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Kind of fishy

About a decade ago, a guy told me a terrific fish guts story. I laughed out loud, then thought, “Well, I’ll never hear another fish innards story that good again, but many people have never heard even one, so I’m way ahead of the curve.”

Just to catch you up, I’ll summarize it. A friend of mine had gotten a job as a truck driver, and for his first trip out of Minnesota he was assigned to drive to the West Coast to pick up a load of fish guts for a dog food factory in Minnesota. He was teamed with a more veteran driver who had a certain amount of trouble with impulse control. For example, he was incapable of letting someone pass him. This created a bit of a problem, but nothing too dangerous - until they were headed down from the Rocky Mountains and another truck passed them. He was unable to keep up, so he put the truck in neutral and let gravity do the work of acceleration.

This, I believe everyone can agree, was not a particularly good idea.

They survived the trip down the mountain, but it was a quick and vigorous ride which caused many of the barrels of fish guts to spring leaks.

In my experience, truck drivers are a pretty tolerant bunch. Guys hauling hogs share a parking lot with tanks full of sulfuric acid and everyone gets along fine. But tolerance has a limit, and in this case, the limit was leaking fish guts that have been bouncing and sloshing around in barrels for a week or two. They were banished to the far edge of every lot they entered and ate their meals at the far corner booth in the truck stop restaurants. It was a long trip home.

Thinking about long trips home led me to the story I heard last week. A long time ago, in a country far, far away, two management consultants were working in a factory that made oils.

Don't ask me to explain what they were doing. I don’t really understand.

What I do know is that there are lots of different kinds of oils and this factory made them all.

What makes this a story is that on Fridays, they made fish oil. The two men were charged with analyzing problems in production, so they needed to be on the factory floor, right in the thick of it, so to speak.

A man’s gotta make a living, and it seemed this wasn’t the worst job they’d ever had, but the problem was that every Friday after work, they had to catch a plane for home. Because there was only one flight each day, they didn’t have time to go back to their hotel to shower and change clothes.

I was a hog farmer for a quarter of a century, so I can say with absolute confidence that some jobs require a shower and a change of clothes before you’re fit to mingle with the rest of the world.

The two men would rush to the airport and take their seats in first class. They’d order a drink, slink down in their seats, and listen to their fellow first-class passengers summon flight attendants to ask, “Miss, what is that horrible smell? It’s almost like we’re surrounded by dead fish.”

Here’s a shout out to flight attendants – they never ratted out the fish oil men, which would have been easy. “Yeah, it’s those two stinky guys up in front, but what can I do? They paid for their seats.”

Instead, each time they were questioned, they answered, “I’ll look into it, sir.”

This wasn’t a one-time thing. The job stretched on for weeks, and every Friday they sank a little lower in their seats. There’s also a chance they’d pound down an extra drink or two.

The guys wouldn’t have gotten away with it if they’d been dressed like fishermen or truck drivers. Their company dress code meant wearing nice suits and carrying briefcases.

And that’s the lesson for today, children. If you wear a suit and carry a briefcase, you can really stink up the joint and not have to face consequences. But don’t try it wearing work boots and stained jeans – you’ll end up at the booth in the corner, with a long walk back to your truck.

Copyright 2022 Brent Olson


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