Thursday, April 12, 2012

Arms on Fire

I love my job.

I love being able to say I love my job because I know there are very few people in the world who can.

Make no mistake, it has taken me a long time to reach this point in my career. But currently I make a decent living. I work in a great office in Santa Monica. There's an indoor pool in the building where I can swim at lunchtime. There's no politicking in the office. And most importantly, I work with a bunch of folks I've known and respected for a very long time.

And we laugh. A lot.

We also pull pranks on each other. In fact, if one of them reads this, I know it will be turned against me in some mean, but harmless, way. I'm OK with that because I relish the justification for a payback.

Of course having a job I love reminds me of the jobs I didn't love.
And here comes the explanation for the photo.

In between summers of my sophomore and junior years of college I started working in the kitchen at Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, NY. I could have put my restaurant experience to use and worked at one of the local eateries but because the hospital was run by the Catholic church and because the unions had some say in the working conditions, Good Sam was paying a dollar more an hour than the minimum wage. At $3.62/hour, I thought I had hit the jackpot.

I didn't.

The first day I showed up, I was given a locker, free use of all the hospital scrubs and a set of arm's length rubber gloves (not unlike the ones in the picture). Then I was told how the kitchen crew rotates responsibilities on a weekly basis. One week I'd be cooking. One week I'd be prepping. One week I'd be doing tray pass. But this week, I'd be scrubbing pots.

I was led to a an industrial sized sink. It was split in two. On the left side of the sink, the pots would soak in sudsy, very hot water. The right side of the sink was for the rinse water. But not just any rinse water. There was a heating element at the bottom of this sink, which was about 1/2 the size of a bathtub. The heating element was to be turned on at all times. And the water on the rinse side had to maintained at a scorching 190 degrees.

Moreover, one of the nuns would come around once an hour to enforce the rigid sanitation standards.

If you hadn't guessed, 190 degrees Fahrenheit is hot. Even through 1/4" thick vulcanized rubber gloves. I was soon to discover how hot, when one of the cooks started yelling for a sauté pan.

There were no clean pans on the rack. And the yelling got louder. There was a sauté pan sitting at the very bottom of the rinse sink but it was not within reach. And the yelling got even louder. So I did what any conscientious young college student would do, I gingerly reached down to snag the pan resting on the heating element. But the impatient cook did not stop yelling.

I was soon to join him in the yelling when my stubby short arms failed me and I leaned over even further into the cauldron of sterile pots. The scolding hot water crested the lip of the rubber gloves and ran down the length of my arms, stinging me from my pits to my fingertips.

What did it feel like? Like Cai Guo-Qiang's Borrowing Your Enemy's Arrows.

Suffice to say, it was good thing I was working in a hospital.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Had no idea you were a female at one time. That explains the nuns. Wow you were hot!