When boredom strikes in the workplace there are some that just sit and wait for the shift to end, others Iím sure, find some busy work to do, and still others make questionable choices. Iíll let you fair reader reserve judgment for where I may fall after reading the following.
Picture a warehouse with long orderly rows of shelves and pallets that reach skywards of up to 24 feet. It was our job, a crew of neíer-do-wells, to go up and down these rows hour after hour, night after night, pulling product located on the pallets and send it to the stores. This process is called picking. Picking is boring work. By the second hour of a 10 hour shift you already have a good idea of where youíre going to be making stops in each of the aisles; the only thing that really changes is quantity.
There is a brief respite from the normal picking and that is if it is your turn to pick motor oil and the flame room. The flame room being short for flammable room. In this aptly named room is stored those little green propane tanks for Coleman and other portable stoves, spray paint, road flares, mace, anything, um, flammable. The flame room is a pretty brilliant little place because it is separated from the warehouse by a giant bay door and once inside, if one were so inclined, they can goof off out of the prying eye co-workers, or bosses, who, the boss of this shift, just also happened to be my dad.
Now the thing to really understand is that picking the oil and flame room is quick work. Anyone should be done by first break which would be great if they were allowed to go home, but neither I, nor anyone else was. Instead, as a reward for your fast and speedy work, you get stuck helping someone else in what is usually the absolute worst area to pick. This means that I usually did some minor dicking around in the flame room so that at the very least I could get to first break before switching what I was picking.
This night, did I mention this is all during the graveyard shift? No? Well it was, I think people also loss their minds a bit working graveyard. Anyway, this night I think I really went for the gold in the dicking around event. Towards the beginning of my shift Iím in the flame room when what do I come in contact with? Oh some mace. Now being the non-violent curious individual guy that I am I get to thinking, ďhow bad could this really hurt? Well canít hurt to tryĒ into the air I spray the mace and proceed to walk into the aerosolized pain bringer hanging at face level. Well it didnít feel great, but not bad. Not bad? What the heck? Shouldnít this really hurt? Well OK, round two, but this time with more! Well round two taught me a valuable lesson. Mace hurts, donít get maced.
After recovering from the mace I left the flame room only to return 20 minutes later on what would be the final stop in the flame room for the night. It being the last stop meant that I had a little time to goof off before break. Iím not sure what possessed me to walk towards, and then ultimately pick up, the emergency roadside flare, but soon enough it was in my hand and I was turning it over reading the instructions. Seems simple enough, strike end on cap, put on road. OK, sure, but how hard is this striking? Well off the cap goes and my hands are striking the striking end of the flare against the cap. Hmm, thatís not hard enough, what about a little harder? No? OK well what if a little old lady is in need of this flare, could she actually do this? Harder? Still nothing? And then, to my great surprise, really, yes, I was surprised, the flare lit.
All right so here I am in the flame room surrounded by flammable things, the bossís kid, with a lit flare in my hand. Is there any good explanation for this should someone see me? Well I did what comes naturally, I ran. I ran in circles, I ran in lines, I ran in hopes that the movement of the air would somehow extinguish the flames like a person blowing on a birthday cake. This of course is rather flawed thinking so if air flow wonít extinguish the flare how about suffocation? I stepped on the flare. The only thing that accomplished was increasing the smell as the sole of my shoe began to melt. OK, OK, just think, thereís got to be something here. Yes, I see it a giant drum full of, what is that, rock salt? Whatever, Iím sure I can use that to extinguish the flame! Well in I plunge the flare and the flare, predictably, does not go out, I mean the damn things work in the rain. Instead, the flare plus rock salt, or whatever, equals green smoke, or in my severely freaked out little mind, chlorine gas. To be perfectly accurate the thought that ran trough my head at the time was ďOH SHIT CHOLRINE GAS, IíM GONNA DIE!Ē no joke. All of this ate up about 6 minutes of time which I can assure you felt like a fucking eternity when youíre in my situation. Defeated I stood still, flare in hand, waiting for the thing to extinguish. In about 2 more minutes it did and I hastily left the flame room.
Thinking Iíd made a clean escape I hear my name called and turn around to see a female co-worker, in her 50ís, not terribly bright but pleasant all the same, descending down the stairs from her work area which is actually on the roof of the flame room. She asks me if I smell anything burning. I look at her and with a straight face tell her, I smell nothing out of the ordinary when simply nothing could be further from the truth. Her back is to the opening of the flame room and as sheís asking me about a burning smell there is smoke literally poring from the giant bay door. It is unmistakable and incredibly obvious that something was amiss. She looked at me and simply said ďwell, OK, but if you do smell something could you let me know?Ē Sure, no sweat lady, now I really need to get far, far, far away from the flame room.
I never did get caught for that little stunt.