This week's Sunday Scribblings topic is "First Job, Worst Job, Dream Job". Being the darkish sould I am, I've decided to write about the single worst day of work I ever had, doing the worst job I was ever assigned.
I did this job when I was a freshman in college over one of our holidays. I think it was Friday of Thanksgiving weekend. I was working at the Zinc Plant of the Bunker Hill Company. Uncle Bunker was very good about giving college students work during breaks from school and, on this particular day, I was an extra, so I didn't do my usual job of stripping zinc.
I got a job that needed to be done from time to time and that I'd never heard of anyone else doing.
At the Zinc Plant, the zinc was produced in electrolytic cells which had a solution of sulfuric acid running through them, with zinc particles in the solution. Thanks to a high electric charge, zinc collected on a cathode.
This process created waste, a slow building sulphuric acid sludge that collected below the cells in launders. These launders had to be cleaned.
My worst day of work ever was cleaning a launder of black sulfuric acid besotted sludge.
My shift boss took me to my work place. "Here, you'll need this shovel. Here, put on this rain gear." The rain gear was bright yellow, heavy. "I'll bring the ladder," he said.
Quietly, I gulped.
We went to a launder. The shift boss put the ladder down the launder for me, about six feet down. I started to climb down.
"Wait. I'll have to hand you the shovel. There's barely room down there for you. You go down there and get situated and I'll hand you the shovel."
I began my descent. The shift boss turned on a dim, naked light bulb so I could see a little bit, and when I got to the bottom, I stepped into the ankle deep sludge. My shoulders nearly touched each side of the launder. I had barely any room in front of me or behind me.
"It's kind of shitty down there, but do the best you can to shovel that shit and toss it up here. It's kind of tight, but you'll figure it out."
It was shitty down there. It smelled like rotten eggs. It was hot. The raincoat, which protected me from slow drips of sludge above me, was awkward. My footing was not secure, but, I didn't have anywhere to fall. I figured out how to angle the shovel and get scoops of the sludge and move them just over my head into a pile on the walkway the ladder leaned against.
I got the launder sufficiently clean. At least I shoveled enough out to reveal the wooden floor the sludge had piled on.
It wasn't an all day job. I finished before noon and went to eat my lunch, knowing I'd have some other extra job to do for the rest of my shift.
I went to the lavatory to clean up before I ate lunch. I noticed in the mirror that a spot of sludge was on my face. I tore off a paper towel to wipe off the black spot.
I wiped it off.
The skin over my upper jaw bone went with it.
I nearly shit.