Monday, August 8, 2011

I CAN HANDLE THE HEAT


“Wasn’t that a corker!” my late Mother-in-law used to say when an unusual event occurred. I was thinking that exact thing on Tuesday the 19th of July when the temperature here hit 35+ degrees Celsius and the humidex went over 42 degrees or something. Even for a heat lover like me it seemed a bit excessive. That particular day we were in Regina, at yet one more health-related appointment, and it was so hot that we chose to keep the top up on the convertible and crank up the air conditioner instead to get some relief. It has got to be really, really hot for me to seek out an air conditioner for relief.
The excessive heat triggered memories of my “Alberta experiment” of the late 1970’s. You see, waaaayyy back when, I was a scrawny directionless twenty-one year old living in Kipling with my Mom and Dad and floating from job to job, enjoying my life of leisure, mind you, when my Dad and my oldest brother, who lived in Redcliff Alberta at the time, thought it would be a good idea for me to head out to Alberta with him and get my collective “act” together, so to speak. The prospects for employment were greater and more varied than in Saskatchewan and my job-hopping rut needed to be broken. So I was told.
To that end, in July of 1978, off I went with him and within a week of my arrival I had landed a job at the Domglas Inc. glass factory. Well, talk about heat!! Yikes! But, first of all, I will familiarize you with the summer weather conditions of southeastern Alberta, and more specifically, the Medicine Hat-Redcliff locations. It requires only one word…HOT. Okay, maybe two words…EXTEMELY HOT. But as long as there was a swimming pool nearby or a garden hose, even, for some respite, I didn’t mind the heat all that much. But standing in front of the bottle and jar-making machines at the glass factory was another story.
Domglas Inc. were the manufacturers of many varied glass products in clear, brown and green glass. They made the stubby little beer bottles that were the norm back then, (120 per minute, in fact), and they made whiskey bottles, pop bottles, wine jugs and Cheeze Whiz jars, oh how I hated making those Cheeze Whiz jars, they were so damn persnickety, along with various other glass vessels.
My job, as an Operator’s Helper, was to assist the Operator in producing the glass products that were being made in one of six huge machines used for that purpose. Without bogging you down with the finer details, it would stand to reason that the temperature of the glass had to be high enough to form the molten glass into the shape of the destined vessel in, first a blank stage (rough shape) and then the finished state of the bottle or jar in the mold stage. The Operator and his assistant would apply “dope” (lubricant) to the blanks and molds to make sure the molten glass didn’t stick to the forms. Of course, the more square inches of glass exposure the hotter it was for the Operator and his helper. Thus, making beer bottles was a lot cooler, (if I even dare to use that term) than making double 40 ounce whiskey bottles. Make sense?
Anyway, the air temperature in the general area of the manufacturing machines was in excess of 40-45C (or 104-115F to the “old school” folks) all of the time and in front of the machines it was a lot…and I mean a LOT higher. Management gave workers salt pills on a regular basis in an effort to show some sort of compassion to the wilting sweating masses. In fact, every bottle we made was a potential cigarette lighter. All you had to do was pick up a bottle coming out of the machine with your asbestos wrapped tongs and slip the tip of your smoke into the neck of the bottle and…voila…instant combustion! So I know heat! I am very familiar with heat.
I stuck it out at the old glass factory until I was too homesick for Saskatchewan and moved back to my favourite province a year later. By the way, the “Alberta Experiment” worked, apparently, as I came back a more mature person, a more dedicated worker and someone with a keen appreciation for safe working conditions and a too-keen knowledge of what HOT really is.
“Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.”-Russel Baker (1925- ).

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