Thursday, September 24, 2009

Slice of Lime-Dirty Job Edition

I still haven't sorted out the issues with my camera. Aside from starting my first paycheck collecting job in 19 years I have been sick with a really nasty cold. Those situations along with the early morning carpool runs have run me down quite a bit. Hopefully, next week I'll have things working. This week you'll get a story instead of a picture.

I quite enjoy the show Dirty Jobs. I get a kick out of watching Mike Rowe engage in all manner of disgusting, filthy mucking about while tossing out side comments which offer an amusing perspective on his activities. Mike is fairly easy on the eyes too, I'll admit. Mostly, it's the humor and good nature as he engages in horrifying sorts of work that brings me back when I finally get control of the remote in my house.

So this week, I thought I'd share about one (yes, there are more) dirty job I used to hold. Back in college I was in need of some income. I found out a local nursing home was hiring so I applied...to the laundry room. This might not sound too bad. After all, how hard is it to toss laundry in one machine, wait a while then move it to another machine, wait some more, then fold it all. Easy peasy.

True enough, that's not hard work. However, now you have laundry not just for a single nuclear family. You have laundry for a couple hundred people. Now let me ask you, have you ever had to strip a bed because someone vomited or wet it or, heaven forbid, had a hideous case of the runs? Now multiply the incidence of that occurrence many tens of times. Imagine piles and piles of sheets and towels full of every manner of secretion and excretion a human body can produce. Now sort them all. Please remember that you have to fully open each one to make sure the floor aides have shaken out all chunks because we don't put chunks in the washers. If you get chunky sheets you send the linens back and an argument ensues, the linens sit and ferment until the aides get around to them and then they are just a wee bit riper, though less chunky, when they come back. Mmmm, sounds good right?

Oh, I almost forgot. There's always a patient in isolation somewhere too. That means they have some sort of highly infectious problem so you have to do special things with their laundry. That's actually not too bad though. All their dirty things go in a special bag that is tied and thrown in a dedicated washer with special chemicals. The bag dissolves in the washer so you don't have to open it up and expose anyone to whatever pathogens are procreating in the dirty laundry.

So you have collected and sorted all the pooped up, peed up, slimed up, gooed up sheets, towels, and gowns. You have sorted them all one at a time wafting the fragrant aroma all about the laundry area as you shook each one. You've washed it all. Now it's time for the dryers. Hey, everything is clean now, this should be a gas. Well, that's exactly what it is. The dryer room has 4 gigantic gas fueled industrial dryers. The room is only big enough to fit the dryers, a counter that runs the length of the opposite wall, and a space between the dryers and counter just big enough to open the doors to the dryers. You must keep the entry and exit doors to this room closed. There is no AC. Rules also state there is to be not food or drink in the laundry area. The temperature reaches roughly 110 F every night. Since you work second shift and the supervisor isn't around and you really have no interest in conducting experiments as to the effects of dehydration you and your shift partner say, "Screw the no drinks policy" but you keep to water so if it spills it won't stain anything. You each use a 1.5 quart liner to a bedside pitcher to fill with ice and drink as it melts. You will go through 3 or 4 of those a shift and sweat most of it out into your uniform.

Hot enough for you? You must be getting hungry too by now. Here, let's go to the break room. It's a dim, smelly, nicotine stained hole. You may not leave the building or go anywhere but the breakroom. You are one of exactly 2 people in the whole place who doesn't smoke and this is in the days when smoking in buildings was still permissible. When you go home, in addition to carrying the faint whiff of urine and feces mixed with copious amounts of your own sweat you will also bear all the enticing aroma of an ashtray. "Hi, honey! I'm home!"

The one bright spot of the shift is when you deliver the personal laundry that the girls on first shift washed, dried, and folded. You take it to the room of each resident, some of whom are delighted to have someone come into their room. Others won't notice you at all. Still others will be quite certain you've come to steal everything they have. You've got some mixed feelings about this whole process. It's really great to get out of the stinky sweat pit but it's a little sad to be up on the floor. It reminds you why you opted to take the laundry job instead of an aide job, especially when you see and aide struggling to clean an ornery patient who has pooped up the bed for the third time. You prefer dealing with the sheets when it's not a wrestling match and AFTER they are de-chunked. That said, you do like being able to briefly visit with some of the residents and you always try to remember that their rooms are their homes so you show due respect in as pleasant and friendly a way as possible.

The day comes when you are going to be student teaching and are told not to juggle even a part time job with that endeavor so you give notice. During the exit interview you are asked if you might consider coming back during the summer. You want to make perfectly clear you have zero intention of that without being rude so you reply, "I expect to be leaving the country for a long time."

Now it's your turn. Tell me about a dirty job you've had. If you don't have a dirty one just tell me about one you'd never return to.

21 comments:

James Goodman said...

Wow, that has got to be one of he worst jobs I could imagie... Sadly, I have no dirty job stories to share that would even come close in comparison, lol.

snowelf said...

My mom is a CNA and I hear a lot of the horror stories from her, but I've never gotten the laundry side. yikes.

I worked in a hotel as a check in clerk. You would think this would be an easy job, but I had a very mean boss. She yelled at me about everything. She showed me how to use the phone once, then screamed at me and told me I was stupid for not remembering. It was just bad. I finally just didn't show up one day because I was just done. I moved on to much better things.

--snow

G-Man said...

