Tag Archives: pigs

Innocence on the Job

I’ve worked a variety of jobs over the years; some that people would never expect if they didn’t know my past. I started young, very young, selling Regal Christmas cards from door to door. Somehow my mother got me started on it and I guess in the shyness of my youth, this did not bother me. I made some spending money and I think I was about nine or ten when I started this entrepreneurship. Now, I wouldn’t have the guts to bang on people’s doors and bother them. But as a little innocent with my cute cherubic face I could sell the cards and people weren’t suspicious of a child.

Innocence probably accompanied me through most of my jobs as a teen and young adult. When I was in college I had a job one summer surveying city lots for construction. I had worked in a store before that but the money was better surveying. I didn’t know how to survey but only one person on the team needs to know how to use the instrument.

The surveying teams were often two or three people; one (the actual surveyor) would set the instrument. Another would possibly hold the meter stick and another, the plumb bob, the weighted piece that gives a perpendicular line to the earth’s surface, important for accurate readings on uneven terrain. We were a team of three, consisting of the surveyor, me and another guy who was large, sweaty, unkempt and smelly. The three of us would ride around in the cab of the truck from lot to lot, me and the surveyor often saying disparaging things to the guy who never seemed to bathe.

I also was the more intelligent of the two workers and overtime the surveyor was teaching me how to read the equipment. The other guy wasn’t interested. This helped the day go faster because I was doing more than just holding a giant ruler. And there wasn’t a lot else to do when in a big flat space full of dirt.

It was summer in Calgary, hot and sunny, and dusty from all the grading trucks in the empty lots. So there were other workers there from those grading the land, to any operators of the heavy machinery and those pouring foundations for homes. I often worked with my hair braided, to keep it out of my face, and wearing this white, stretchy and therefore form-fitting halter top. With no bra of course. I actually had no clue that perhaps this got me more attention than I needed, often being the only woman on the site.

Yet I don’t really remember guys coming on to me, wolf-whistling or ogling me. Perhaps they were but if so they were surreptitious about it. However, I tend to think that it was because most of them were barely above the bar that would have them rated as intelligent. I actually don’t remember much about this job, except for the lunch hours. The lunch truck would come around and blare its horn. Everyone gathered there to eat, even if they brought their own food. Often they’d buy something else; a milk or juice, chocolate bar, or sandwich. The fodder was fairly pedestrian and there was little that resembled a vegetable that these guys probably wouldn’t have eaten anyways.

But the most astounding thing was to watch these construction workers eat, which makes me think that most of them had to be single. They shoveled, literally shoveled food into their mouths, chewing as pieces fell out. Others chewed open mouth and ate like ravenous hyenas. And others drank their milk or juice, pouring it into their mouths so that it spilled out and across their faces or down the corners over their chin and onto their shirts. In essence they ate like pigs.

Me sitting there in my white halter top, naively unaware that I was the only woman on site, gaped and was astounded at the animal ferocity of the men. These guys were barely human. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like if I’d been working on my own without a team. The other helper guy fit into the piggy category and was pretty stupid but the surveyor was a decent guy, educated and with manners. I think in a way that he probably was a shield to the other men. That and the fact that we were usually away from the construction crews, working where it was devoid of nearly inhuman men.

Still, I think back to that job and shake my head at what I wore, and I’m thankful that for all the animalness of the men in eating, they remained decent enough to leave me alone.

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Swine Flu? When Pigs Fly

Okay, that’s a little joke but I think we need to keep a few things in perspective when it comes to the spreading fear of swine flu. Fear is spreading faster than the flu and though it is a serious enough illness, it should be treated with level headedness, not paranoia. Panic can be a demon that brings on an epidemic of hysteria.

If the media had existed in its current form in the 14th century when the Black Plague first reared its deadly head, probably more people would have died from fear, from fear mongering, from ostracization than those already-high numbers. The Black Death killed an estimated 30-60% of Europe’s population, decimating society and economy for many years to come. Some 75 million people are believed to have died from the bubonic plague.

