Tim Belford: Short Takes On Life
Tim Belford
Tim Belford
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Tim Belford is host of Quebec A.M. -- CBC Radio's popular English- language morning show (91.7 FM, 6-9, Mon.-Fri). He also is said to know a thing or three about wine.

Posted 06.05.01
Quebec City


The summer job that burned my butt

All of this talk the last few days about summer jobs set me to thinking.

When I was growing, up most of us got our first job working on our parent's or somebody else's farm.

In Niagara Falls, when you graduated from the farm, you usually ended up in the tourism industry.

I took a different route.

My uncle, you see, was the manager of a refinery. It produced things like STP and other oil additives.

My first job was climbing into those black oil or chemical train cars.

After they were emptied, I was dropped in with a bucket of turpoline -- that's a mixture of kerosene and turpentine -- and a handful of rags.

The object was to wipe out what oil residue remained and clean out the car.

No gas mask. No breathing apparatus. No warning.

The sole safety precaution was a slightly more senior worker who sat on the top of the car and peered into the hole to see if you'd passed out.

I remember cleaning out a nice, shiny tank truck one time.

It had been filled with a chemical whose name I don't recall. It was phenol something or other.

Anyway, among its properties was the ability to burn skin.

I didn't realize I had actually come into contact with the phenol whatever until a day later.

Riding my bike to work I became acutely aware of a burning sensation on my left buttock.

A cursory examination, while changing into my coveralls at work, located the source of the irritation.

It was a circular blister about four inches across.

To make a long story short, they had to phone the head office in Cleveland to find out, one, what it was, and two, what to do.

As I said, what it was, was phenol something or other, and the to do involved bending over the out patient table, at my doctor's office a scalpel, some iodine, and a nurse that I had gone to high school with.

In retrospect, I'm not sure which was more painful -- the scalpel, the iodine, or dropping my drawers in front of someone I had known since grade three.

The upshot of the event was that I got two days off work and was left with an embarrassing bull's eye type scar for the better part of a year.

It also served, at the age of twenty, to reacquaint me with my mother.

That was because, given the geography of the wound in question, I was unable to apply the iodine every four hours myself.

But, as she said, there was nothing there she hadn't seen or powdered before.