This seemed like no life for me. I asked them to hold my pay while I decided about joining the union. Unbeknownst to them, I planned on working as many days straight as I could tolerate. When I finally had enough, I planned to ask for my pay, then resign. I was only a temporary worker and planned on keeping it that way. My ambition was to head back to Florida as soon as I finished my career as baker. Every night my station was the same.
I faced a steady procession of boxes heading toward me, that I helped get into cases. I hardly was aware of the noisy machinery behind to my right that bagged and boxed the croutons being sent to me. Beyond was a large hopper that dumped croutons onto a belt headed to their boxes. I could not see further than that. Where the croutons came from remained a mystery. From the beginning to end of my shift , that was my world. I was assured it remained the same in between my shifts, a non stop march of boxed croutons. One shift the bagging machines became jammed and overloaded dumping several feet of crotons on the floor around them. Finally the whole line was shut down to halt the spillage of croutons. I took advantage of the break to take a tour of the plant.
In another part of the building were several machines that resembled cement mixers. Large pallets were lifted to their tops and bags of flour, boxes and jars of ingredients for making breads were poured into the mixers. Once full, paddles on the inside mixed batter. Water was added automatically. When ready, a small sphincter would eject a loaf into bread pans passing by its orifice. From here the pans would ride a conveyor line back and forth giving time for the bread to rise. At this point it its ride, bread would enter an oven. It took just enough time to pass through the oven to bake the loaves.
Still riding the conveyor till the bread cooled, the loaves would come to an end and be dumped out of their pans. Here human hands would grab the fresh loaves and place them on wire shelving. Once loaded the shelves would be stacked on mobile racks. Full racks would be hooked to a floor chain that dragged them through two swinging doors into a room as large as two football fields. This room was kept cool and dry. In the two days it took the racks to transport through, the bread they were carrying achieved staleness. At the far end of the room human hands again touched the loaves, placing them into a slicing and cubing cutter. Once turned into crouton shaped cubes they were sprayed with herb garlic flavored preservatives. From here, croutons journeyed into a toaster oven and emerged finished product in the hamper that churned them onto a conveyor belt that carried then to the now defunct bagging machines. Shortly after bagging they were delivered to my station. By the time my tour was complete, the bagging machines were returned to service. I proceeded to my station and waited the return of the croutons. In the wait, a scene was presented that reminded me of our food industry. Several workers came out with gleaming stainless garbage cans and just as bright stainless shovels. They proceeded to scoop the piles from around the bagging machines into their cans labeled “FOOD WASTE.” Until they got down to about a foot above the floor, they carried this waste and dumped it into the hopper that would carrying them back to the bagging machines. The mental picture I took was of workers dumping food waste into our national food production process.