14 Days in Hell
A Recollection of My Worst Job Ever
I once had a job working for a company that bent steel rebar into various shapes for the construction industry. The company mainly hired ex-cons. I was okay with that. Everybody needs a second chance, right?
On my first day I realized I was the token squeaky clean employee. I was an out of place 145 pound weakling among 250 pound heavily tattooed big muscled ex-cons.
I felt like a fish out of water. I was a fish out of water. I had to be the butt of somebody’s cruel joke. Either God or the guy that hired me. I’m not sure which one.
These were men who for any number of years had nothing better to do than to work out with heavy weights every day of the week while waiting for their time in the slammer to come to an end.
My first assignment was working on a machine with a guy named Leon. Leon was a bad ass. He had a scar that ran across his left cheek just below his eye. His voice sounded like he had a bad case of strep. Probably from being punched in the throat one too many times would be my guess. He didn’t seem too bright but he knew math. At least enough to figure out how to set up the machine we we working on. He may have been the only guy there who could count to ten without using his fingers.
As for the rest of them, seems the favorite number going around was one. They liked to show each other how good they were at counting that high. Although they did have to use their finger to do it.
When Leon needed to pee, he didn’t waste company time going to the restroom. He stepped through a nearby hole in the buildings corrugated sheet metal siding and peed on the side of the building.
Leon had no class, but then, he wasn’t alone.
After two weeks, the hard labor and heavy metal had made every muscle in my skinny body hurt like hell. I didn’t complain. There was no sympathy to be had among my coworkers.
One day I was reassigned to work with a guy named Bubba. (I’m not making this up)
Bubba had words crudely tattooed on his neck. Done by a prison buddy with ink from a ball point pen no doubt. I didn’t have the guts to ask him about it. We didn’t talk much. He took a disliking to me from the moment we met. He almost broke my fingers when he shook my hand at our introduction. I’m certain it was intentional. His upper lip was quivering when he did it.
Bubba ran a hydraulic cutting machine. At the push of a button this machine could cut a two inch thick piece of steel rebar like it was cutting through soft tissue. Pushing the button. That was Bubba’s job.
The job for my skinny ass was to take a fifty foot piece of solid steel rebar and jerk one end of it with enough force to cause the other end of the bar to jump up onto the rollers. Bubba would roll it into position and push the button.
All went well with the small stuff. Then we got an order to cut some two inch rebar. An overhead crane moved a fifty foot bundle of about twenty bars into place. Each bar was at least twice my weight. I grabbed the end of the first bar.
It was all I could do to lift it without giving myself a hernia.
No way in hell was I going to jerk it hard enough to do anything.
Bubba stood and watched with pure enjoyment at my inability to move these heavy bars. After letting me struggle for a couple of minutes he couldn’t take it any more. He made some remark about my lack of ability to move the bar into position for him as he pushed me out of the way.
He grabbed the steel bar and shook it like a wet noodle landing it right where it needed to go. He then proceeded to throw insults my way and belittle me while he did his job of pushing the button. I stood there and took his insults. I’m not a glutton for verbal abuse. I just needed the job.
After the shift had ended, my supervisor wanted to speak with me in his office. He reluctantly informed me that I wasn’t making the grade and they were cutting me loose. I guess the joke had ran its course.
On the outside I acted disappointed. On the inside I was singing hallelujah.
My time in hell had been served.