Q: How old were you?
Q: Was this a summer job while in college?
A: Yes. Actually I was 19, I think. At the time, I was a public relations major, just like all the football players.
Q: Did you ever play football?
A: No. Actually I played flag football, does that count?
A: So it was a summer job. A good friend of mine said there was this job where you’d make over $100 a day and you’d work like four hours. This raised a few red flags, like for one, why wasn’t he doing it?
He had a job at a gas dock. It wasn’t $100 a day but he sat around all day on a dock. I used to visit him and he’d get treated poorly by guys on boats who wanted to look cool. There was one guy who yelled at him, “Hey gas boy!” That just sticks in my brain. There was another guy who wanted to hold the gas pump but who had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and wouldn’t put it out.
Q: What was your job like?
A: The job was in South Seattle where the trains come in. In the morning, these freight trains arrived, and there were teams of two at every box car.
Q: Was it all men?
A: Yes, except for me.
Q: Ha ha.
A: The doors would open and the box car was packed tight with these boxes of frozen chicken. They were stacked floor to ceiling. You would unload the boxes onto a palate that got taken by a forklift guy.
You worked at a breakneck pace because as soon as you were done, you were done for the day. The guy you were working with was better, stronger, and more motivated than you.
Q: You thought you’d be capable of hard, physical labor?
A: I thought I’d get yoked. I’d go back to college and get so much pussy.
Q: What were the hours?
A: You had to be there at 4:30 a.m. but by 9 a.m. you were done.
Q: Was it cold?
A: Yes, the boxcars were refrigerated. But you were on a platform in a warehouse. You wore steel-toed boots. I had these industrial gloves that kept your hands warm and also had grips.
I remember on day two, my last day on the job, the gloves were shredded. It was an EXTREMELY hard job.
Q: Did your partner get pissed that you were so slow?
A: He HATED me. At one point I dropped the boxes and was pinned to the ground and he just stood there and laughed.
I hated him and he hated me. Every minute I screwed up was costing him time and money.
Q: Any opportunities to get free chickens?
Q: So it was grueling.
A: Day one I was there at 5 in the morning. They were all smoking cigarettes but I was too shy to ask to have one.
The train was late—it didn’t get there till 8 o’clock. You were not paid hourly, you were paid by boxcar. In my dumb college self-righteous way I was like, “This is bullshit!” But that was how it worked.
The whole thing sucked. It was such a frantic pace and I was a super-duper broken cog in the machine.
Q: So how did it all end?
A: Day one I was done by 9 or 10 a.m. but by 5 o’clock that night I was like, “I am done. I’m going to bed.”
Day two the guy showed up hating me rather than just learning to hate me, like he’d done the first day.
After day two I ate this Thai food and got violent food poisoning. I didn’t eat it for years after that, it was so bad. So it was legit when I called the boss and told him I wasn’t coming in. He was kind of upset. He said, “You know when you do this you leave your partner all by HIMSELF.”
I thought, “When I show up tomorrow the guys are gonna fuckin shank me.”
I remember where I was when I made that call. And on the spot I don’t even know where it came from but I just said, “Yeah, you know what, I don’t think I’m coming in tomorrow either. This isn’t going to work.”
And it was like the more pissed he got, the more confident I was feeling. I was contrite.
The guy who got me the job, I saw him a few times after that and he’d say, “Hey man, can I help get you a job?”
And I remember when I told my mom she was like, “That’s fine honey.”
Q: Would you ever let your kids do this job?
A: Fuck no. No way. I don’t even have a single hint of, “I learned this or that.” It was miserable.