Thursday, 8 April 2010

What a Spaceman Had To For A Living No. 1: Working With Vegetables.

I have, at various periods in my life, had to stray from my chosen career path of being an 'idle layabout dreamer' to keep body and soul together.
This necessity has often lead me into the clutches of employment agencies.
On delivering my body up to these organisations I have always made it clear that I will not work in any food processing that involves the carcasses of animals.
I don't have any 'ethical' problems about arranging animals into handy bite-sized chunks I'm just a little bit squeamish you understand.
I had no objection, at that time, to working with vegetables.

During one hot summer, to my recollection there has only been one in the 52 years I've been alive, I was offered the opportunity to work at a factory turning potatoes in to all manner of exciting products one might reasonably expect to find in a local supermarket freezer section.

So, let's start with the P.P.E. (personal protection equipment) considerations.
I was asked to supply myself with a pair of steel toe-capped wellington boots.
As I've shown in an earlier post, I have gigantic feet and hence I need gigantic boots.
To stop the boots chaffing my calves I wore thick knee-length hiking socks.
I was given a white coat emblazoned with the company's logo.
I suspect this was because, should I have attempted to escape the factory, the police would have known where to return me.
As the process was 'wet' I was given a rubber apron that ended just where my wellington boots started thus allowing them to be filled with 'process' water.
A safety helmet (company logo'd) was a must if one wanted to avoid being rendered unconscious by the jungle of jauntily angled pipes, valves and pumps conveniently arranged at head height.
The machinery made such a terrific din that I had to insert foam ear-plugs and then place ear defenders over the top of them.
The upshot of this essential precaution being that my own heart beat was the only thing I could hear.
Safety goggles. If anyone should suggest that wearing goggles is 'cool' let them try wearing them for a 12 hour shift.
A pair of yellow 'Marigold' rubber gloves.
A dust mask to prevent any accidentally ejected phlegm or snot from fusing the producer's D.N.A. with a potato and thus creating some kind of hideous mutant potato waffle being.
A blunt melon baller.

I was shown, by a complex series of hand gestures, to my work station.
A conveyor belt lead away from the HUGE rotating drum that removed the potato's outer skin.
The potatoes were propelled down the conveyor belt on a tide of stinking brown water past my work station.
My function, along with five other drones, was to make sure that no potato was allowed past with it's eyesight intact.
I was expected to remove the potato's 'eyes' with the melon baller.

To my right, a man in his fifties just made redundant from an accountancy firm.
To my left, a heavily tattooed man (his eyes currants in the fruit cake he had for a brain) who had just been released from prison.
Opposite me, directly in my line of sight, a clock.

Let battle commence.

From the corner of my eye I noticed that every joint in every pipe had a ghostly white 'stalagmite' of starch beneath it that shivered under the influence of the vibrations produced by surrounding equipment.
Some of these stalagmites were at least 4 feet in height which gave the impression, to me at least, that we were being over-seen by a race of sinister wobbling aliens.

There were brief periods of respite from this sensory deprivation.
Two 10 minute 'smoke breaks' and one 20 minute lunch break.
If one wanted to take advantage of the smoke breaks by actually having a cigarette one had to remove any item of clothing with the company's logo on it, walk off the site to a spot beyond the front gates and make sure that one wasn't visible to any passing traffic lest one should bring shame on the company.
As it took 6 minutes to walk from the work station to the discreet smoking area and 6 minutes to walk back smoking was discouraged to all but Olympic sprinting strip-tease champions.

At our first lunch break together I sat beside the redundant accountant and was trying to engage him in conversation when I noticed he was crying.
'What have I done to deserve this?' he sobbed.

I decided at that moment to add vegetables to the list of things I was no longer prepared to work with.


Anonymous said...

If you remember to wash your hands in food service, you'll always have clean hands with which to cover your eyes or plug ears when the need arises to cover up the distasteful.

OutaSpaceMan said...

Wise council indeed Mr. Odyssey.
I hope you understand why I never 'want fries with that' ever again.