Crimes and misdemeanors, part 13

Closer to the truth than most realise

So, think this is crimes and misdemeanours number 13 and it would seem I have a lot to confess to..  I’ve had a job ever since I was 11yrs old; from delivering milk before school to a paper round after school and since the age of 16 and a half when I started working full time I’ve done just about every job except barman which I kind’a regret because it’s a handy skill to have when you’re trying to establish yourself somewhere new.

Anyway, things I really need to fess up to…

When I was sixteen I spent one Christmas holiday working on the production line of the Cantrell & Cochrane factory, we made bottles and cans of lemonade and it was the second most boring job I ever did. However…  the nightshift used to be fun for a couple of reasons, first of all most of the staff came into work to sleep, as a general rule if you didn’t sleep the first night then you slept the second night, it was the unofficially rule and a lot of the staff had part-time day jobs like Firemen and so when they got called out to a fire during the day then they would come in and sleep. And there was a lot of trading to and fro, if you were feeling really rough then you’d swap sleeps with someone and s/he would sleep the next night. Management didn’t know about this because the foremen did the exact same thing and management always knocked off at 5pm.

So, that was a nice little earner, on the nights when I was watching the production line I was busy and kept awake because I was doing the work of two but the next night I slept but got paid for it. Excellent. It was a nice little introduction to shift work and when I worked as a nurse there did seem to be a lot of nurses sleeping in the cupboards during the dead of the night, not for the full shift but some staff would take extended breaks and when the matron in charge came around you told her that the missing nurse ‘had only just’ went for break a few minutes ago.

The other thing that was good working for Cantrell & Cochrane was that we produced cans of own brand Coke and there was an interesting trick we could do (and did) on the line. What would happen was that the cans got filled with coke and then went into a huge machine that rammed on the aluminium tops to the cans, but the operator could slow the line down and this meant someone could make additions to the coke.. So, the party trick for most of the staff there was to top up a couple of dozen cans of coke with vodka and then once the lids went on collect them on the other side and take them home. Then next time they went to a house party they already had pre-mixed drinks. This proved particularly popular at events like concerts because the bouncers would quite happily let you in with cans of coke but would confiscate any alcohol… little did they know..

Cantrell & Cochrane was the second most boring job, the most boring job was working for Canadian Tapes in Bangor. I did that for about three months before I had to leave or slit my wrists, it was that mind numbing boring. I spend almost three months working in a lab doing mind numbingly boring repetitive work a trained monkey could do (better).

However, even here there was the opportunity to mess around. We made sellotape, day and night, the production lines never stopping – except for two weeks in the summer when all factories in Norn Iron shut down and Bangor emptied due to the mass exodus of everyone to Benidorm or Tenerife, the ‘July Fortnight’.

I, on the other hand, was too poor to go to Spain with all the other plebs so I would carry on working and that meant spending two weeks cleaning the factory.

Now, the thing to remember is that sellotape is tape covered in glue and Canadian Tapes had LOTS of glue…effing huge vats the size of houses for mixing up the glue and gradually over the months these vats would get a thick layer of glue slowly building up inside them. Eventually someone had to go into the vats with big scrappers and scrap the glue off the walls and floor of the now empty vats and that job fell to summer students and yours truly.

So, myself and half a dozen other kids would spend a few hours in these vats breathing in glue fumes. I don’t know if anyone else has tried nitrous oxide aka laughing gas but spending even a few minutes in one of these vats basically gets you high for free, in fact we actually got paid for it. This was in the days before Health & Safety became such a major concern, so for two weeks we scrapped and hacked the hardening glue off those walls and we spent practically the entire two weeks splitting our sides laughing. Seriously, it’s what I imagine it’s like to smoke really good weed, we just got the giggles from the moment we walked into the vats until we got home, someone would just burst out laughing for no reason at all and that was it, we were all practically ROFL in hysterics, I honestly haven’t laughed so much in my whole life and I think I would have done that cleaning job for no pay. I couldn’t understand why all the other factory workers didn’t want to do it, it was excellent. What I couldn’t also understand was, why didn’t the management give us gas masks, we could have cleaned those vats out in two days rather than two weeks if we could stop laughing and saved them a lot of cash..

I was told that the effects of the fumes wouldn’t have any long term effects. I’m not so sure, twenty five years later and I still burst out laughing with minimal prompting,  I suspect because of my two weeks working in those vats that my brain is now just hard-coded to find humour in just about everything, my long suffering work mates despair with me :)