The Green Study “Worst Job I Ever Had” Contest: 1st Place

canstockphoto45980501st Prize goes to The Wisdom of Life, for the job you’d least like to have. There were some great entries, but this one struck me viscerally and reminded me of the one and only job I ever got sick on (that’s a story for another day).

They will be sent one Green Study Coffee Mug or Pen, a postcard from Minneapolis and I will make a $100 online donation to the American Red Cross on their behalf of their local Red Cross Chapter or International Disaster Response fund.

“Discovering Chicken”

by Wisdom of Life

Chicken gumbo, chicken salad, fried chicken… the list goes on. At the tail end of the moment that a delightful morsel of savory indulgence enters our welcoming palate, we might forget the long trek on which this bite has come. One such step in this journey from egg to forked bit of delicious pleasure is the chicken house. In my late teens catching chickens paid very well and didn’t require the glistening charade of resume props other jobs of that pay scale demanded. The task was simple enough, gather chickens, hand them off to be placed in crates to be transported to the processing plant.

At the time I was on the verge of homelessness. Having searched for work in a tough market I was getting desperate and needed the money. I wasn’t unaware the job would be stinky and hard on the back. I prepared myself by chanting my new mantra; “you need the money, and you can do this”. We traveled by van that night to a huge chicken coop. It was better to do the job in the dark. Chickens can’t see in blue and red light, so they were effectively blind. We corralled and grabbed them, 4 in each hand, to heave up to the waiting crater.

Most of the crew was well seasoned. In retrospect, I could see they were battle hardened to persevere what was to come. I was just another face that might or might not be able to join that band of brothers – if I had what it took to cross over from wannabe to warrior. The wind was strong and the screeching chickens flapped and cackled as they passed from my hands to the waiting crater. My mantra grew stronger and stronger as the hours wore on. Chicken feces and urine frothed out from the terrified brood and showered me with its reminder that foul isn’t just a polite fiction attributed to these creatures.

In my blissful delight of childhood ignorance I remember asking my mother one time how chicken was made. When she matter of factly told me that it was made of chickens, I remember being mortified. I asked again assuming she didn’t understand the question. When she reasserted the ugly facts to my unaccepting mind it took me quite a while to absorb the complacent monstrosity about myself that came sauntering out of her mouth. It seared my mind like the grill lines burnt on to those poor creatures I flung on a leg of their deathward journey.

I did battle with my growing inclination to stop this madness of torture and injustice to myself and these creatures. As a teen, I had the common affliction of delusional immortality and thought that if I determined to do something that I would just behaviorally follow through. I didn’t want to face my own shortcomings nor did I want to deny myself the much needed infusion of cash. Spectacularly, I discovered I was not up to the task. 4 hours into the shift I worked up enough courage to tell the leader that I could no longer do it. I expected wrath. I remembered his look of understanding, or perhaps complacency as he probably witnessed my brand of surrender so many times before. He simply said without malice that I could wait in the van.

I sat there waiting for the end of the shift now diverting the divided energy I was applying partly to the torture of those chickens and myself to my own self alone, and I was… alone. I was so embarrassed about the whole experience that I went home and showered for what seemed like a week to get the smell out. It didn’t occur to me even to ask to be paid for the few short hours I had worked because I had let everyone down in that field of wood chips and hell. A couple weeks later I received a check to my surprise.

In some ways it seems life is a confluence of contrasts. In that time of doing my worst I learned one of the most valuable lessons of all in life… that I do have limits.

Congratulations, Wisdom of Life! Be sure to check out their blog.

Here’s a little wisdom to attain:

Intentional Life is Serious Business: Of Wasps and Stings

A Trail of Ideas

The Value of Understanding the Whole Context

27 Comments on “The Green Study “Worst Job I Ever Had” Contest: 1st Place

  1. I didn’t know catching chickens was a job! My word.
    It took courage to stand up and say you couldn’t continue. I don’t know if I’d have had the same back bone.
    What a lesson to learn, and what a way to learn it.

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    • There are so many jobs that we never think about – I think I would have found the sounds, smells and sights overwhelming. As I said, completely visceral reaction to that entry!

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    • In my case it was grabbing one leg of each of 4 chickens and hoisting them upside down as they screamed in agony and I carried them flapping and crapping to a waiting crater who put them in a cage on the truck.

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  2. I wouldn’t have made it through the door. Glad you got out! And congratulations.

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    • Thank you. I can’t say that was the last time I misjudged my own limitations. As a card carrying member of the “oft delusionally determined” club another hard lesson was to recognize that if you need ten coconuts and there’s only eight in the tree it doesn’t matter how long you shake it.

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  3. Good for you. I can only imagine how tough it was to do that job. I could barely read the story. It is actually becoming harder and harder for me to eat chicken and meat as it is. This may have pushed me over the edge.

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    • It doesn’t take too many of these stories to convince me, either, Fransi! Having experienced a great deal of anxiety over one little squirrel, I can’t imagine the fear and misery of a thousand chickens.

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      • How is the squirrel? Hope he made it out alive. Years ago I lived about 40 km from where I worked (a whole other story). Inevitably every day on my drive I ended up behind one of those trucks taking pigs to be slaughtered. I couldn’t handle it and eventually took back roads all the way into town so I could avoid it. And I didn’t eat any pork products for years after that. I honestly am thinking seriously of becoming a vegetarian and I think I’m going to at least give it a try.

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        • I think the squirrel finally escaped. The trap guy set up a live trap and also searched for a body, with no luck. The wall has been quiet for at least 12 hours. I learned more about red, gray and flying squirrels yesterday than in my entire life. It will give my husband no end to smugness and “I told you so”, but I can live with that over having a creature die because I did nothing.

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        • Regarding squirrels, it’s amazing how loud they can be in the middle of the night! How much detail there from the little claws, scratching…Poe-worthy!
          Regarding the chickens, I love the subtlety in it – leaves enough to the imagination. Ironically heard the term “mechanically separated chicken” yesterday, for the first time. We have a coop, but after losing one to “nature” and having two little kids, we gave the others away. Thanks again for the great premise for the contest, and enabling the winners to do good by way of your donations.

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        • “Mechanically separated chicken”?! If there a prize for worst phrase of the week, you would have it for that one, Bill. It really makes us seem like complete barbarians and not the good kind – the creepy, robotic Cybermen-type (yes, I know complete nerd Dr. Who reference).

          As for the squirrel, it was very noisy. But you are absolutely right – completely Poe. I immediately thought of “The Tell-tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado”.

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  4. Wow. I’m impressed that you lasted that long. I’d have had nightmares for months afterwards. Great story. Adversity makes us stronger — and possibly vegetarians.

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      • I am now vegetarian (I do eat dairy and eggs) but I am under no illusions that life doesn’t feeds on life. In fact, I suspect life is all there is and we have some measure of influence about what type of experience that is. Like voices in the choir, none of us are the choirmaster. I try to point myself more to relationships that are mutually nourishing instead of parasitic or predatory. Not perfect at that though.

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        • I think that’s a great way of looking at things – finding relationships that are less parasitic or predatory. It’s a challenge, but improves not only one’s life but all the connections around you.

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    • It’s the smell.. we’ve raised chickens for meat too, and we all helped with the catching and cleaning, and that smell.. it kind of sears into your nostrils and can’t be banished for days. Not my favourite experience. I could see it being a horrible first job. I’m not eager to do it again, and I have some experience – though not as harsh as that, I’ll admit.

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