I thought that it was time to express to you, publicly, the disappointment I have harboured all these years for what I can only describe as a bitter betrayal. I have no doubt you will not remember me. I was only a young upstart working in the seafood department of a grocery store chain in Factoria, WA.
I paid my dues and wore the honour of being a member of the Meatpackers Union with pride. I learned how to clean Dungeness crab, fillet Salmon and handle whole Halibut as big as myself.
I created my own commercials to perform over the PA system, not even fish guts keeping down my taste for theatrics. It didn’t bother me that I reeked to high heaven although I would wash my hands in lemon juice for the benefit of my family. I have no sense of smell (long story). It seemed a perfect marriage – fish and I.
One of my daily duties was ensuring that the fish in the display case remained moist and can I just remark that I wish I could use any other word to describe that. I hate the word moist. It makes my skin crawl. We had a plastic spray bottle that we would use to mist the fish with as the circulating air in the display case wreaked havoc on the merchandise.
One day I grabbed the plain plastic water bottle and began to mist. There wasn’t much water left in the bottle so I had to pump and pump and pump. The water left in the bottle became uncharacteristically frothy but I credited the bubbles to aeration. I had completed spraying the display case of fish when I noticed bubbles on the salmon fillets and the colour of the salmon skin changing colour.
Suddenly there were little bubbles on all of the fish fillets and a mutation of fish flesh began unfolding before my eyes. I opened the water bottle and sniffed – pointless really, so I ran over to the deli department.
“Can you smell this?
“Just fucking smell it. What is it?”
“Dude, that’s bleach.”
“Ohmygodohmygodohmyfuckingod! I just sprayed the entire fish case with bleach!”
“Why did you do that?”
That’s the deli department for you. I ran back to the seafood department in a panic. Could I wash the fish? I had a line of elderly customers wanting the Dover Sole I had just wittily advertised over the PA.
“I can’t sell you any Sole right now Ma’am. Yes, I know it’s odd. No the Cod isn’t available either. Yes, I see it in the case but it’s not for sale… no those bubbles aren’t supposed to be there.”
I shook the bottle in the air, cursing its very existence and that’s when I noticed it. There was no Mr. Yuk sticker on the bottle. I had been sabotaged. Someone hadn’t followed protocol! I wasn’t to blame after all. Thank Christ! With renewed optimism, I rang my Manager and explained how I was victim, along with the fish, to someone else’s massive faux pas.
I was told to go home immediatley. And Wait.
I trudged home sobbing, still wearing the grimy rubber apron covered in fish guts. At home I sat at the kitchen table and recounted, for my family, the clusterfuck that had me home earlier than expected.
The phone rang. It was the store manager. I needn’t come back to work. I protested, feebly, about the Mr. Yuk sticker and was informed that my lack of sense of smell was a liability.
Feeling vomity, I called my beloved Meatpackers Union.
“I’ve been unjustly fired!”
“Calm down little Lady, this is what we’re here for. We’re going to take care of this, just take a deep breath and start from the beginning.”
My family looked up simultaneously when they heard my union rep’s peals of laughter echo through the phone.
“He said, we can’t do nothin for ya!” Direct Quote.
Granted, I cost the store thousands of dollars that day but I maintain we had a protocol for a goddamned reason! If that happened now, I’d start a scathing Yelp campaign followed by an inflammatory YouTube video, sure to go viral, of Meatpackers Union Reps wearing nothing but Mr. Yuk stickers.
I cried for a day and then got a job at the pizza store next door where I was sexually harassed for choosing a company t-shirt that wasn’t tight enough. Oh youth, what a mine field of Douchery.
Perhaps in the end you helped me, Meatpackers Union, by taking my money and then betraying me in my hour of need. Ralph Emerson’s Self-Reliance at work in the gluey residue of a Mr. Yuk sticker (or lack thereof).
With all my love,
PS — All of Furni’s stories really happened and her letters are sincere.