These days, we may not get to those numbers because medical care is better. Yet we might get to higher numbers because there are far more people than Europe in the Middle Ages. And many cities are overcrowded, not to mention that many nations still have poor levels of sanitation and health. An estimated 500,000 people die yearly from seasonal flus. Mexico City has 22 million people but the flu has shown in a few other areas of Mexico as well as in Texas. Still, there are only 7 confirmed deaths by the WHO as of yesterday.

That’s not many yet. In fact, 150 people out of a population of 110 million is a pretty small percentage. However, every death is a rent, a loss of life and grief for loved ones; that should matter. We do have to be cautious but not crazed. People aren’t getting these from pigs, no matter what the name indicates. Eating pork won’t make a difference. However, one thing that humans learned over the centuries that cut down on the spread of disease and infection was that cleanliness makes a difference.

We’ve moved out of the polite era, when everyone was taught manners, coughed and sneezed into handkerchiefs, washed behind their ears and washed their hands because parents instilled it into their kids. We’ve become lackadaisical in this modern, free age, but what you can’t see can indeed hurt you. When it comes to hygiene we must still be diligent.

Here’s the best thing to do to avoid swine flu, any flu or illness in general: wash your hands well, often, and with soap and water. Cover your mouth with your arm or a tissue if you cough. Use tissues for your nose. Wipe down surfaces with disinfectant. If you cough or sneeze, don’t do it on others. Wash your hands often. Don’t kiss pigs.

Usually influenzas hit the very young and the very old. So far, this flu has killed men in the 25-40 (or 50) age range for some reason. Tomorrow I fly to LA. I’m not worried. After all, I’m healthy. I don’t have a compromised immune system or any illness that weakens me. My lungs (the area to worry about most) are very strong. I’m not flying to Mexico. Even all the people that the flu infects each year do not die from it. Planes are very good incubators of infections/colds in general. A closed space with a lot of people. It’s best to be vigilant about hygiene whenever flying.

There have been questions why the mortality rate would be higher in Mexico than elsewhere. If it’s Mexico City, well, there are 22 million people, as I said. When I was in Mexico in the late 80s, the smog was so bad that birds were dropping out of the air and you could taste it. Add that on top of other respiratory problems and a flu that attacks the same area and it’s not surprising that more people may die in Mexico City (and any other overpopulated, polluted city center) than in other cities.

Flu shots have been given for quite a few years now, optional but encouraged for the young and old. I predict we’ll see more people getting flu shots this year in general. However, a viable vaccine for this current flu would take a few months to work out and perfect. If this doesn’t turn pandemic, then it will have abated by then.

Symptoms are similar to other flu symptoms, fever, runny nose, coughing, sore throat, nausea, possible vomiting and diarrhea, lack of energy and appetite. (More severe cases may deal with respiratory problems and death.) Don’t jump to conclusions if you develop some of these. If you have been to Mexico or in contact with someone who has, watch your symptoms, call  your doctor’s office if you’re worried, or if it is a child or elderly person who is ill. If the fever goes beyond a few degrees or you have trouble breathing, then you will probably want to get checked out. Children and the elderly are always at risk. Eating healthily, drinking plenty of water and getting adequate sleep will keep your immune system strong.

Becoming crazed with fear is a more likely way to get sick than just taking sensible precautions. And when the latest scare is over, continue following good hygenic habits. After all, in many ways we don’t want to go back to, or repeat the Middle Ages.

Update as of 10/15/09: There is an awful lot of hype about this flu and to this date there are fewer people who have died from it than from other flus. However, the high-risk group does seem to be 20-year-olds and early 30s. Each person will have to decide if they need a flu shot or not but as a healthy female, who isn’t pregnant nor in that age group, I’ll forego the shot and take my chances.

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