For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to come to Alaska for the summer to work. On paper it sounded like a great plan. All I have to do is work hard and I’ll come home with a healthy stack of money. Initially, my mentality was, “If they can do it, so can I. How hard could it be?” Boy was I in for a surprise.
First of all, let me define who “they” are. I work with 4 types of people. Filipinos, Somalians, and Mexicans account for 95 percent of the seasonal workforce, here in Naknek, AK. The other 5 percent of us happen to speak English as our first language. Regardless of our language barriers, everyone is here to work. Everyone knows what they got themselves into. Arguably, except me.
The company I work for is called Trident Seafood. I’m not on a boat, although I might be on one soon. I’ll talk about that when it happens. I currently work as a seafood processor on shore. Basically we form an assembly line to go from a fully alive salmon to a canned processed food ready for consumption.
I can tell you after only five days working here I have fillet more fish than the average sushi chef ever will in his lifetime. It’s not like I have to de-gut a fish every 15 seconds (I get paid the same regardless of my speed), I just do it to give myself a challenging goal to think about, otherwise I’ll fall asleep.
Speaking of sleep, we don’t get much of that. I work from 11pm to 3pm the next day. There’s one 30 min break for breakfast and two 10 minute short breaks for the entire 16 hour shift. When it ends you have less than 8 hours to eat, shower, wash clothes, sleep, etc. before the next shift starts. This goes on 7 days a week. I have experienced my first hallucinations working out here, something I thought to be impossible for me. I get so tired I’m literally working while half asleep. My brain must be confused because, often while I’m awake, these weird images (hallucinations) will start to appear in front of me. This morning I was cutting a butterfly’s head off, then its wings, and the guts. Once I began to lose my balance, I was awoken by my reflexes, and I looked at the fish in my hand. It was done. So I set it down onto the moving conveyer belt and grabbed another butterfly to fillet.
As for the pain. IT IS FUCKING INSANE. My hands, feet, arms, legs, and back are so sore I feel like an old man going through heroin withdrawals. What’s weird is even though I feel like I’m going to die at the end of each and every shift, I still wake up and go in the next day. I have to. It’s why I’m here. It’s the best and worst idea I’ve ever had. Best idea because I’ll come home with over 10 grand in less than two months. Worst because I’m changing.
Americans are so used to getting paid for essentially doing jack shit. Stand there and take his money. Sit there and answer phones. Eight hour work days, an hour lunch, mandatory breaks, sick pay, vacations, saturdays, sundays, free time. We have so much to complain about, don’t we?
I’m cutting into my sleep schedule writing this. If it wasn’t for clocks I wouldn’t even know what day it was. The sun hardly ever goes down. It’s dark for like 3 hours each day, between 1am and 4am, as far as I can tell.
It’s comical thinking back at how people thought I’d be going on some grand adventure when I told them I was going to Alaska for the summer. You could see the dazzle in their eyes as they imagined icebergs and polar bears. Take pictures they said. There really isn’t much to see. There’s no icebergs or polar bears. But there are grizzly bears. Typically if you’re close enough to take a picture of a grizzly, with your smartphone, you’re not going to live to talk about it. I haven’t even seen one anyway. Which is a good thing since I’m pretty sure my black ass looks like a fucking nigger seal. Bears like nigger seals.
Right now my best picture is of the Time Bandit. It ported here to sell its catch of salmon. I really don’t know too much else about it except that it’s a boat featured on the Deadliest Catch. I don’t watch the show.
Excuse me for not ending on something witty or interesting. I really just want to sleep.