The hardest job I ever had(and the one that changed my life the most)

Back in the summer of 1987 I was a neophyte to the world of hard work. I had just graduated from high school and was headed to the University of Georgia in the fall but I had a whole summer of nothing to do so my father suggested I apply for a job at the company he worked at.

My father was the head of Human Resources at this company so the odds were pretty high that I would get a job. Did I mention that he worked for the largest dairy in the area so they processed quite a large amount of milk as well as other products.

So I went ahead and worked on my half page resume which included my 1 month pizza job and 3 summers of cutting lawns and submitted it for a summer job. And guess what, I got the job!

So working at the dairy starts pretty early. I actually had to be at work at 6am. So that was a bit of a shock from not even having to be at school until 7:30. So my first day was going thru a little orientation in the morning and then I met my boss at lunchtime to go over what I would be doing that summer. I found out I would be working on the five gallon bulk machine as a catcher.

The five gallon machine would fill a bag full of five gallons of milk(all percentages and chocolate of course), orange drink, fruit punch, lemonade, and on certain days frosty mix for Wendy’s. Once the bag was full, it would be dropped onto a conveyer belt that would travel to the ‘catcher’ who would attempt to grab the bag, place the bag into a specially designed milk crate that would have to be picked up and stacked five high on another conveyor that would go into the cooler to be put on the milk trucks for delivery.

So my first full day was quite a learning experience. I realized quickly that the five gallon machine would randomly not put the lids on the bag tightly and when you went to grab them you could get doused with whatever product was in the bag pretty easily. I also learned that 5 gallons of liquid in a bag is pretty heavy and when wet could be a pretty slippery thing to grab. And after a couple of spills, it got pretty easy to slip in the area you were working in.

But as bad as the job sounds it did have some perks. I got to drink fresh, ice cold milk right off the line and all the ice cream I could eat. I was also done with my shift at 3pm so I had my afternoons free to do a whole lot of nothing.

So this job was hard labor. I would grab, pull and stack nearly 1500 five gallon bags a shift. I would come home completely wiped out and my mom would stop me at the door and make me strip down because the smell of 1%, 2%, whole, and chocolate milk as well as the assorted orange, fruit punch, and lemonade mix as well as the stench of a teenage boy was a little overwhelming. For some reason though it didn’t bother me so much.

As the summer progressed I continued doing this job because I was making ok money and I didn’t want to let my dad down because he got me the job. One funny memory I had was when I decided to walk down to the Krystal hamburger restaurant to grab lunch during my 30 minute lunch break. I remember walking in, ordering, and sitting down to eat my lunch. I started noticing people moving away from where I was sitting and then the manager walked up to me and asked me if I wouldn’t mind taking my food to go because customers were complaining how I smelled. I quickly grabbed my food and left because I was kind of embarrassed. All the other times I went there I got my order to go.

At the end of the summer I was very happy to be going off to school and not continuing my work on the line. The biggest kick I got was on my last day on the job. The plant manager took me off to the side and wished me the best and told me that most full grown men only lasted a week or so as the ‘catcher’ and that he typically only hired temps for the job. He couldn’t believe I had gone the whole summer without quitting.

Now that I’m much older and look back at that summer 30 years ago, I know that working my butt off for those 3 months had a huge impact on the future me. Learning how to grind through things even though you are mentally and physically wiped out has helped me to get through many a task I’ve run into in my work and personal life.

The last thing I want to do is thank my Dad. I don’t know for sure if he told the plant manager to put me in that job but I want to thank him for giving me that opportunity to work. I definitely learned the value of persevering through hard times. :).

Thanks, Pop!