Thursday, September 29, 2011


The other day I returned from work and noticed that chocolate was stuck under my fingernails. I thought I had washed them, thoroughly, numerous times, but apparently that hadn't been good enough. So I decided to give them another good scrub at home, but that didn't seem to do too well either. So then I figured that a nice long soak in the tub could possibly get the chocolate out of there. I soaked to no avail. But maybe my nails were just too long, so I searched through my apartment for a good twenty minutes before uncovering my clippers and cut my nails as short as I could. Washed again. Still not clean. 

Then I took a closer look at the situation. This wasn't chocolate. These were…scabs! It may sound creepy but I knew exactly what the culprit was. Pineapples. Those spiky little bastards may look innocent enough but I now know better. One day at work my boss gave me the lovely task of dismantling an entire case of pineapples. That's eight, by the way. Sounded easy enough, and since I often get saddled with thrilling jobs like peeling, zesting, juicing, and chopping I wasn't disappointed. Sure it may not be intellectually stimulating but at least it's something I can complete without getting yelled at or being afraid I may mess it up. 

So my boss informed me to peel the pineapples and that he would then be back to instruct me on how to further chop up these suckers. So I carved away at my "ananas" until my boss came back and gave me a disapproving look, wrenched my serrated knife from my fingers and told me I had to "regarde" the shape of the pineapple. I will admit that after I was done massacring them they looked more like misshapen footballs than your average pineapple and so I watched how he quickly sliced away at the rind, producing a naked pineapple that still resembled, well, a pineapple. I tried as I could to make mine like his but still I found that mine were quite uneven. Plus I could not manage to cut booth deep enough and smooth enough at the same time and so most of my pineapples emerged with all their eyes still in. When I asked him if this was "c'est bon" he told me that it was fine, I would just go through and gouge the eyes out with a knife after I was done. So then I happily chopped away the rinds, leaving most of the eyes intact, knowing that my pineapples would turn out just fine anyway. 

After finishing all eight pineapples, plus one which had been hiding in the walk-in refrigerator, my boss grabbed a small knife and showed me how to cut out the pineapple eyes. It seemed easy enough. Oh how foolish I was. Those dang eye-spikes really hold on when you try to remove them and I found myself taking out massive chunks of pineapple or, on even worse attempts, slipping the knife completely through the fruit and poking myself in the hand. A mere fleshwound. It wasn't even bleeding! I was fine. I was determined to complete this task with dignity, pride, professionalism, and most importantly, perfection. I found that the best way to remove the pineapple eyes was to jab my thumb into them to loosen them up a little. Then all I needed to do was jimmy the knife beneath them and they popped right out. I completed about half of the pineapples before I noticed that something funny was going on. 

For those of you who do not know, because I obviously didn't, pineapples are extremely acidic. And since I'd been jabbing my thumbs into them and gripping on them with my nails as tightly as I could, this demonic pineapple juice had nestled comfortably beneath them, on top of them, all over them. Under my nails was starting to be uncomfortable and when I took a break from my pineapple cutting to look at them I noticed that four of them were bleeding. Apparently the acid had eaten away and the tender thin skin under my nails and on my cuticles. The pain was horrible. I'd discovered that paper cuts are not, actually, the worst pain a human can experience. Pineapple acid wounds are. For days my fingertips were sore. I pulled on some plastic gloves and continued chopping the pineapples. My boss told me to cut out the cores, chop them into strips, and then into tiny little morsels. Sure I was thinking that "regarding" the shape of the pineapple really wasn't all that important if I was just going to cut them up into bits, but I was also thinking that this was a way for me to improve my knife skills. And without the handicap of bleeding fingers and plastic gloves three sizes to big to hold me back the next time, I'd be a pro! 

And there it was. Without even knowing it optimism had snuck up on me. I may have been cursing satanic pineapples, hating that I always got stuck with these jobs and hating even more that I enjoyed it because I am a wuss at heart, but I was also, at the very least, trying to look at the bright side. 

Sure things may not have gotten much better in the days since the pineapple experience, but I am still trying to hold onto that positive outlook. Of course the pessimist inside of me, which seems so natural and easy to express, doesn't exactly enjoy every moment but I am, at the same time, trying to hold onto some sort of hope. Knife skills. Cleaning skills. The ability to get yelled at in another language and not cry. Learning how to place raspberries on a tart with deadly accuracy. All of these things should improve in the next six months. And even more importantly, my personal strength should drastically progress. 

This is what life changing experiences are about, right? Sure I was expecting a life changing experience that would involve a bit more amorous french encounters, incredible meals of foie gras and escargots, late nights with wine and dancing. But this is the stuff that makes people. And I must say that while I'm not as positive and bubbly as I'd like to be, at least I can have a sarcastic sense of humor about these things. My family has laughed at me enough to teach me to laugh at myself. I've dealt with enough crazy people to take their actions in stride. And somehow during my flight from San Francisco to Paris I underwent a transformation and stopped being such a sissy. 

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