Q: Tell me about your job.
A: Three summers ago, I worked at an ad agency. It was small — there were five employees. One of my childhood friends worked there and got me the job.
Q: What did you do there?
A: They needed someone to help make pillow packs for one of their clients and they were going to pay me $18 an hour. I wasn’t working at the time so I was like, “OK, glad I got that college degree!”
Their client was a company that makes sweeteners — the little sugar packs you find on tables at the diner. There were five different colors, each representing a different type of sugar. We needed to create little samples for sales guys to leave with potential clients.
Q: What is a pillow pack?
A: They started as flattened plastic envelopes but part of the job was popping them open, making them stuff-able. I’d shove ten sugar packs into each envelope and ta-dah! Pillow pack.
They needed upwards of 25,000 of them within a certain timeframe.
Q: How many packs do you think you made?
A: Overall I could not estimate how many I made. Once I started working on other projects, I’d make them in my downtime. It was never ending. I was swimming in a sea of artificial sweeteners — no shark bites but there were paper/plastic cuts.
Q: What else did you do at the agency? Anything?
A: Yes. They told me they wanted to take on a new client for the agency. I was excited about a distraction from making pillow packs.
And then they said, “We’re going to distribute and sell tuna.”
Q: How did they decide this?
A: The company was five freaking people; I have no idea how they generated more business.
Q: And what were the logistics of the tuna operation?
A: The tuna company was in Florida but they caught the fish in Ecuador and froze it right on the boat to -75°.
Q: And what was your role?
A: Well, on Mondays I constructed boxes and stuffed them with Styrofoam. The client would also send prepaid, pre-printed shipping labels that I’d stick on the boxes.
On Tuesday’s I’d get a shipment of dry ice in preparation for the actual tuna distribution part of all this.
Q: What is dry ice really like? I picture a witch’s brew.
A: Yes. The dry ice came in multiple boxes — in like a huge insulated cart. When you opened up the cart, if you blew into it, all the smoke would come up like a witch’s brew.
I had an axe that I would use to break up the ice.
Q: How big was the axe?
A: It was probably like the length of my forearm. Thank God it was not a tree-splitting axe or something or I would’ve lost a limb.
Each shipment had like 300 to 400 pounds of dry ice.
Q: It sounds dangerous. Is it?
A: You can’t touch it — I had to wear rubber gloves.
If you put the axe on the dry ice it would sizzle. I don’t know why. Not a high pitch sizzle, almost like a medium pitch sizzle.
Q: That’s odd. So you chopped up the ice with the axe.
A: Yes. I needed to measure the dry ice for each individual box it would be packed in. I’d wrap the cut up dry ice into paper — the kind of paper you get at a butcher shop. I’d weigh it, wrap it up in the paper, and then it would go back into the freezer.
Wednesday morning we would get the actual shipment of tuna. It came in a cooling truck. We would take the fish from the truck, bring it inside, and put it into a freezer chest — like the kind of chest you see in a horror movie where they find a dead body.
One particular Wednesday the delivery truck couldn’t fit into our office complex. I met the driver on the side of the highway and we moved 300 pounds of tuna into the backseat and trunk of my Jeep. I’m sure it was a sight to see.
Q: Was the UPS guy hot?
A: No, he was old.
Q: Are you sure? I thought that was a thing.
A: I guess he was decent looking for his age. But he wasn’t my type.
Q: How long did you do this tuna stuff?
A: Probably twelve weeks in a row solid, and it was summertime, and there was no A/C. I would sweat my butt off and I started wearing gym clothes to work. I said, “I’m not wearing jeans and a nice silk shirt if I’m going to be sweating like this.”
Q: Did you ever eat any tuna?
A: The owner’s wife was a pretty good chef and I did try it once and it was actually good. I am by no means a seafood eater but it was pretty good. I guess it was delicious. I don’t eat seafood so I had nothing to compare it to. I had one piece and I was like, “This is good.”
Q: You sound like you learned a lot about tuna.
A: I never in a million years thought I would do this. I make a point to tell people about it when I’m on job interviews. You know how you’re supposed to leave them with an impression of you? I make sure to tell the tuna story.
Q: I think that’s great that they remember you as the tuna girl.
A: I guess that’s better than not being remembered at all.
Download and listen to You Got Jobbed, a podcast based on this column.