In December 1995 I was halfway through boot camp, a time called service week. Service week was when the recruits went to work in the galley. Some served food, other mopped the floor, and still others handed out miniature boxes of cereal.
My name was chosen alphabetically for assignment to the GI Hole. There were six of us; our job was to wash the big pots and pans that the food was cooked in and to get rid of leftovers. Approaching the hole from the glistening clean galley, the walls would grow continually darker, the air thicker and warmer, and the odor more pungent. The hole itself was a very large room; with pots and pans stacked six feet high along three of the four walls.
We would work at a feverish pitch, trying desperately to finish at a decent hour. I was nearly deafened by the sound of the metal pans flying down the metal trough. One person would scrub a little, and then pass, scrub then pass. In the morning, the butcher would come with his gigantic cauldron the size of a wheelbarrow and dump the blood on the floor so it would run down the drain in the middle of the floor.
The problem was, the blood didn’t drain.
The screen covering the drain would clog up, and the water we used to spray the pans with would begin to collect on the ground. By noon, we were standing in two inches of warm water, rotten food, and blood. Over the course of the day, scraps of food build up, and we would dump them in a large metal bin three feet long and a foot deep. When the bin was full of leftover scraps of food, it was time to feed Igor.
Igor was the industrial strength garbage disposal in the center of our shallow gutter that we used to wash the pans in. We would scoop the food out with our hands, spread it out on the counter and look for peas. Igor didn’t like peas because they would cause him to choke. Then we would push the food into Igor’s mouth. Igor would churn and spit, and swallow, and tiny bits of food would spray out of his mouth.
The food would get everywhere, in my hair, in my eyebrows, in my nose, and in my mouth. Tiny bits of bloody rotting food were getting everywhere, and I couldn’t get it off! Some of my co-workers developed rashes in their arms from the big black rubber gloves that they wore. These gloves were never washed, and they came up over the elbow. Little bits of Igor’s snacks would get inside the gloves and fester for months.
Sometimes I ask if anyone remembers the GI Hole, but it seems very few do.
The hole was shut down soon after I left, for sanitary reasons.