Saturday, February 20, 2016

Chapter Two – Splish Splash I Need A Bath

My nearly 17 years of employment at 2700 31st Place Pike River, Wisconsin has provided me with an abundance of thought-provoking tales. Some are fascinating, while others are a bit humorous, but most will leave you shaking your head. Like what Kraus Inc. did to me.

Not only did it provide me with numerous stories, it also hung a nickname on me that would stay with me long after I completed my sentence there. That’s right, forty years later; people still refer to me as “Splash.” Here is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth on how I acquired this unique sobriquet.

Just remember, Kraus Inc. is responsible.

It was a sultry June day at Koos Inc. I had been working there a week or two, I still learning the ropes. 40-pound bags of Ortho finest 28-4-8 were the fertilizer du jour. My job was to stack these bright orange bags off a conveyor belt onto a pallet in a specific pattern. The finished pallet of bags would weigh a ton.

2000 gloriously heavy pounds.

By the way, did I mention that this ton of fun would be completed in less than 5 minutes? Please don’t feel too sorry for me, I had a partner stacking with me at the end of that miserable conveyor belt. Barring any difficulties, it would spit out 12 to 15 tons of chemical lawn food every hour.

Every hot, sticky hour.

There were two other guys at the other end of that godforsaken conveyor belt. They filled and sealed the bags. It was also their responsibility to keep track of how many bags and pallets we put out.

We had been working for about an hour and it was beginning to become more humid and muggy. The sweltering atmosphere must have been what woke our supervisor, Louie Henderson, up from his nap. Rubbing his eyes, he stumbled over to our area and asked for our “count.”

Vaughn Tidwell, the bagger, made up an amount and Louie staggered away satisfied. After he was out of earshot, Henry Ludwig, the sealer, slapped Vaughn on the back of the head and told him to make up a proper tally sheet, complete with all of our names.

Vaughn quickly scribbled down his name and Henry’s as bagger and sealer. He then looked up from the sheet and stared at my stacking partner and me. It should be noted that Vaughn had a bit of a problem. It was called heroin. He didn’t know who we were. He was lucky he remembered his own name. So he improvised and gave us nicknames.

That’s when the nickname “Splash” was conceived. My actual name, Peter Vertucci, wasn’t even considered. Never let it be said that drug altered minds can’t perform well under pressure.

Still peering intently, he wrote down “Slim” for my partner. That actually made sense, Rex Bebow, “Slim’s” actual name, was about 6’5” and weighed about 150 pounds. I wondered what Vaughn would put down for me. I was a shade over 6 feet tall and quite a bit more than 150 pounds.

Okay, a whole lot more.

Vaughn gawked at me a little longer, whispered something to Henry and then broke into a huge grin of rotting teeth. He then proudly announced, “You’re Splash” and wrote it on the sheet.

Mopping my moist brow, I boldly asked, “Splash?” Henry promptly spoke up and said that it was because I was sweating so profusely there was sweat splashing all around me. Feeling a tad clammy and maybe even sticky, I was in no position to argue. I was officially christened Splash. The name has stuck with me ever since.

Splish splash I need a bath.

Maybe it was fitting that I was dubbed “Splash” when I started at Kraus Inc. It was sort of like being assigned a number when you start your prison sentence.

Next time…from the booth.

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