Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The grease incident

As a student at Washington State University I worked several different part time jobs. One regular job I held around 1992/93 was for the student union building (the CUB) shipping and receiving. The job mostly involved making sure that the kitchen had everything it needed. For the most part, the daily work required putting away the fresh produce that arrived every morning. This meant that I had to be at work around 5:30 AM (I drank a lot of coffee). However there would occasionally be odd jobs that needed to be run.

There were a few others who worked there and we all traded off on different shifts and various jobs. However the most dreaded job was to deal with the grease from the kitchen.

The kitchen would produce large amounts of grease from cooking. That grease would be kept in large 5 gallon plastic buckets. Once a week the grease needed to be dumped in a recycling bin (yes they recycle grease and make things with it...seriously those bins behind your favorite fast food restaurant that are full of grease are recycling bins...as in will be used again). After a week of sitting around the grease (which contained bits of meat, french fries and other food matter) became rather rancid. Luckily a loose lid on the plastic bucket and and a couple inches of coagulated grease held in the worst of it down.

One particular Friday, my boss told me I had to go dump the grease. We had all managed to avoiding the job for almost a month, so the collection of grease buckets had grown very large and extremely nasty. I made a hopeless attempt a protesting, but I knew there was no getting out of it.

Because the bin where the grease was recycled was not near the CUB, we would load the buckets of grease into an old panel van we used. The van was not in the best of shape; the back didn't close, the passenger door wouldn't open, and the driver door wouldn't close. It was a rather pathetic vehicle.

From past experience with dumping grease I knew enough to where a tyvek suit. We each had our own suit for this job, because the grease had a tendency to splatter when you dumped it and you did not want to get that stuff on your clothes. On this particular run I was the more senior person dumping the grease, so I got to claim the job of driving the van. My coworker got the job of sitting in back and making sure none of the grease fell out the back of then van.

The drive to the grease dumpster was short, maybe a half mile, but it looped through part of WSU's greek row. I tried to drive the van as slowly and carefully as I could get away with, because I didn't want to be responsible for a spill in the middle of the road. This was of special concern because (as you remember) the back of the van wouldn't close.

Unfortunately the time we had chosen for the dumping was between classes and so people were walking everywhere. A mere block from the dumpster, a group of girls steped out right in front of the van (and not at a cross walk mind you). I slammed on the brakes as hard as I could to avoid hitting them. Despite my slow speed there was enough momentum in the unsecured grease buckets to send them all flying to the front of the van. The grease had been stacked two and three buckets tall and this fact allowed the grease to be launched over the entirety of the front of the panel van. I was soaked, the dash board was soaked, and the inside of the the van's windshield was dripping. However, my coworker in back had managed to completely avoid the spill, only rolling forward slightly.

We continued on and made our way to the dumpster, with the 5 remaining full buckets. It was a challenge keeping my foot from slipping off of the grease soaked gas and break. Eventually we managed to dump the remaining grease and return to the CUB. As I walked into my bosses office he was barely able to stop laughing long enough to choke out the words "Go home, and please change your clothes and shower". Turns out Tyvek doesn't do well when completely soaked in grease.

After bathing in dish washing detergent and putting on clean clothes I returned to work to help clean out the van. We took the van to one of those coin operated car wash locations and began hosing out the inside of the van with the hose and dish washing detergent. I can only imagine what people were thinking as they saw this van with the a hose going into it and suds pouring out of the back and the doors.

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