How to Bathe A Horse in 36 Steps

1. Ready supplies: shampoo, conditioner, sponge, scrub brush, bucket, squeegee, lead rope.

2. Change mind and swap lead rope for one with a chain–horse may try to escape.

3. Unwind hose from rack. Once it lies fallen before you, untangle it. Attach spray nozzle to end of hose.

4. Drag hose many feet through barn to grass outside, where supplies are waiting.

5. Attempt to fill bucket with water. Realize water is not turned on.

6. Go back in barn and turn on water.

7. Fill bucket with water. Add shampoo. Is it enough? Add more shampoo.

8. Grab lead rope with chain and go back in barn to fetch horse.

100_01029. Horse wanders around arena looking at you sideways.

10. Try to catch horse.

11. Avoid horse’s bared teeth and threatening hoofs. Ears are pinned back.

12. Move carefully in a wide circle around horse to horse’s head. Slide chain through halter and attach.

13. Lead horse out of arena to grass where hose lies waiting. Horse rushes over to grass. It might leave before she gets there.

14. Pick up hose. Horse becomes statue.

15. Attempt to spray horse’s feet. Hose becomes venomous snake. Horse tries to flee.

16. Prevent horse from fleeing. Continue spraying feet.

17. Enlist a horse-holder.

18. Chase horse in a circle, spraying her ever higher while horse-holder tries to hold her still. Pause tountangle hose from you, horse’s legs, horse-holder, and itself.

19. Repeat process on horse’s other side.

20. Put hose down by barn. Horse pretends it no longer exists and resumes grazing.

21. Bring bucket of soapy water to horse. Use sponge to cover horse in soap. She now remembers that cool water feels good on a hot day.

22. Scrub horse with scrub brush. Do not miss an inch. This might be your last chance for a long time. Make that white sock actually white.

23. Put horse’s tail in bucket of soapy water and scrub. Horse attempts to swat flies. You and horse-holder are now covered in soap.

24. Move bucket of soapy water far from horse. Bring hose back.

25. Chase horse in a circle while spraying her. Remove all the soap.

26. Spray her other side. Notice there isstill soap on the previously rinsed side. Spray both sides again.

27. Put hose down and grab conditioner. Slather mane and tail. Horse ignores you.

28. Thank horse-holder fervently as she gives horse back to you.

29. Collect all supplies and dump and rinse bucket and sponge while holding horse. Horse does not appreciate the bucket rinsing.

30. Scrape water from horse with squeegee. Repeat as necessary.

31. Kill horsefly.

32. Wipe horse’s face with damp sponge. Horse is offended and tries to flee.

33. Escape flies and go into barn. Comb horse’s mane and tail, put away supplies.

34. Wait for horse to dry. Wait some more.

35. Put horse back in stall. Offer many treats and ask for forgiveness.IMG_0376

36. Drive home. Realize hose is still lying on grass. Groan and vow to thank stablehand profusely for having to deal with it.

*The above events may or may not be hyperbole…But I err on the side of reality.


5 Things I Learned As A Sandwich Maker

Potbelly sandwichFor most of my senior year in college, I worked at a sandwich shop. It was in a downtown area with lots of office buildings around, which guaranteed a lunchtime rush. The sandwiches were very good, so many people were regular customers.

It wasn’t my ideal job. I made shakes and sandwiches and scooped cups of soup and worked the register. There were a lot of days when I came home and wanted to cry because I disliked it so much. But I did learn a lot from it.

So, in no particular order, here are five things I learned as a sandwich maker (and shake expert).

1. There is a ton of behind the scenes work that goes into that sandwich.

I’d never worked in the food industry before. Obviously the sandwiches didn’t appear out of thin air, and the food had to be ordered and kept stocked, but I had no idea how much time everyone spends in prepping everything.

Each day had a checklist of things that had to be done, like scooping salad dressing into individual cups or slicing enough meat and cheese for the day. I spent a lot of hours filling containers with mayonaise and sliding little cookies onto straws for the shakes. There were goals to be met everyday with number of sandwiches sold, number of the latest menu item to be sold, and always watching the total sales.

My general manager spent hours tracking all the food that was used and wasted, all the money that came in and went out, and all the employees’ schedules and availability. I commented to him one day that I had no idea that much work went on behind the counter before I worked there, and he looked at me and laughed. It was a tired laugh, because he had just spent ten minutes assigning tasks to my coworkers and me to get ready for the dinner rush.


2. Some people really do spend their entire working lives as restaurant employees.

Not all of them climb the management ladder either. One of my coworkers had worked there for over ten years, in the exact same position with low hourly pay. Others, like my general manager, had started at the bottom and worked their way up.

All my coworkers thought the general manager was weird because, from all appearances, he was passionate about making great sandwiches, just like the company’s mission statement said.

Some of my coworkers were perfectly content in their jobs; others, like me, were in school and had other aspirations, and some had bigger dreams but couldn’t figure out how to get there on the money they made at the sandwich shop.

3. Customers have no concept of the process.

The person at the end of the counter would call out, “Three large chocolate shakes!”

Since a large shake equals two regular size shakes, and the shake machine only had three spindles on it, I’d have to hop to it so those shakes were close to ready when the customers paid. But often, they’d give me weird looks and impatient sighs when I told them it would be just a minute longer. I don’t think they meant to be rude, they just had no idea that they ordered a time consuming item.

Or when people were irritated that someone else’s order took a few minutes, because it consisted of five sandwiches and a salad. No matter how fast we worked, someone was never happy.

One time, a customer ordered a PB&J sandwich. We had to be very careful with the peanut butter because peanuts are an allergen, so my coworker toook the ingredients off to the side to make the sandwich. I was on register, so I could not jump in to help with the sandwiches coming out of the oven. The customers in line started making rude faces and exaggerated gestures, because they thought my coworker was ignoring them and slacking on the job. It only took a minute or two to finish the sandwich and take care of them, but they were so irritated they got the manager to give them the sandwiches for free.

Maybe I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt, but I don’t think they actually understood what was happening on our end with the special sandwich. Rather than asking, though, they threw a fit at the register and demanded special treatment.

4. The weather matters, a lot.

I worked at this restaurant during one of Michigan’s coldest, snowiest winters. Over and over, the managers checked the daily sales figures and shook their heads. I was sent home early from a shift more than once because not a single customer had shown up in over an hour.

The lunch rush was only mildly affected, but after two o’clock, especially when it was very cold, very few people came out for dinner. I had no idea that an indoor business would be so strongly affected by the cold and snow, but I should have known better.

5. Hard work makes a difference.

I didn’t like making shakes and sandwiches, or counting change out, or getting ice cream all over my shirt as a shake flew off the shake machine again.

But I always do my best, no matter what the work is, and my coworkers noticed. The managers noticed. Different people told me, more than once, that they were glad they had a shift with me, because I pulled my weight and helped others. My money drawer was almost never off the recorded amount, and I always had a good attitude.

On my last day, the general manager told me that he would gladly be a reference for me, and that he would miss me working there. I didn’t even ask for a reference; he just volunteered it.

I hope never to work there again, but now that I look back, I’m glad I did. I made some friends, to my own surprise, and learned more than I thought I would.

The biggest lesson I took into the future? Never underestimate what you can learn from a job, no matter how irrelevant it seems.