When I was getting low on money, I would go down to the unemployment office and look for a day job or temporary fill in work. Once I got a job driving around and administering medical questionnaires to people out the boonies, and another time I got a job at an egg factory. Many, many eggs and not a chicken anywhere in sight. But the eggs were brought in on racks in big trucks. Then they were cleaned because they had chicken shit all over them. Then they were candled to make sure the eggs weren’t bloody or didn’t have a little chicken in them. These eggs were sold to people who make cookies and stuff like that, so who knows, maybe every now and then a person gets a little ground up chicken embryo in a cookie.
Uuuummm, uuummm good!
Then the eggs were packed in big brown boxes because these particular eggs were being sent to feed the troops in Viet Nam.
The chicken factory was pretty far inland and hot. I wasn’t there long enough to get to know the people; they were mostly women and Mexican Americans. The main topic of conversation in the coffee room was how nobody could eat chicken any more. Somebody would say, “I drove by this barbeque place and it smelled good. But then I remembered it was chicken.” Or: “I haven’t touched a piece of chicken in a year.” Or: “Even thinking about chicken makes me want to gag.” I couldn’t quite figure it since there were no chickens there; but as I said the place was hot and was rank with the smell of chicken shit.
The other topic of conversation was the woman, who quite recently, got her hair caught in the conveyer belt and was scalped. Contrary to popular belief, the act of scalping a person, though quite painful, does not kill a person, though I supposed if one remained scalped for very long infection would set in and one would die. But they saved this woman’s scalp and they eventually got it back on her, though she had not returned to work.
I worked there for a couple of weeks I guess for minimum wage doing whatever they told me to do. I helped unload the trucks. The eggs came in flats that were stuck in racks that were about six feet high and had wheels on them, so you could push them around to where they had to go. And I did a lot of sweeping and washing stuff down with a hose to keep down the stink. I wanted to do the candling where you stood at the end of the line and a bright light would make the inside of the egg visible so you could tell if it had blood or not. But I never go to do that job since it perhaps required an expertise I did not have.
One day, they had to move a truck away from the dock for some reason, and as they pulled it away, the truck went up a slight incline in the blacktopped lot, and all of a sudden rack after rack after rack of eggs came falling out of the back of the truck. Somebody had forgotten to refasten the restraining chain. Man what a mess. The whole lot turned into a giant omelet and within a matter of minutes, it seemed, every fly within a square mile had gotten the message that plenty of food was available. So I was sent out to hose and started to wash down the lot.
I never saw the owner of the place. It was run by the “foreman,” a skinny white guy who went around telling people what to do and how to do it. When he saw that omelet, he went berserk. He started swearing at the top of his lungs. Spit came flying out of his mouth. He picked up things and threw them. H jumped up and down and pounded his feet on the pavement. He got red in the face and I thought he was going to have a fucking convulsion. I had never seen anything like it.
I had heard the phrase “straw boss” and really hadn’t understood what it meant. This guy was a straw boss; he gave orders like he was the boss, but the orders, whatever they were, really came from his boss. He had no power but what his positioned conferred on him, and if things got fucked up, like with the omelet, he could scream and curse and maybe fire somebody, but he would be the one that ultimately got the shaft from his boss. His fury arouse from his impotence.
Me, I hadn’t been anywhere near that particular truck.