Day 255

Like all college students, I needed a summer job. Luckily I happened to be in the right place at the  right time, and found work in an Ontario craft brewery.

It’s hard physical work. It’s long hours. It’s way better than working at the mall: fun, educational and, hey, you’re making beer!

If you plan to work in a brewery, you are going to sleep well at night, because, as mentioned, it is a lot of work. You are on your feet all day, hauling, lifting, stacking, unstacking, filtering, filling, emptying, cleaning, sanitizing, hauling and lifting. (I repeated “hauling and lifting” because there is a tremendous amount of what I would characterize as hauling and lifting.)

However, my first task at the brewery, some five minutes after I arrived, was a little less physically rigorous: “popping boxes”.

Beer sold in six-packs in Ontario generally is packaged in boxboard cartons, which arrive from the printer flattened. When you take a flattened carton and press the opposite corners, the flattened shape suddenly springs into a 3-D box and the two leaves that form the bottom of the carton lock together with an audible “pop”.  Four of these six-pack cartons fit into a cardboard “flat”, for the benefit of the consumer who likes to buy beer 24 bottles at a time. Those flats also arrive from the printer flattened, but they don’t pop open, they have to be folded into shape, which requires five separate folds.

So the first step is to haul a skid over to your work area. Next, fold enough flats to fill the  skid. (A skid holds seven layers x 12 flats per layer = 84 flats per skid.)

Once you’ve completed your flats, it’s time to pop some boxes. Hold the bottling date stamp in your right hand. With your left hand, take a flattened box by one corner, and press the other corner against your tummy until the box pops. Stamp the bottling date on the bottom of the box, then put the box in a flat. Repeat 335 more times, which should fill the skid. Use a manual forklift to haul the filled skid over to the end of the bottling line. Get an empty skid and start all over again. Repeat process until the brewmaster says whoa.

And that, my friends, is popping boxes, a long but necessary process, for without popped boxes, bottles of beer have no place to call home.

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