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Coming of Age

As Mike stared out through the kitchen window, his thoughts drifted as he watched the cardinal on the snow- covered bird bath. Now, eight years later, Mike was holding a golden ticket in his hand. Depart Kennedy International Airport July 23. Arrive Santiago July 24. Mike had never even known that Latam Airlines was an airline company. Latam Airlines was flying him to Santiago, Chile with all expenses paid. It was a dream-come-true in many aspects. It had all started eight years ago. Mike worked four consecutive summer jobs at the small dry ice production plant in the neighboring town of Floral Park, Long Island. The job was ideal. Regular day shift hours with occasional weekends, holidays and overtime. A young college man’s dream. In hot, humid Long Island, working in an open-air, naturally air- conditioned environment was usually exhilarating. Frozen liquid nitrogen occurred at a temperature of minus 109 (F) degrees. One unwritten recommendation to the small group of employees was to wear trashy clothes, enough on you to stay warm and nothing fancy by any means. Best to wear the same clothes for a whole week. It was cold enough that the guys always smelled pretty good each week before often throwing their clothes out. Hot, humid air, combined with minus 109 degrees was cause for dry ice to stick to cloth fibers, resulting in a wide smattering of holes, some big, some small, on both shirts and pants. Uncovered skin was not immune. Shards of dry ice, first clung, then burnt through the cloth fibers, and then continued their purge on the skin below. The workers looked like under-the-bridge bums with psoriasis. The salary was great! It was a great job with unusual benefits, at least from the perspective of a young man! You could always look like hell and always be cooled down during the hot, humid summer days. It was close to the end of the summer of Mike’s third year at “Chiller’s Dry Ice.” Mike was called to the office of the small plant. “Mike,” Mr. Dodds began. “I am retiring and moving to Florida at the end of next year. Chiller’s supplies the dry ice that goes on many of the jet planes that leave the two major New York City metropolitan airports. We are the biggest of the dry ice suppliers. I do not want to shut the operation down. I am offering it to you first. You have been loyal and responsible. It would change your college plans, I know. Our economy now in 1974 is not very promising for new college graduates. Think about this. Should you have an interest, begin your homework immediately. We have no strong competitors. I believe that it offers a very safe future. Explore all your avenues. Mike was flabbergasted. Mike was interested. Mike was flattered. A hole of opportunity just opened up before him! Mike did his homework. Mike received the go-ahead. Mike met and married a wonderful lady. They had three children. Mike continued to manage and operate “Chiller’s Dry Ice.” Life was good. Life took him now to Santiago. “Mr. Bentworth,” the meeting started. “Our contract will be for our Latam flights departing from the New York City JFK airport, extending for two additional years. We are pleased with the financials.” Nothing more said. Many hands shaken. The tour provided of Santiago was wonderful!” “We look forward to a fortuitous relationship,” Mr. Cisnero assured. And so, “Chiller’s Dry Ice”, soon to become “Chiller’s Dry Ice Industries,” was born. There had been little change at the small production facility. It was now expanding, and as such, another staff member was added. Bill came on board. August 3rd, Iberia Airlines reached out. Great! Avianca Airlines followed three months later! Wow! Incredible! The operation was simple. The eight young men just made the dry ice pellets, aliquoted the pellets into small plastic bags for plastic bags filled a 24-inch square cardboard box. Deliveries were made three times daily to both La Guardia and JFK airports. With the newly added accounts, a third ice pellet machine and conveyor belt would have to be purchased. The enlisted airline companies would keep their food and drinks cold while in flight using Chiller’s Dry Ice. Overhead was minimal, just basic production and facility costs, cardboard shipping containers and salaries. The company would supply all gloves and a weekly set of clothes allowance to replace what was left of the clothes on their back. The dry ice would eat away at all and any cloth, like an invisible menace and do so rapidly. Mike drew the line with Avianca Airlines. Until another major expansion of operation was completed, no additional clients were to be considered. As his Latam return flight was boarding on July29th, the captain announced that there would be a small delay due to additional de-icing needs. The sudden snow from the skies had been heavy for the last twenty minutes. Mike looked through the plane’s window and watched the various machinery perform their operations. Mike always wondered about bigger and better. Mike thought how summer was seasonal for him in contrast to winter, which was continuous. Mike thought about the cool 98 degrees upon his return to Chiller’s Dry Ice Industries on Long Island. He had planned to go straight to the plant to announce and celebrate the renewed contract with Latam Airlines. Mike arrived at the plant while the trucks were making their second deliveries of the day. He slipped through the plant entrance and entered his office. He removed all his clothes and proceeded to jump into his work clothes. Although the air was hot and sticky on Long Island, the coolness within the plant circulated through the many holes in his almost worn-out clothes and felt great. While awaiting for the return of the delivery trucks, Mike casually strolled through the small plant. He was careful to consider any areas that might tolerate any efforts made toward further expansion. He finally reached the first loading dock, complete with conveyor belt and stacked cardboard. He watched as Bill sealed each bag and packed each carton with twelve bags. Jack worked together with Bill, loading the boxes into the refrigerated trucks. The JFK airport truck was due back within minutes; the La Guardia truck would follow about ten minutes later. “Say, fellas,” Mike said. “If we were to expand any further, what thoughts might you have?” “Mr. Dodds,” Bill replied quickly, eager to impress. “We would need a second facility, one being for JFK and one being for LaGuardia.” “I’m on board with that,” Jack pitched in. “Maybe two more trucks for the new facility, which should be as close as financially possible to the furthest delivery point. That would be LaGuardia. Well-paid employees. Valuable employees input. No matter how they may look. It was what Mike had construed. But, he needed to hear it from someone else. He had to be sure that there were no holes in his thinking. Mike would summon them all into the break room rather than to tell them the good news while standing on the frozen floor. Thick, insulated boots helped, but the floor was ice cold. “Latam airlines is on board for another two years!” Mike announced. Smiles and clapping resulted. Mike was exhausted. Time to go the five-minute drive to the house to see the family. Mike waved to Jimmy, his oldest, as he pulled into the driveway. He greeted Jimmy and his friend Richie as he made his way to the front door. “I like that cardinal shirt, Richie,” Mike said as he gave Jimmy a hug. “Are you poor?” Richie asked. “I don’t think so,“ Jimmy replied. “Then why doesn’t your Dad wear underpants?” Richie asked, “Sometimes I can see his skin!” “He does, but they are covered with big holes,” Jimmy explained. Mike only listened and smiled. Mike was a holy sort of guy! Mike loved his poor holy life!

January 22, 2021 23:37

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