Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Dodgy Jobs

My previous post probably requires (or deserves) a bit of explanation, specifically, the dodgy jobs (there are a few more, but these were ones that popped into my mind):

Kitchen Hygiene Operative, Butlin's, Clacton
This was a student summer job after my first year at Polyversity. Deeply thrilling, it was: I was part of a crew that cleaned the football-pitch-sized kitchen at this 'holiday camp' three times a day. I remember having to climb inside six-foot diameter, double-skinned stainless steel soup kettles to clean them, sqeegeeing acres of floor, and being stripped naked by my friendly colleagues on my last day there.

Temporary Prison Probation Officer, Liverpool
Slight misnomer there: another student summer job, working for a building co-operative in Liverpool. One of their projects was the conversion of part of Walton Cemetery into a City Farm. Some bright spark had the idea of getting tame prisoners from the jail next door to help out with labouring, and I was the mug who was put in charge of that. I actually had to sign a receipt each day when I picked half-a-dozen crims up from the jail, and the wardens would get really upset if I didn't bring them all back at the end of the day! I only lost one guy for a few hours: it was his birthday and he snuck off to the pub...

Dehydrated Vegetable Packer, Batchelor's, Sheffield
The vegetables were dehydrated, not me. Yet another student job, this one while I still lived at the fambly home. Batchelor's had traditionally bussed in casual labour from our village during the summer when they had gigatons of fresh veg that had to be dehydrated and packed for rehydration and canning during the rest of the year. Put me off canned peas for life, so it did.

Cleat Bender, British Aerospace, Weybridge
After completing a one-year Foundation Course in Art and Design, I decided to take a couple of years out of education (the term 'gap year' had not been invented then). I did an assortment of jobs, but BAe was one of the most 'interesting'. My actual job title was 'brake press operator'. I'd done this job previously in a factory that made steel office furniture - but everything I did there involved putting 90° bends into pre-cut sheets of mild steel, and I would have to do 100 an hour or so. BAe was completely different. In this press shop, you worked on small batches of metal. Maybe a couple dozen in a batch. They were always small pieces - cleats: the brackets you use to fix a bit of skin to a rib of an aeroplane. And the angles were also bizarre, things like 77.2°, or 16.75°. Usually the material was mild or stainless steel, but I remember once doing some titanium: this had to be heated in a furnace and then rushed down to the press shop in an insulated box on wheels and pressed while hot. You only got one chance at this - if the angle wasn't right first time, it was binned (I never knew the value of titanium at the time!).

But it was a hugely boring job: I would get maybe 2 or 3 batches of stuff to do each day, and it would usually take half an hour to do each batch. Drove me nuts, it did.

The things we do for money!