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Black pool bakery

In September of 2009 I got a job at a bakery in north metropolitan Cork City, Ireland. It started badly.

It didn't last. It wasn't good.

In accordance with food-service tradition, Paul tried to withhold pay at the end of employment, and probably would have succeeded if I'd not been persistent and a bit clever....

Disrespect for the value of somebody else's time was a key theme in my five days of shifts that were strewn across evenings and afternoons unscheduled.

Another discomforting factor was that this was not a retail bakery. It was a wholesale operation, and in a fluorescent-lighted warehouse unit.

And these guys.... they were friendly enough — but committed, devoted. The son had worked for four years unpaid. The father, 71, wanted to keep working. Paul works nearly all the time, and has his family as well. That's great; good for them. But they appeared to assume that I had implicitly signed up for some kind of apprenticeship.

I don't want to serve an apprenticeship. I want to know what I'm supposed to do, and when I'm supposed to be there to do it. I want to know when I'm going to be finished, or what it is I need to finish before I can go. And then I want to go.

And then there was the additive... I don't even know what that stuff is. "Conditioner," they call it. It puffs up the bread, and it's a preservative, too. It makes the dough puffier, too, and strange to handle.

There I was in the company of two generations of trained (not intuitive) bakers, watching with family-business eyes, as I attempted to shape weird soft marshmallowy dough in a factory setting.

It couldn't have lasted. No way.

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