Monday, December 21, 2009

So, last night I had a bad dream.

I dreamed I was working for the US Dept of Agriculture grading hops again. And again it broke my heart and again I walked out.

Let me explain (yeah, I have a blog so I can explain!):

Hops. For those not in an agricultural area, hops are grown primarily for beer, but in prairie times, they were grown next to the front porch for yeast in bread making. It can also be used for making paper. I lived many years of my life in an area where a VERY large percentage of world's hops are grown. The government being the Ruler of all things made and grown, actually sends a guy out to take samples of crops, which are then infinitely and finitely tested, retested and tested again, eventually given a grade, and that grade determines what the grower will be paid for his crop.

For many years, this testing was done in a barely formal lab, by little old white haired ladies, who worked these samples meticulously for 12 hour days, 6 days a week, from a few days after the harvest began and were dried. Grading all of those crops took this crew of grandmas several months.

It was very precise work. Most of the work involved sorting through a gallon sized bucket, with a white board, similar to Corelle dishes, with a pair of 5 to 6 inch long forceps similar to tweezers. There were other steps in the process but this was the most intense and precise step. The grannys would sit at a table and sort through this sample, picking out sticks and other extraneous pieces that brought down the quality, dropping the grade. Sometimes a granny would spend the whole day over one bucket.

For the most part, anyone younger than senior citizen would not be hired for this work. It was hard and far too intense for the young and the dramatically restless. The ladies who returned year after year were always the ones who could be depended on to come in, do the job, show up every day and come back year after year. The men that were hired for the lab were the ones sent out into the fields to collect the samples.

After sometime, one of the grandmas might recommend a daughter or a neice, and eventually a younger population worked it's way into the crew. I think it was then discovered that it needn't take several months to accomplish the grading, growers realized they needn't wait so long to discover what they could sell their crop for, because with the younger crew, it might take just a few days to know their grade. So, the whole season would last six weeks to eight weeks, one low production year it was four weeks, instead of six months.

One year, there were several who were brought in through the unemployment office. That was when I came in. I worked one year, not at the meticulous picking, but in the large tub sorting that was divided later into sections for brewing, baking for seed count and other preserved for re-trial. This was actually very dirty work, probably one of the dirtiest jobs in the process. I thought from that first year that I was allergic to the hops, because I would rash horribly in every area of exposed skin, most severly in my underarms. I was told after two months that we were nearly done and they would be calling me back the next year.

Which didn't happen. When I realized the next year the harvest was in full swing, I called the lab and was told they had already hired the full crew. I asked to be called the following year. Which again didn't happen. The next year, I wasn't called, but I was pregnant so, I wasn't too upset. I started calling the lab in the spring, and insisted I be called when the harvest time came around again. When I finally was called into work, several years had gone by, but I recognised many and was happy to see the same faces again. I had the same chore as the one year, several years before. Amazingly, I was back the next year too. I think that year or the next, they started training me for the other parts of the process, the sitting and picking through it with tweezers. Over the years, I had a couple different friends and family members come in with me too. I liked being able to help anywhere they needed me, so I started getting trained for other spots in the process too. In the meantime, the first Lord-over-all-Boss-Lady got tired of it all and her assistant, a sweet lady took over the top spot. Things actually seemed to get cheerful and it was like being one of the seven dwarfs going off to work with Snow White to go back to work every year. One year Sweet Boss seemed a little off, but didn't say anything to anybody. Eventually it came out that she was battling cancer. So, I made it my goal to do whatever I could to keep things upbeat, do whatever I could to help. It made me feel good. But the second or third year of that, for some reason it was offensive that I did that. Nothing I did was received well at all. I didn't understand it, and there was no getting past it, so one day, it got so bad, I was so heartbroken, I had to walk out.

That wasn't the only job I've ever had that's left me broken hearted, but it might have been the first that I put my heart into. That story was over several years. The nightmare I dreamt had this ending: Apparently, for some reason, at the end of the season, gifts were being passed out. Mine was a bag of chocolate. Now that I'm diabetic, that was thoughtless, and in my new version, I got offended, although if that had happened at the time, I wasn't diabetic then. So, in my dream, I held the bag in front of the boss, and said 'What an insult, you're trying to kill me.' and tossed it unopened in the trash and walked out. Someone followed me out, who is someone I know now, but not then, who asked what the matter was, so I told her what I just told you.

What bothers me is that it still must be bothering me. I say that based on the rule that what you dream must be your subconsciousness working through your issues. I find it interesting that after years of that, thinking I'm over it, somewhere in my little universe, it still must be bothering me.

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