior looked like a glacier and was the same temperature as the backside of the moon.
I could vaguely make out boxes and bags under the ice.
The company representative handed me a pair of gardening gloves and a hammer and told me to release the boxes and bags from their prison of ice and transfer them to the shiny new thermotainer that had been placed alongside but not to begin until I'd seen him go through the doors of the office block across the yard.
That really should have started my internal alarm bell ringing.

Let battle commence.

I attacked the glacier with gusto, my labours aided by the warm summer sun helping to thaw the ice sheet.
I released the first few boxes and stacked them up carefully in the thermotainer next door.
I began to notice that some of the ice was yellow and, as it melted, smelt 'funny'.
I chipped a torn box free and, for the first time, noticed the label.
Yellow triangle (warning sign, not good) 'BIOLOGICAL HAZARD' and, in smaller hand-written words "Bulk Faeces Samples".
I noticed that the pool of melt water I was standing in was also yellow and had bits floating in it.
I began to attack the ice with renewed vigour planning to get the job done and get the f**k out of this nightmare.

The first bag I released was of heavy red polythene and an odd triangular shape.
It had a large warning label on it indicating that the contents were radio-active.
Although I really, really didn't want to I forced myself to read the contents label.
The words on the label are still burnt into my brain, bare in mind that this all happened nearly twenty three years ago. it read:

Sample Type: Canine: Leg: Rear: Left:

There was also some writing about 'isotope decay period' that I didn't understand.

I suddenly became aware of the fact that I really, really needed to visit the lavatory ASAP.

To save sensitive types reading this any further distress I'll just say that mice and rats come in twenty four packs and bottles containing urine or blood samples have a tendency to break if not handled with 'extreme' care (i.e. not hit with a hammer).

I finished the job in two hours 14 minutes (I know this for certain as I'd activated my sports watch's stopwatch facility).
I went to the gatehouse and asked them to let the powers that be know I'd finished the job and wanted to go home.

In the minibus home I recognised a chap I'd worked with on a previous job.
He looked pale and haunted.
'Where y'working?' I asked.
He turned, looked straight in to my eyes and answered.
'The incinerator room'.

I decided that I didn't want to ask him anymore questions.