I changed the names in this post on LinkedIn....
Hello. Today’s post is just for fun. I’m grateful my first employee communications job was for a manufacturing company. For the holidays, I’d like to offer an excerpt from a book I’ve been writing for far too long: it’s a description of an American food-production factory, from a tour I took a few Novembers ago….
“Phyllis and I were invited to tour John’s factory, and we drove over in the morning. I love factory tours and had watched newspapers, airplanes, computers and ceiling tiles being made, but not food. My November visit coincided with the run-up before Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the shop was banging. First we solemnly donned surgical costumes. Then we picked our way through a series of giant rooms, each with its own climate. We marveled as potatoes were sorted, skinned, cooked, milked, mashed, spiced, packed, scanned for foreign objects and imprinted with UPCs. John was never not working: wherever we went, employees stopped him. Does this taste okay; should we adjust this setting; how can we fix the consistency of this?
“Peering through a thick window in a closed door, we saw a dark room where the spices were kept. In spite of the fierce air-filtering system, the entire space was murky brown, shrouded in fine spice-dust hanging in arid, nearly motionless suspension. A lone employee in an astronaut suit, complete with helmet and oxygen tank, was measuring cinnamon, cloves and pepper from enormous vats into semi-enormous containers. We were allowed to open the door briefly, holding our breaths. The employee gave us a thumbs-up, moving slowly in her gear. The room next door was jungle-level humid, as if we’d skipped to another planet. It smelled good: cranberry sauce with oranges. Every surface was slick with juice and bits of fruit.
“We ended our tour at the beginning of the potato line, a massive, high-ceilinged space for spud intake, dark and chilly, smelling of earth. Climbing one of many built-in steel ladders, we clung to a catwalk about thirty feet high and gazed down at seven segregated oceans of loose potatoes. Each ocean was a truckload, the entire contents of a really big semi. They were kept separate, John explained, because even the same breed of potato grows differently in different places. The first spuds from each truckload were tested as they went through production, so the settings could be tweaked for those particular taters. We climbed down.
“Suddenly, John was needed in another part of the factory, and Phyllis and I were politely but speedily ejected from the building. As we were getting back into Phyllis’s car, we saw a semi bringing in another trillion potatoes. The truck backed up to an open bay, beep beep beeeeeeeeeeep, and the whole boxcar-sized container began to rise. Then it slowly tilted nearly upright, rumbling, and the back door was opened. Loose potatoes thundered through the air for quite a long time, disappearing into the giant intake room we’d just left. I enjoyed watching that.”
Past travels with a trusty camera; current work on James E. Brewton Foundation research and memoir
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