Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mutant Spiders

Back in the day (Fall of '95; I remember listening to the end of the OJ trial on site) I got a job for a big chemical manufacturing plant in PA. My job, as it was explained to me, was to go around this plant and retrieve old, unused computers, clean them up, and prepare them for salvage.

What they didn't tell me right off was that the computers were unused because the plant had been evacuated, and that the stuff I was cleaning off was toxic residue, and that to get to them I had to don a SCBA tank, a hazmat suit, and wade through the detritus of an abandoned factory.

Fun job, right? It would have been, except for the spiders.

Now, there's a bunch of Troma films about toxic waste turning people superhuman. I don't know about that, but it certainly did wonders for the spider population. Apparently, the spill created a breeding ground for a particular type of flying thing. I don't know what they were, but they were nasty. Like brown lighting bugs with no redeeming qualities. Spiders apparently love these things, and in the years since the plant was closed, the spiders had grown. And multiplied. And I swear - mutated. These spiders weren't large (compared to some we got round those parts), but they were thick, juicy, and plentiful. As in, you had to wade through the carcasses half and inch deep in some rooms. There were no predators for them, see, or not enough, and when they died (presumably from starvation) their little crunchy husks fell like ash. There were plenty living, though, and you could find a dozen of them in any doorway or light fixture.

Down in the tunnels, though, there were no spiders. Just gunk. Gunk that we sprayed with another toxic chemical that bonded to the slime and turned it to crystal. Then it was a matter of shoveling it out. There were a lot of tunnels.

Up on the surface, in the clean buildings (the old admin trailers), things just smelled bad. Some areas you could walk into without SCBA, but the air wouldn't do you any good. Gas would move, but it was like there was no oxygen to be had. It was as if parts of New Jersey had gotten across the river and set up shop.

Strangely, the MOST interesting thing to happen to me on this job was during a run to the salvage operation. I was in the company van, waiting for a train. Trains parked in the yard, so they would break them up at the crossings so vehicles could get through. They were in the process of closing one up to move it somewhere else, when the train guy (I don't know his real title) waved the last vehicles through, then signaled to the engine to close the gap. Problem was the guy in front of me stopped to talk to this signal fellow, which left the back end of my truck over the tracks. I couldn't move, and by the time I realized the train had started moving, it was too late. I bailed out and watched as the train slowly crushed the back end of the van at about half a mile an hour. Slow, but unstoppable.

For some reason, I was let go shortly after that.