The worm hole

Time flies. Usually with the addition, ‘when you’re having fun’. I find it generally always flies. Maybe I’m always having fun. It was always more as a kid that I thought time dragged. Like in the back of a car travelling to Cork with the endless ‘are we there yet?’ I must have been (past tense naturally) an annoying wee twerp.

The worst job I ever worked in, not that there have been that many, was in a garlic bread factory. Not pleasant as you can imagine. It was just after I finished my A-levels and there were threats of laundry not being done and food not being served if I didn’t get off my bum. Kind of justified.

So I ended up in this place through the wonders of a recruitment agency. I had a glowing CV and I’m sure it was my beating heart and lack of criminal record that landed me the job. And there was me naively thinking they might take brain surgeons just after their A-levels.

The place sucked. It was a noisy, conveyor belt thing, where little slices of frozen garlic bread came through a window from some other room (in fact I never found out where they came from, maybe they just appeared in the room through some worm-hole from another, more galricky universe, I doubt it though…) and my task was to put 5 (not 6 mind you) slices in a little plastic tray before it entered from cellophane wrapping machine.

I remember the same summer one of my mates, who worked in Moy Park, told me that he’d seen a guy lose a finger in one of their machines. I felt bad for the guy’s finger, but worse for the fact that I didn’t have any cool stories to tell. Except that guy who fell in the worm-hole but no one believed me…

You had to wear lovely white overalls, a hair net and lovely shiny gloves that didn’t fit. It was freezing so generally you had to wear a few layers even under the overalls. It was so noisy that you couldn’t even speak to folk beside you. Given the boredom of the job, a conversation would have been a pleasant way to pass the time.  But no joy, you could try shouting above the conveyor belt, but you would have to repeat yourself so many times that you’d lose concentration on your slices, and all of a sudden there’s be 7 slices in a tray and the cellophane machine would jam and then you’d have scary, facially challenged, Margaret (I’ve no idea if she was called Margaret, I had that little contact with her on a human level that she left no impact on my life) shouting at you.

At your precious, 15min break times, you’d sit alone in a changing room, eating garlic flavoured sandwhiches (everything tasted of garlic) while everyone else went to smoke in a dingy smoke room. Maybe that was the only way to get away from the smell of garlic.

After my first day, I knew things would have to change. I brought a book (Sophie’s World – brief, narritive history of philosophy, great book) of my brothers and sat in the car, eating my lunch and listening to the same Delirious tape over and over and again (King of fools incidentally, now always brings back bad memories. Unfortunate, not a bad album).

There’d be occasional brilliant moments when the supervisor would send you on some task, like to bring the pallet truck into the cold store. A job like that was a joy, freedom, in whatever limited capacity, for a few minutes. The coldness of the cold store would take your breath away. I would wonder how long I could stay there before anyone noticed, or indeed, before I would freeze to death. Guilt always got the better of me and i’d go back to the worm-hole.

I had planned to blog about how time has flown since I’ve arrived but I’ve digressed so far that it’s now quicker to go on than go back. Sorry. Though not sure what for.

Where the garlic bread thing leads is this. Because I was reading Sophie’s World, I would philosophise my time away between each break, musing over what I’d just read. Is the garlic bread really there, or is it all an illusion. Are these people a figment of my imagination. If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a noise? Real Phd type stuff.

But I got thinking about memory and came up with this – which would be worse:

a) to have to work a full 12 hr (6am to 6pm, that job sucked) shift packing garlic bread, and experience the fullness of the cold, garlic and boredom of it all BUT at the end of the shift the memory would be wiped from your head, as if the previous 12 hrs of your life did not exist.

b)To spend a day at home, doing lots of fun stuff, having a great time, getting paid for it BUT come 6pm to have 12 hrs of the full garlic bread experience implanted into your head as a memory.

I never decided either way. I edged towards b) cause I didn’t actually have any work to do in that one. But then in philosophy the answer is hardly the point. Kind of the whole problem with philosophy isn’t it.

Four weeks later I spilled my bottle of juice over Sophie’s World while I was eating my lunch in the car listening to ‘King or Cripple’ and that was the end of that. Well that and I quit work and spent the next week in the shower with various industrial agents (cleaning agents, not the ‘hi I’m agent Smith of the association of industrialists’ type agent) trying to get rid of the smell of garlic.

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September 2006
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