A Job Peeling Rotten Potatoes

My first full-time job after high school was horrible in every aspect.  Desperate to support myself after a precipitous exit from my parents’ home in the middle of my senior year in  high school, I had fled to my paternal grandmother’s one-bedroom apartment but that was burdensome on her.  So when I graduated I found an apartment and I took a job in a potato chip factory.  That dreadful factory smelled so badly that my clothing and my hair became saturated with the stench of rotten potatoes.  People would move away from me when I rode the city bus home.  I needed that paycheck to pay my rent so I tried to distract myself from the mess of the half-rotten potatoes that came tumbling down the conveyor belt by working quickly to cut off the rot so that I would have time in the seconds between batches of potatoes to talk to my co-workers.  They were all timid Hispanic woman and spoke only Spanish so I thought this might be an opportunity to build cross-cultural bridges and learn Spanish.  But they refused to talk, saying only “Shush! No permitido.”  It took me a while to figure out that they meant talking was not permitted.  The factory manager noticed me talking and called me aside, “Hey you, come here.”  I was already fearful in that dark, stinky factory, and his manner made me want to run.  But I went into the little lunchroom with him.  I had never talked to him before.  It was a shocking brief exchange.  He said “Talking on the line is not permitted.”  I said “Okay, I won’t talk.”  He said “My friend wants to go out with you.”  I looked at his dirty, rot-toothed face and without wondering who his friend was, I said “No.”  His face flashed over with anger and he said “Get out.”  I left immediately and later had a lot of difficulty getting my paycheck.  Even though he had not touched me, I knew that what he had meant was that if I “went out” with his friend, perhaps with him, I could keep my job in that reeking rotten potato chip factory.  My first full-time job had lasted less than a week.


For years I could not eat potato chips because they reminded me of the reek of rotten potatoes.  For years I feared interactions with managers.

Caption:  I Would Not Lower Myself For A Job Peeling Rotten Potatoes

by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018



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