Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass- it is about learning to dance in the rain.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Odd and Smelly Job

I'm moving back in time again to College. The smelliest job ever. This job started at 11 pm and ended at 7 am. Rough hours when I had classes all day. It was one of those "I have to work my way through college" jobs. At the cannery--in California.

It was tomato season. I was in the first batch of sorters. we were standing just inside these huge garage doors where the trucks, big dump trucks, came with loads of tomatoes and deposited them in a huge bin. They came to us on metal chain-link belts. Those tomatoes fresh from the field, with chunks of mud, some smashed, some rotten, some perfect. Our job was to grab all of the bad ones, chunks of mud, rotten tomatoes, smashed red fruit and toss them down garbage chutes.

The others we were to rough sort, large ones on the right, small ones on the left. All of this happened on the third floor of the plant as that belt moved relentless on. Some nights it felt like the scene in the chocolate factory from the old "I Love Lucy" episode.

Below us the tomatoes were sorted yet again, then steamed, peeled and placed in cans mostly with machinery that worked noisily through the night. The smell of warm stewed tomatoes floated up to join with the smell of freshly squashed and rotted tomatoes mixed with the smell of mud.

Visually, as I worked I could see the chain link belt moving both directions. Since it was open mental work, the belt moved forward on the top and on the bottom looped in the opposite direction. Dizzying stuff at 3 a.m. As I'd begin to get sleepy, my hands would work more and more slowly. Just before I fell into a complete stupor, the floorwalker would yell, "Look alive there! keep those hand moving." Really. She sounded like an army sergeant. At the time I even found it funny, she was so stereotypical; I was so sleepy!

Neither picture is accurate. The one on the right is closer though, than the one on the left. I promise that in addition to being smelly, it was significantly rustic. Although the picture is of fish cannery, tomatoes come a close second to fish when it comes to bad smell!! Our conditions were as primitive as the ones on the right. It was a rugged place!!

It took at least ten years before I could tolerate the smell of cooked tomatoes again. Today? I do love a bowl of tomato basil soup and usually eat without even a bit of memory of the cannery days.


His Girl said...

what a fab post! i am loving hearing all these cool details!

Marina said...

I have always love home grown tomatoes but I can understand why you did like the smell for so many years ") you sure do keep

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