Posted by: tlnemethy | August 2, 2012

Naknek Day 5

It may only be my 5th day but people are beginning to show signs of severe mental deterioration. Manv  fall asleep while working, complain of various painful ailments, quit showing up, or even resort to creating small sculptures of salmon remains. I have seen these tiny Castaway-esque “Wilsons” and they are both creative and disturbing. When the fillet is sent through the de-boning machine it often clogs the  Imageblade with the scattered matchsticks of salmon bones. These thin bones still have meat clinging to them, but that just adds to the effect. A baseball sized shape is formed with the easily mold-able remnants and the conveyor belt sweeps it down the line, with every worker adding tiny signatures to the creature. Some blood clot eyes here, a gut smile there, we make do with what we find on the line. Once they reach the graders at the end they generally place the completed sculpture on the control box for the conveyor belt, allowing it to perch high above the belts where each line can compare their own and silently pick favorites.

I almost died walking through the plant again by slipping on salmon goo, aptly dubbed pink slime. Because the  conveyor belts are on risers, we must  walk underneath them to enter and exit the plant. I made the mistake of not wearing a hood the  first time I walked in and got a shirt full of pink slime all over me. It drips from the undersides of the belts, from the metal grating of the floor, gets propelled by the blast hose or a worker annoyed at having so much stuck to his gloves. Duck your head and tuck your hair because you will get hit by something. I tend to more than most and I don‘t understand it. My supervisor checked on my progress today and as I turned to talk to her she noticed my utter devotion to decorating myself with pink slime. She wrinkled up her nose and gave me the once over before saying, “You dirty. How you get so dirty?” The question was apparently rhetorical because she waited for no answer and instead turned a vicious blast of water on my bibs with no notice. After startling briefly, I swiped gingerly at my front to help encourage the slime off my raingear.

My left foot swelled up at the 8 hour mark of my shift. We had just returned from a break and I didn’t want to draw any attention to myself so I just wiggled my toes hoping they had just fallen asleep or something. When I felt the distinctive pins and needles I knew that they had not fallen asleep,  but had instead lost circulation. I had an inner struggle with myself over making a dash to the bathroom to remove my sock and let my foot expand a bit more. I was going to decline and just let my foot turn black and hopefully sever itself while I worked, but my glove slashed open on an errant fishbone and I finally had an excuse to leave the line. ImageCiting a need for new gloves, I limped awkwardly to the gear room, sat on a slimy bench, and removed my sock. I threw the sock into a “secret heap,” really just my extra pair of pants, and hoped it wouldn’t get pilfered. I spent the  rest of my shift barefoot in the one boot, and it was glorious. I think the freezing temperatures helped with the swelling. My roomie offered  me some dubiously obtained stashes of medication.

Kind of sucky conditions here, and the morale is circling the drain. But on the plus side I’ve definitely gotten skinnier because the food is horrible and constant weariness keeps me from doing anything in my free time besides sleep.

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