Have you ever smelled a smell that just stays with you? Yesterday was a day like that. I met Becky for brunch at a cafe by her house in LA where I ordered a chicken pot pie which turned out to be a very unappetizing pile of ooze dumped on a biscuit. I ate very little of it but still managed to daintily dribble some on my shirt, which even when the visual effects were cleaned up, haunted me all day with it’s lingering smell. This led to some good natured grousing with Becky throughout the day about the horrible scent that wouldn’t go away and brought to my mind a tale of another smell I could not shake. Something far far worse I am afraid...
I was working at the time as a safety consultant for an Insurance company, fresh out of college and really enjoying my job and my sense of being an intelligent, sophisticated young woman in the workforce. The job involved visiting all kinds of different manufacturers and businesses and reviewing their operations for safety hazards. On this memorable occasion my boss was accompanying me for the day, as a ride along performance review to see how I was doing. When we got to my first appointment, neither one of us was really prepared for what was awaiting. The business was a cow hide house located in the oh so beautiful city of Vernon Ca, near Los Angeles. Stepping out of the car we were met with an absolutely overwhelming stench. Imagine the worse smell you’ve ever smelled... times 100. The hides arrived at this facility fresh from the slaughter houses. Chunks of fat and meat still attached. They then stripped the remains from the hide and cured and dried them. Because this was not a food processing plant things were much more lax for cleanliness and the rancid bits of fat and meat were everywhere and stunk to high heaven. We began our tour of the facility and the smell hit us both hard.
Right off the bat I spotted the dreaded beast of a machine used to strip the remaining fat from the hides. I looked at it with pure dread because I could tell it was a real hazard. It was about 3 stories tall with several layers of workstations that I had to traverse up flights of steps on the machine to see, while my boss waited gallantly below. The machine was filthy and a major source of the offending smells. Of course once I got to the top the oh so helpful supervisor that had been showing us around shouted up to “watch out for the rats” and I knew he wasn’t kidding. I kept myself from jumping off and was proud of that fact and ultimately that this was one of those times when I knew I had done some good in the world because the machine was extremely dangerous. It had two giant rollers being hand fed with hides. The rollers caught the hides and drew them into the next portion of the machine that was blades on rollers to strip them clean. Of course if anyone were to get a small part of their fingers or hands caught in the first rollers the machine would just keep drawing them in until they were crushed and sliced. This machine was unprotected and definitely needed some modifications so the machine couldn’t roll until the hands were out of the way. Ta Da! The young, competent safety professional woman saves the day and maybe a life or arm by outlining all of the necessary safety controls needed and all gloriously right in front of her boss for her review.
Once we left there we headed to lunch before our next stop and I just couldn’t get that horrible smell out of my head. We ordered food but we really couldn’t eat it, the memory of that smell just wasn’t going to go away. Our next stop was a large outside cemetery and we walked all around in the open air and still that smell seemed to linger. I finally said to my boss that I just could not get that smell out of my head and he said that it was haunting him too but off and on. Finally before heading back into the car for the long drive home I went into the ladies room and turned around and saw that globs of the horrible orange fat from the beast of all machines was smeared across the back of my black slacks and had in fact been riding around on me all day. I was going to be sick. Seriously. I went out and told my boss and looking forward to our hour and a half car ride back, he then suggests that I should take them off and leave the pants in the trunk. Really! Can you imagine? With my boss in the car? Which is how the brilliant young college graduate sophisticated professional woman ended up riding home from Los Angeles from her first ride a long review with her boss..... in a trench coat and panties.