Widgets Magazine

Feb 9, 2012

Always Pack a Lunch!

Working at the Tooele Army Depot, South Area, was definitely the low point in my life. The year was 1988 and we were approaching graduation. I had finally finished my Masters degree in Literature and my sweetie his BS in Electrical Engineering. We loved Logan and the area, but engineering jobs were scarce and we already had two little ones who were in constant need of something. We started sending out resumes, hoping to stay in Utah, but knowing that we would have to settle for what we could get.

I got the first response, then an interview and finally, an offer. They wanted to pay me $26,000/year to become a Technical Writer. This was NOT my dream job, but it would put food on the table and pay for a roof over our heads until my sweetie could find steady work. And after struggling through school since we were married in 1983, it seemed like a pile of money!

I accepted the offer and we prepared to move. Our number one priority was the kids, so we found an apartment in Provo that wasn't too far from my sweetie's aunt who had offered to be our babysitter. I've told you many times that I am NOT a morning person, so getting up at 5:30 was torture for me. At least it was summer when I started, so I didn't have to worry about bad roads and ice. I was hoping to be able to join a carpool so I didn't have to drive the entire way by myself.

The South Area Depot didn't have any facilities for food near the Engineering building, so on the first day, my sweetie packed me a little cooler and I headed out. When I finally got to the gate, I had to be escorted to the building. There was no grass or even paved roads. The area was covered with weeds and large signs that read, "Beware of Rattlesnakes"! The Engineering building was the nicest building out there and it was nothing more than an over-sized double-wide trailer with a tin roof.

I met my new boss and he showed me to my desk...'er desks. They were standard government issue, circa 1950. There were two of them because a desk was cheaper than a wall partition. One of the desks drawers held a box of paperclips, some pencils, and several yellow legal pads. If I needed anything else, I had to ask one of the numerous secretaries.

Now I realize it was 1988, before the days of the internet, but we still had been using computers for word-processing for quite a few years by then. I was not given a computer. Across the partition from my desks was the copy machine that was shared by the entire building. It ran pretty much non-stop. Most of the people working there were government employees. There were two of us (me and another guy) who were contractors and we were both Technical Writers.

The entire South Area was the disposal site for all the nerve agents left over from the previous wars. I was supposed to document the equipment that would eventually burn up all the nerve gas and munitions.

The site was dotted with large bunkers that housed the ancient munitions. We were a couple of miles by jeep away from them. The incinerators and other equipment werre also located there.

I was assigned a gas mask and as a contractor, I had to be escorted each time I visited "the site." I'm claustrophobic, so putting on a mask was terrifying for me although other than training classes and exercises, I never had to put one on for an actual leak.

The first day was grueling and by 4:30 I was more than ready to go home. That's about the time I heard a commotion over the wall. I stood up to see what was going on. A sizable group had gathered around the copy machine about 10 feet from my desks. A couple of the engineers were carrying a 4-foot blow snake (at least it wasn't a rattler!) they had caught when it slithered out while someone was making a copy. The guys were all laughing and joking as they passed my desk. They wanted to make sure I saw their prize!  I quickly turned away and placed my feet on top of my little lunch cooler. I worked like that for the next 8 months....

11 comments:

laurie said...

oh my gosh, I would done the very same thing!!!! YIKES!

Dog-Walker said...

You might as well tell them the story of how there was a snake in our backyard or front yard and how Dad got it taken care of. That was very wise that you covered your lunch box from that hissing creature.

Natalie Ockey said...

AAHH! I hate snakes and would have freaked out. I can't believe you were able to be in there for 8 months--nice work.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Sorry but that sounds like he-double L to me. I could not have worked there another day! Your a brave soul.

Emmy said...

Holy cow! Talk about bad working conditions. Wow.

Brooke said...

Thanks so much for becoming a follower! I'm following you too now. And YIKES - snakes should not be allowed at work!

Tara said...

Oh my gosh! Snakes and nerve gas! Sounds like the potential for stress related sickness!

Emma Frances said...

Oh my goodness that is scary! What a crazy job! Also, I want to hear the story Dog Walker mentions in the comments too! :]

Spilled Milkshake said...

Ugh!! I hate snakes! I'm not sure I could have done that.

Shell said...

Definitely makes for good blog fodder, at least! LOL

Carol Webb said...

Wow, nothing like a nice safe government work office! LOL!

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