Eddie tended to drift into whatever jobs were available to pay the rent. He never expected to become a professional at a job few people realized even existed.
He stood in line again at the employment agency after he’d been given the sack by Pinkerton Security. His neighbors in the apartment building where he lived had a newborn who cried during the day while he was supposed to be sleeping. On the job, Eddie had just sat down for a couple of minutes and wouldn’t you know an official from the defense company they were guarding came by and caught him napping.
He knew Mr. Bucholz, his landlord, wouldn’t cut him any slack. The fifth of the month loomed. Eddie scanned job categories on the Employment Office’s computer. Desperate, he viewed a dishwashing position at a restaurant. The pay was piddling, but maybe it would hold him over until he could get something else.
Under Miscellaneous, he noticed an unusual heading:
Taster for well-known company, starting salary-thirty-thousand dollars per year, must have discerning palate, short day shifts
Now there was a job he could sink his teeth into. He loved to eat. Probably, they had gourmet items to try. Maybe they would let him take home samples and he could cut down on the cost of his groceries. Eagerly, he filled out the application and pressed send.
Two days later, he received a call.
“Mr. Eddie Heinz?”
“Yup, that’s me.”
“This is John Gillman with Gillman Laboratories. You filled out an application for a position as a taster?”
Eddie pulled in a deep breath. “Yes sir, I did.”
“Would you be able to come in for an interview tomorrow, say at ten a.m.?”
“Sure, what’s the address?”
“15161 Reed Drive.”
Eddie pressed the phone between his shoulder and his ear and wrote the address on a pizza box.
“I’ll be there.”
That evening, Eddie went to the Laundromat and washed a shirt and a pair of slacks. He hung them up before they were completely dry to keep wrinkles out. In the morning, he showered and shaved, dressed, and gulped down some Cheerios. His Ford Pinto finally shuddered to a start and he headed out whistling.
The building that housed Gillman Laboratories was impressive. The outer office had a glamorous receptionist who Eddie thought should have been on TV.
“I’m Eddie Heinz-like the ketchup. I have an appointment with Mr. Gillman.”
The woman pressed her lips together, but a small giggle escaped. Was she laughing about what he’d just said or was she b in on some joke Eddie didn’t get?
She pointed at some chairs behind him. “Sit there. Mr. Gillman will be with you shortly.”
Eddie moistened his thumb and paged through a magazine. He felt a trickle of sweat sliding down the middle of his back. He leaned forward, so he wouldn’t make a stain on his shirt.
When was he finally called in, Mr. Gillman shook his hand and gestured for Eddie to sit down in front of his desk.
“Eddie, I’d like to run a number of tests to see if you are qualified for this job.”
Eddie nodded enthusiastically, “Of course.”
“First, we need to know how keen your sense of smell is. Brittany, my secretary, will blindfold you and you’ll have to identify what the scent is.”
As Brittany tied the mask over his eyes, Eddie felt her long fingernails on the back of his head. He hoped she wouldn’t notice how his breathing accelerated.
Eddie heard something that sounded like cereal being poured into a bowl.
“Now, Eddie, lean over and tell me what you smell.”
Eddie made an exaggerated sniff. He knew the aroma of steak, something he hadn’t eaten in a long time. He inhaled again and thought of his favorite cut of meat.
“Porterhouse steak,” he said.
“Incredible,” Mr. Gillman said. “Lots of applicants knew it was steak, but only you knew it was porterhouse.”
“Try this one.”
“Hm-m, some kind of grains I think, mainly corn, and strangely enough someone has added … could it be tuna?”
“Correct,” Mr. Gillman shouted. “Brittany, we may have a winner here. Now, let’s try your tasting ability. Eddie started to take off his blindfold. “
“Keep the mask on, please, Eddie. Brittany would you feed him a couple of morsels?”
Eddie opened his mouth wide and she popped something crunchy inside. He began chewing. “It’s grilled chicken with …yuck, what is this? I have to spit it out now.”
He tore off the blindfold.
Brittany handed him an empty bowl as if she was expecting him to spew out what she’d given him. She had that smirk on her face he’d seen before.
“I’m sorry, Eddie,” Mr. Gillman said. “If we advertise this job as a tester for dog and cat food, no one shows up. You obviously have a talent for this. You don’t have to eat the kibble, just taste it and spit it out. Then, rate the smell and taste and tell the manufacturers how it might be improved. Would you like the job?”
Eddie sat for a few minutes. He thought about his rent payment and how since he was fired, he likely wouldn’t get unemployment. How bad could it be? Maybe he’d get used to it.
“Well, Mr. Gillman, I’ve decided the snack you just gave me was doggone good.”
John Gillman smiled, and Brittany laughed.
“I just want to ask you for one favor. After I’ve worked here a week, I need an advance to pay my rent.”
“You got it, Eddie. Show up on Monday morning and you can get started.”
Eddie has worked for Gillman Laboratories for seven years. His title now: Professional Taster. He makes seventy-five-thousand a year. He bought a house and drives a sports car.
He can tell you the ingredients of every major pet food company’s products without looking at the bag. He has become rather fond of Kit-Kat, and that’s not a candy bar.
He never tells dates what he does for a living, he’s afraid they won’t kiss him.