A slice of Lime...With no slice!!
Thats just not right...

Jazz said...

Shudder

Desmond Jones said...

As soon as I saw 'nursing home' and 'laundry', I just cringed. Altho, honestly, you made it sound even worse than I'd imagined. "Honey, I'm home!" just had me on the floor. . .

But hey, at least you got to watch the pathogens procreate. . . Live bacteria-porn. . .

As far as my own nasty jobs go, I blogged about a couple of 'em here. . .

There was also the pots-n-pans job I had in the dorm, while I was in college. The tanks were kept at 180F, and the rubber gloves we had were about two inches longer than the tank was deep. So when we were given a load of cookie sheets to wash, we had to be VERY careful about picking up the ones at the bottom of the tank, lest 180-deg water go cascading down the insides of our gloves. A mistake which all of the pot-guys made exactly once, usually in the first couple weeks of freshman year. The bakery was right next to our work-station, and the bakers would get really annoyed with us when, in our scalded panic, we would fling our practically-boiling-water-filled gloves thru their area. . .

choochoo said...

I'm a microbiologist (almost). I work with the kind of bugs that live in turds.

Michelle H. said...

Love Mike Rowe's Dirty Jobs. Yours is pretty high ranking. I have nothing dirty of my own, although I'd never return to the telemarketer one I once had. Shudder...

74WIXYgrad said...

I was once a night aide at an institution for the profoundly mentally retarded, and had to deal with the type of laundry you described. Also with people my size permenantly locked into the terrible two's. Urinating, smearing, spitting, and masturbating were some of their favorite activities. I also drove a bus there and one time I was waiting for some of the residents to get on when one, who happened to be a hepatitis B carrier, entered the bus and spit in my face.

Moannie said...

I've worked in a laundry and owned and run a home for the elderly so I do know about it all from both ends [as it were].But then, someone has to do it.

EmBee said...

I can relate to that whole ash tray smell... My GLORIOUS dirty job was working in a doughnut shop... 'Yum-Yum Donuts' to be exact.

Part of my job included cleaning the doughnut racks, immense metal grates COVERED with grease. The sink was hardly big enough and there isn't a detergent on the market which can cut through that amount of grease. So no matter how much you scrubbed everything, the rack, the sink, my hands, my clothes, still had a sticky slickness to them.

The rags to clean the racks were the very same rags I'd have to use to wash the tables in the dining area so everything and I mean EVERYTHING felt sticky slick.

I had to sweep and mop sprinkles, icing and grease from the floor in between making coffee, emptying hundreds of butts out of the ashtrays AND sell doughnuts... Yum-Yum INDEED!

My boyfriend/now husband, would pick me up from work and hold his nose until I was showered and changed. The smell of grease, cigarettes and stale coffee made me reek. It also made me not want to eat a doughnut for a long, long time.

Suldog said...

Well, I suppose the nastiest would be my dishwashing gig, as detailed here...

http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com/2007/09/blood-in-suds.html

So sorry to hear about the cold. I've missed the last two days at work because of one, myself. Nasty.

Craver Vii said...

There was one I would never return to. It was on account of a mean boss. I have never known anyone meaner--not in real life, nor in books, movies, history...

When that guy eventually got fired, I was already working some place else. One of my fellow managers called me at my new job to tell me "the good news."

I'm sorry that you're feeling sick. Get better soon.

for a different kind of girl said...

Oh, my, this makes the summer during college I spent working as a cashier at a large retail chain home improvement store - a job I loathed BEFORE being rudely and inappropriately and very, very incorrectly accused by management of helping a customer steal things while in front of other customers in my lane - seem like a cake walk!

I have a friend who once did a summer helping on a crew that comes in and cleans up after crime scenes. There was a great deal of shock and awe on both our parts when she called to tell me about having to clean brain matter off textured wallpaper.

(M)ary said...

when i worked in a lab billing department, they would put the men leaving sperm samples in the employee bathrooms to leave their juice in a specimen cup. bleh...

at the same lab we had a mysterious case of someone smearing poop in the bathrooms. as far as i know they never figured out which employee was doing that.

Beach Bum said...

Okay, that one is pretty bad but my current job relates closely. Some of what I do is work on sterilizers and the washer/decontamination equipment that cleans dirty, used surgical instruments.

I have seen the whole spectrum of whatever fluids the human body produces. Its ugly, smells bad, and in many way is dangerous given the possibility of infection but I actually feel like I'm helping people instead of making some rich guy richer.

misticblu said...

ICK! You have a stomach of steel.

As far as jobs go i wrote about the worst part here:

http://misticblu.blogspot.com/2008/11/day-in-life.html

And it just so happens I am at that stage one again on my new bridge project, driving piles next week.

Ananda girl said...

Lord have mercy! I thought cleaning toilets at the Fair ten hours a day was dirty. Yuck! I did have my share of puke-a-whirl and nasty potty situations though... gag.

secret agent woman said...

I used to raise pigs - I've shoveled more poop than I care to think about.

Lolly said...

I've been blessed with some pretty good jobs. I even had it easy when I was cleaning houses.

Have you seen the Nat'l Geographic Photo of the DaY? I think you could write a hilarious story to go along with it. It looks like something you could relate to! :)

Jocelyn said...

The only job I've had that comes close to the horrors you paint here was as a chamber maid. Do you have any idea how hard it is to scrub dried semen off a tv set?

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