Posted by: tlnemethy | January 15, 2017

Twas the night before when hell broke loose

The morning before Christmas eve (our busiest day before Valentine’s day) I got to work an hour earlier than usual. We had a lot of arrangements on the board for the day, and many more would be coming in soon because no one plans anything out and obviously Christmas eve is not enough of a memorable event to remember to order arrangements early. Grumble.

I immediately started clearing out overnight orders from the printer, a stack that was daunting enough that no one else really wanted to touch it. It took me nearly an hour to input all the orders into our own computer system, but everyone else was already in the back bustling around. I could hear vague snippets of chatter coming from the back, but didn’t bother to listen too hard since it wasn’t meant for me anyways.

Finally when I made my way to my work station and set up shop there I noticed a weird tense silence where there’d once been at least a small hum of talk. Only the radio remained, playing the same list of Christmas songs that played every day.

Sometimes there’s just a weird tension though, so I shrugged it off and started planning what arrangements to tackle first. When I opened the door to the walk-in-cooler though, I realized why there was tension everywhere. The walk in was ungodly hot. It normally hovers around the upper thirties. Chilly but not freezing. But this was like walking into a jungle of humidity. I don’t know how long the cooler had been dead but it was long enough to build up heat that made me uncomfortable, heat that made a stench grow from within. Not the nice pleasant smell of flowers, but the warm, humid smell of long hidden mold growing exponentially. It was cloying.

Taking one passing glance at the shelves piled high with thousands in premade orders, I grabbed my work bucket of greens and entered the silence once again.

I don’t know if you know this, but temperature extremes generally kill cut flowers. Roses blow wide open in the heat like they’re fanning themselves with their petals, lilies turn sheer and frail, alstromeria wilts. Let me tell you, every single on of those premade arrangements had at least those three ingredients.

The repair man did not come quickly.

We moved what we could to the already-packed front coolers and continued as if nothing was wrong.

When he showed up it turned out to be a quick and relatively cheap fix. We internally celebrated as our fingers continued to jab stems into centerpieces. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Within moments the cooler regained a chill, within the hour it was brisk. Though it seemed to be even colder than usual. I used to take my time in the cooler, picking a stem here and there to add to my bouquet. Now it seemed too cold to be in there for any length of time. I grabbed bunches at a time just so I wouldn’t have to go back. I debated putting on my coat. I blew bursts of air from my mouth when I exited. It felt cold.

The next morning, Christmas Eve, I grabbed a bunch of alstromeria from a bucket, quickly jerking them free, but instead of easily coming out I dragged the bucket off the shelf. I stopped, bewildered, pulling once more. Nothing came free. The bucket was frozen solid.

Everything in the cooler that had survived the heat wave had now been frozen.

Not the best time for catastrophic failure at all. But I guess if you’ve got to work Christmas Eve, you might as well work through an apocalypse as well.


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