Subject: The Factory

Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2000 02:37:01 -0800 (PST)
From: “Steve Kerr”
Subject: The Factory

I started another job, in a pizza packing factory in a suburb called Sockburn. I remember, the name was the first thing I noticed when I looked at map of Christchurch. Sockburn. Sock, Burn. Sockburn is an industrial zone. The whole area is a testament to human kind’s ability to manufacture, warehouse and dispatch. There are huge corrugated iron buildings painted bright colours and decorated with brand names and the corresponding slogans. Many products are endorsed by the Canterbury Crusaders, the only Super-12 team named after religious militants. There are electric security fences and an endless row of streetlights and massive pylons and when it’s sunny there’s no shade, there’s just hot concrete and hot steel and smelly exhaust.

My boss is called Helen. She’s bossy like only someone with a colossal inferiority complex can be. She wears thick greasy glasses and barks all day, except when she goes for a cigarette, then she’s okay for ten minutes. “Get me seventeen Meatlovers and a eight Hawaiians! No, not like that.” Helen is probably the best pizza packer in the whole world.

I’m replacing the current pizza packing assistant, a guy called Darryl. As logic would have it in NZ’s mutated economy, Darryl has a Masters Degree in Economics.

I asked Helen where the Shell was to get a pie and a cookie time for lunch. She told me over the road and don’t get run over when you cross it. There is a three lane road running between the pizza factory and the Shell. Every vehicle in the station had wheels at least as high as me. I thought that it was nice that she cared enough to warn me, but I told her I’d probably be okay, seeing as how I’d crossed roads before.

My job involves packing pizzas. I’m a Pizza Packing Momma. But here they’re not called pizzas, they’re called “slabs” and “rounds”. Slabs are big rectangular sheets of gray-green meat and grated cheese. Rounds are the same, but round. There is a fridge filled with 5kg bags of meatproduct formed into little chunks. The chunks are approximately the size of a cigarette butt or a fingernail. The bags are marked “Ham”, “Bacon”, “Pepperoni”. To the layperson, the difference is not immediately obvious, but that’s how come we have food technologists. Some pizzas are marked “no caps”, as in capsicum. I guess veges just kind of spoil the party sometimes.

The pizza bases come off the back of a truck in boxes which just say, “P.P. Sheets”. On the side of the truck, it says “The First French Bakery”. This name is lie, a disguise cunningly invented in order to attract more customers. Obviously, “143rd Christchurch Bakery” wasn’t going to do it.

I also pack silver garlic bread tubes, bags of lollies, chocolate animals, and six-packs of lamingtons. The lollies are the kind of lollies that the disinfectant lollies in the bottom of the urinal are named after. When the packing bench is filled with carefully ordered architectural piles, it looks like the kind of fantasy junkfood city you dreamed of living in and eating your way out of when you were a kid.

Le Corbusier meets Ernest Adams.

In Sockburn, Christchurch.

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