Thursday, 2 January 2014
When I was about 14 and still at school I had a part time job as a warehouse assistant at a local supermarket. In the loading bay there was massive compactor for compressing rubbish. It consisted of a huge metal block on a hydraulic system which moved backwards and forwards, crushing the waste that was thrown in there. Above the block was a wire cage. This would be lifted and the waste material thrown in. The machine was prone to jamming so one of our tasks was to get inside the compactor while it was running and hang by our fingers from the wire safety cage above the crushing block We would then kick free any rubbish that got lodged. There was a metal ledge about three inches wide round the edge of the crushing area that you could balance on. If any of us had slipped or lost our grip we could easily have been cut in half. It didn't occur to any of us to complain. I for one had very low expectations. Although I've got no illusions about the sort of stuff people do to each other in the name of work, it seems odd to me now that we were made to do something so pointlessly dangerous. The rubbish could have been just as easily dislodged with a broom-handle. But as I soon came to learn, particularly in manual jobs, there's sometimes almost a macho pride in doing stuff the dirty way or the hard way.