Q: When did you work at the Drink That Is Like Orange Juice But Does Not Contain Orange Juice (DLIKOJBDNCOJ) bottling plant?
A: The summer before my senior year of college. In 1996; I was 21.
Q: What did they do there?
A: Took a lot of water, took some sugar, put it in bottles, and shipped it out by truck. I would take bottles out of a cardboard box, pull the box over to a hopper …
Q: What’s a hopper?
A: It’s a bin with a hole at the bottom. The bottles fall into the hole and then they’re made upright. Did you see Laverne and Shirley? It’s like that. I took the empty bottles out and dumped them in the hopper, and then they went to be labeled, filled, capped, wrapped.
Q: Where was the factory?
A: In South Brunswick, New Jersey. I went to Rutgers, which is in New Brunswick.
Q: Did a lot of Rutgers people work there?
Q: So did you work with the big jugs of DLIKOJBDNCOJ?
A: We did the smaller DLIKOJBDNCOJ bottles. Like 8-, 12-, or 16-ounce. I can’t remember now. But there was a little variety.
Q: What was the job like?
A: Most of the plant was very automated. I worked on one of the few manual parts. Me and two other guys had to do it all night. On other lines, the pallets would be automatically fed. It was a 12-hour overnight shift. Most people didn’t make it long. Me and these two guys made it for a while.
Q: How long did you work there?
A: About two months.
Q: How old were the guys you worked with?
A: Forty to 45. They had drug problems. One guy was an active heroin addict.
Q: How did you know?
A: He would snort heroin in front of us. Not a lot, but sometimes. He was obviously very high. He’d be nodding off. He’d gone to prison. The other guy had been in trouble with the law over drug addiction. Jamal—the heroin guy—would tell us stories from when he was in jail. He was a fairly nice guy. But if you did something he perceived as wrong, he’d say, “I’m gonna take a box cutter …” He’d done almost 10 years for attempted murder. I would never fuck with him. Because of the heroin, he had bad bone structure and he would hobble around. The one forklift worker from Nigeria would shout, “You’re a cripple!”
Q: How would the guy react?
A: He would get pissed, make threats, that kind of thing.
Q: Did you ever get free DLIKOJBDNCOJ?
Q: Did you go to school at the same time that you worked at the factory?
A: No, I didn’t have the strength to do that.
Q: Did you have to wear a uniform?
A: A hardhat, hairnet, hearing protection. I never begrudged that stuff. It was loud in there. And a little hair in the bottle is bad for business.
Q: Does DLIKOJBDNCOJ contain real orange juice?
A: I don’t think so. I know it has water, acid, sugar, color, flavoring, preservatives. I know it has acid, because you need that to balance the sugar and make it tart.
Q: What made you leave the job?
A: I got fired. That’s the only job I’ve ever been fired from. When I was younger I was pretty left-wing. I had labor struggle in my head. They were having quality-control problems and so they made us sign these quality-control forms about how many bottles we’d processed. I assumed no one looked at them and so I wrote " DLIKOJBDNCOJ sucks" on mine. It was actually a little worse than that, but that’s the gist. The next day we went into our pre-shift meeting. The one manager looked like Edward G. Robinson. He said, “Is this your handwriting?” and I said yes. I didn’t want the two guys I worked with to get in trouble. Those two guys were desperate for jobs.
Q: So you told the guy you wrote on your form.
A: Yeah, and he said, “Tonight’s gonna be your last night.” And I took my hardhat and slid it across the table. I left then. It was very dramatic. The thing is, when you work for a temp agency, you had to get your timecard signed. I went out to my car and got my timecard, but I wasn’t allowed back in the building. I had to have the security guard sign it.
Q: Would you ever work in a factory again?
A: I hope not to.