My worst job? That’s like asking what’s worse, a stick in the eye or getting your weenie caught in your zipper? I’ve had so many godawful jobs, I feel like I’ve been to Hell and back. Actually, I have been. No, really. More about that in a minute, but first, let me tell you about my first worst job.
Growing up, I spent a lotta time on the farm, and it gave me a real appreciation for what it takes to put food on the table. I've picked everything from apples to zucchini, and I assure you, topping onions is one of the worst jobs in the world. You crawl around on your hands and knees dusk to dawn in oozing black muck, yank onions from the filthy ground, lop the tops off with dull topping shears, and let the onions drop into a heavy oak crate you drag behind you all day long. Are we having fun yet?
It doesn’t take long before you get a nasty blister along your index finger and thumb from those dull topping shears. It gets worse. Every now and then, you slightly miscalculate and jam a sliver of onion up under a fingernail. Owww! Dammit!
The combination of onion juice and filthy black dirt starts to react quickly, and soon you have a nasty, pussy infection under the nail. Then you reach down into the muck and – Screeeam! You drive another sliver of onion under that same throbbing, inflamed nail. The Chinese used a similar method to torture people.
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Topping onions was one of many reasons they couldn’t keep me down on the farm, and I decided to go to college. Foolishly (my primary modus operandi), I dropped out and went to work in the foundry. Remember the opening scene in The Deerhunter? That was me.
There are no good jobs in the foundry; I know, I had ‘em all – including unloading dusty box-cars filled with coke with a pitchfork and unloading railroad cars filled with 50 lb. iron pigs, unloading them one pig at a time for days in a row. But the worst job in the foundry was shakeout. Come with me while I revisit Hell.
It’s July or August, and it’s 110º in the foundry. You’re dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, a wool-hat pulled down over your ears, and a scarf wrapped around your neck – oh, and you’re also wearing big ol’ asbestos gloves and heavy, steel-toed foundry boots.
No, you’re not crazy, you need all that shit for protection because you’re running a machine that does exactly what it’s name says – it shakes very hot clods of nasty black foundry sand away from very hot metal castings. They fall off the core and get shaken into a very hot heavy metal barrel you have to switch-out when it gets full.
Did I mention everything is very hot? It’s even hotter because hot dirt clods are flying all down the front of you – which is why you need all those clothes from head to toe. Speaking of which – a very hot clod just went down inside your work-boot!!! Smell that burning flesh? That’s why foundry boots have no laces.
While all this is going on, another foundry rat – who is frequently half (or more) drunk is behind your back with a bull-ladle filled with 500 pounds of molten steel – molten equals 3000º by the way. Between ducking the hot clods flying down the front of you, and the molten steel sparks that splash all around in back of you, your stress level can get a bit high. Which is exactly what guys do in order to work in such a place – get high, that is.
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I ‘spose I could also whine about having to make hog-lice compound at the pesticide place because having a damaged olfactory nerve, I was the only one who didn’t vomit from the smell. The fact I couldn’t smell it didn’t keep the incredible headaches away, though, and of course the smell followed me home.
Or I could bitch about slicing the shit out of my hands with paper-cuts working at the corrugated-box plant -- we weren't allowed to wear gloves for safety reasons -- go figure. Oh, then there was that godawful job at the tuna packing plant ... I know why Charlie Tuna got no respect ... man, could I put you off Chicken of the Sea ... and then there was the boat works where they made me ... but, hey, you know me, I don’t like to complain.
©2008 Tom Cordle