My dad’s family were farmers. They lived out in Hawkins County, raised (and butchered) cattle, grew and sold tobacco, and harvested sugar cane among other things. The cattle butchering happened in the basement of my aunt and uncle’s house and while I find it fascinating, I sometimes wonder how I didn’t become a serial killer after being exposed to it at such an early age. Cow carcasses hanging in the walk-in freezer, hindquarters being driven through saws and such. My job (reminder: as a CHILD) was to sit in a basket of random bone fragments and clean the blood clots off with my bare hands. I knew not to complain because any resistance was met with my aunt threatening to cut my tongue out — also a true story.
All that to say, I’ve seen what it’s like to work in meat. The good, the bad and the ugly. So I wasn’t surprised when I learned the folks who staffed Winn-Dixie’s meat department were less-than-savory individuals. They had a good water hose that I would frequently use to clean the bathrooms — something I saw no harm in since the meat department had closed long before I ever started on the bathrooms — but if I ever brought the hose back and it wasn’t exactly where they’d left it, I would get cussed out during my next shift.
One of the guy’s names was Dave and he wanted you to think he was a nice guy but he really wasn’t. He was usually the source of said cussing, was frequently condescending to the women he worked with and was just generally an unpleasant person to be around.
One of my jobs as a bag boy was to assist women and the elderly with unloading their cart at the check-out line. One time I reached into a lady’s cart and pulled out a large pack of pork chops. She reached her hand out to take it from me so she could set it up on the belt and when I handed it over, the weight of the chops was heavier than she was expecting and the chops went to the floor. The packaging ripped and two chops fell out onto the ground. She was embarrassed, as was I, so I hurriedly scooped up the remains and told her I would go get her another.
As I approached the meat department, Dave was glaring at me.
“What the fuck happened? What did you do?”
Not a great way to start a conversation. I told him the lady dropped them and the two chops on the side had fallen out and needed to be tossed. “Give me that shit!” was his response.
He took the two floor chops, slapped them back on top and re-wrapped the package with a new price label before shoving the package back into my hands. “But…” I started, and was greeted with harsh eyes, so I swallowed my protest, lest my tongue get cut out, and took it back up front.
“Here’s you some new chops!” I said, lying through my 16-year-old teeth.
I guess cooking those chops would have killed off whatever flesh-eating bacteria was now residing on those that hit the floor but still … I really — REALLY — felt bad for taking those back to her.
But not Dave. Not Dave “The Meat Man” who I’m sure later rinsed his work area down with a water hose that was left somewhere other than where he put it last night.
See you freaks tomorrow.