My Burnt Sauconys

August 1, 2006

I sent a white box down the chute to the loaders today… an otherwise completely normal box like all the others we process, albeit a little heavy. It was tattered and dirty, like a group of Mexican children had used it as a soccer ball and then drove a small moped over it or something. The norm. But a couple minutes after sending it down the chute, a strange smell filled the air. I had no idea what it was at first. I looked around but couldn’t figure it out. Was someone cooking? What the hell?

It had kind of a spicey scent to it, but mostly it just smelled like burnt hair. As my colleague Matt would later say, “It smells like my grandma’s perm.” I guess that sums it up.

Eventually they yelled up at me to stop the conveyor belt, and I glanced down to see Matt come walking out of the truck with the box, which was by then seeping a blackish-brown liquid. He placed it below me on a ramp where I throw down these plastic crate things filled with small packages that can’t be sent on the conveyor, like envelopes, etc., and then our supervisor came over to bitch at us because the belt was stopped, and then the terminal manager came out, and then once everyone had seen what all the fuss was about, they all just left and went back to work, with this strange box left sitting there leaking and smelling. Nobody seemed to give a crap about fumes or anything, so I just assumed it was Soy Sauce or some other benign liquid. Hey, it’s happened before. Wine, Soy Sauce, whatever.

So I just stood there on my perch for about an hour, 8 feet or so away from the stuff, inhaling its special scent and that was that. It had also spilled in the truck, so those guys were exposed to it too. I asked them what it was and they said they didn’t know, but they weren’t going to touch it. OK.

Later on that night, we were running late and needed to close the trucks and get the drivers on their way, so I jumped down to sort the small packages. One of the 18 wheeler drivers, this big black guy that sounds like Shaft, was standing there in dismay as we ran around like the circus act we are, screaming at each other and throwing boxes and scanning things and narrowly avoiding the strange liquid that had collected in a large puddle on the floor. He’s always pissed off because we’re always running late, but he’s a pretty cool guy.

Anyway, I was scrambling around in a hurry trying to get everything done so that he could leave and in my haste I snatched an envelope off of the ground without looking at it. It wasn’t anywhere near the puddle, so I had no reason to. Then, as I went to look at the address and scan the barcode, I noticed that my fingers were burning. It’s one of those sensations that puts a quizzical look on your face and makes you sort of stare into the air with your head tilted like, “What exactly is it that am I feeling?” Kind of like a spider crawling on your arm or something. It was a strange burn though; faint at first, and then just genuinely painful.

I looked down and, low and behold, the mysterious brownish liquid was all over my fingers, searing its happy little way underneath my nails. I looked up at the trucker and he just looked back at me with an unimpressed look on his face, like he expected us clowns to do something stupid and die at any moment anyway, and it wasn’t a big surprise that I had a mysterious flesh devouring liquid all over my hands.

I couldn’t tell if I was imagining the burn or what, so I gave it a second.

Yep, definitely burning.
“I don’t know what this is, but it’s burning me.”
Shaft just stared at me.
I left him there to shake his head and I walked over to the bathroom, rinsed it off, and went back to work.

Now, imagine if this was something dangerous that wasn’t supposed to be shipped, or if it was a Hazmat (I didn’t see a damn Hazmat label..) and via a freak accident it had leaked all over the place and now we were sitting there inhaling the fumes from the stuff and burning ourselves with it. What then? What if…let’s say, the box fell onto the puddle of liquid on the floor and splattered all over our faces and got in our eyes and we all ran around screaming bloody murder until we went blind. What then? But nobody said anything and we weren’t blinded, so we just continued on working. Then Matt burnt his leg on the stuff and his hair fell off. Then we laughed about it.

Then, being responsible adults, we got kinda worried.

The whole “eating of flesh” thing piqued our interest, so we decided to check the box out. It was disfigured, but we could make out BUSTER in large red letters, and a description in small print. It read something along the lines of “Turns solids to froth” and “dissolves grease, hair, paper, food, rags and other organic obstructions.”

“Like our flesh!” I shouted excitedly.

We read a little closer. “Handle with extreme caution.” Warped and black. Wonderful!

Here’s what Wikipedia says about industrial drain cleaners:

The fourth and final type are the liquid solutions that contain sulfuric acid, usually in concentrations around 93-95 percent. These can be very hazardous products if misused, and often create intense heat that can cause the water in the drain to boil, creating a violent eruption from the drain. On the other hand, they are the only products that will effectively dissolve paper, rags, sanitary napkins, and similar blockages. Many of these products are intended for professional use by plumbers and janitors, but they are legal to sell to the general public. Whether or not they should be has been the subject of much debate during the last few decades. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recently decided not to ban these products for general use by the public. Proponents of the ban argued that it was necessary to protect the public from harm, while opponents said it is just a ploy by the plumbing industry to make more money from increased maintenance calls, and would overly burden a responsible homeowner. Now that they will remain legal, consumers should understand that these products are extremely hazardous and should be treated with respect.

All products should always be used with caution, following all directions.

So here we are breathing in sulfuric acid for an hour and then dripping it all over ourselves, and nobody does a god damn thing about it. It was left in the truck to fester until it reaches its destination where THOSE guys will breathe it in, and it was left to fester in the terminal, where it had also managed to destroy some smaller packages ALONG WITH MY SHOE. This is the important part about this post: as I walked out into the parking lot to sit down and wait for my ride, I looked down and noticed I had holes in my Saucony. The liquid had apparently dripped down off of the shelf onto my shoes and had burnt right through so that I could see my sock.

ripsaucony.jpgI’ve always assumed that my Sauconys would be dragged out to sea by the mighty Poseidon himself, as he has tried so many times before, but it seems that their fate would instead be sealed by the god of Corrosive Chemicals instead. I am in mourning. And I have no other shoes for now, so I guess I’ll just have to deal with it.In conclusion, god save us lowely package handlers.

RIP, my beloved Sauconys.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: