When I get a crazy idea in my head, I often just plow right into it without really thinking. There’s many times when it has worked in my favor, and a few that didn’t. In the end, I create situations where my mouth writes check that my sorry butt has to then cash. Getting my brewery job was one of them.
I saw the job posting on their web site, a long neglected position that they had trouble keeping filled. This should have been a warning to me, but instead I saw it as a challenge. I decided that if the job was vacant, it would be mine. So, I showed up with a six pack of beer and a resume one afternoon and met with the brewer who would become my boss.
We had a nice discussion, drinking the regrettably warm samples of my beer that I had brought. At the end, I felt good, like I might be able to hack it. I did call the next day to thank him for the interview. I also got the number for the corporate office and the other person I had to interview with to get the job. It was a long, nearly three month process to finally get an answer. Basically, I wouldn’t stop until they told me no. Not having any real reason not to, they relented and I was hired.
Okay, I thought to myself as I arrived to my first day of work, now what? It was time to put up or shut up, I learned. The first day and weeks to follow would be a ground up education on brewing professionally. It involved mostly cleaning, and heavy lifting. I didn’t complain, I didn’t whine, I learned also to stop asking so many questions and try to figure it out myself. It really took my out of my comfort zone. At night, I would go home exhausted, but determined to do the work. I knew I would have to get strong, and fast.
I began lifting the heaviest items I could find at home, trying to build strength in my legs and back and arms. Since I had to load 50 lb sacks of grain, I tried to find something that I could move around of similar weight. I lifted and did rowing motions to strengthen my lower back. We never paid to have the grain sacks taken off the truck when they were delivered. We always had to manually unload, which wasn’t as bad as the careful restacking of each bag into it’s respective area. I often had to take my glasses off because they were inevitably knocked to the ground during this process. My boss would joke that these moments were when I would “get serious” and I would smile. I knew that I could do the work then, even in spite of the way customers and other servers in the restaurant treated me.
For another task that really tested me, I had to “jump into” the fermenters to clean them from the inside. They were giant stainless steel tanks with an eye level “manway” door that looked like something from a submarine. I had to take two long wooden planks that were bolted in the middle to expand into an X, which provide something for me to “land” on, and gently maneuver them through the manway door, set them in place to jump in and clean the tank from the inside. The first few times I attempted this, I feebly dropped them and labored to get them placed correctly. My boss later pointed out the deep scratches I had put inside the tank and how this was bad for the beer, leaving areas for bacteria to grow and spoil it.
I knew I needed to get stronger. I began taking the heaviest of the kitchen chairs and holding it in front of me at arms length until my arms shook. I would try to move it slowly up and down, trying to rebuild stamina and endurance, but also control. I would do push ups and crunches as well, building my upper body strength to where I needed it to be to do my job.
It ended up working pretty well, and in a few short months I had dropped two pant sizes. I was never stronger in my life, physically. I miss those days, sometimes. Especially after I spent 8 hours straight sitting down at my current position. There was something freeing to use my body as part of my work, to see the end result and feel productive.