The strangest place I ever worked was a mail order company.
I’d just gotten divorced, and my primary goal in life was to stop running into my ex-husband and his hussy at the grocery store, and then going home and crying until I vomited, so when a job was offered several states away from Ohio, I opted to take it.
It was not, on the surface, a match made in heaven. I was vegetarian; they sold hunting equipment. I was pro gun control; they sold ammunition. I favored animal rights; they favored animal pelts. (As room décor. Seriously -- every office at VP level and above sported a bearskin, or a moose head, or a fish. The place was a taxidermist’s wet dream.)
On the other hand, I could buy weekly provisions without a meltdown, so it all evened out.
Not only was this place just drenched in testosterone, it was situated across the street from the stockyards. My favorite feature of the stockyards (other than the opportunity to get stampeded by an escaped bull whilst walking at lunch) was the bone chute.
The bone chute was a conveyor line that transported the leftover parts of the carcasses to a second-floor opening in the western wall of the slaughterhouse. Outside, a dump truck waited to haul the offal away. On a brisk winter’s morning, the sight of a rib cage with red flecks of tissue still clinging to white bone, gently steaming against a cloudless blue sky, was enough to take your breath away.
It could do a number on your breakfast, too.
It was not a female-friendly environment. It was said that during one of the buying meetings, during a discussion about tee shirt logos for the next catalog, the CEO proposed one that said, “What Do All Battered Women Have in Common? They Don’t Know When to Shut Up.”
Since I wasn’t feeling all that great about men at that time, I derived a fair amount of enjoyment from being the scariest woman they’d ever met. For example, I started my meetings on time, regardless of whether everyone was there. When people showed up late and wanted to know what they’d missed, I recommended that they get the notes from their neighbor. They soon began arriving on time.
It was kind of like those cartoons you see of elephants piled up in a corner, cowering away from a mouse.
My favorite quote from that era was made by the woman who ran the Telemarketing Department, whose office overlooked the slaughterhouse.
“Every evening I look out at the bone chute,” she said. “If I don’t see myself dropping into the truck, I figure it’s been a good day.”