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Winter no match for cold storage workers

So you think it’s chilly out there? Baby, it’s cold inside! Just ask Paul McMenemy, who spends each workday at an even –18C, even in summer.

So you think it’s chilly out there?

Baby, it’s cold inside!

Just ask Paul McMenemy, who spends each workday at an even –18C, even in summer.

Don’t even think of complaining to him about bone-rattling cold like Thursday, when it topped out at a balmy high of just –6C. To him, that’s like a walk in the park.

McMenemy has been running a forklift at Conestoga Cold Storage in Mississauga the past three years, moving heavy pallets around a huge warehouse that can hold up to 30 million kilograms of frozen food.

“I’ve got winter 12 months a year,” says McMenemy.

“Except when I’m on holidays and then it’s somewhere warm, with clear water and sun.”

His breath steams from where a mouth hole should be on his full-face balaclava and water droplets condense on the wool fabric. A toque tops off a clothing system that includes insulated boots, leather mittens, two pairs of socks, a few sweaters and a heavy parka.

“It’s not so bad, because I like cold weather,” he says.

“Sometimes if you’re in there too long, you’ve got to come out for a while. You start to feel it after a while; your toes and fingers get a little chilled, a little numb.

“You’ve got to pace yourself.”

It’s something general manager Brad Jantzi learned when he started out as a sweeper there two decades ago.

“I was a tough-as-nails farm-boy, but it takes a while to get used to that kind of cold,” he recalls. “You come out of there, winter or summer, and you’re frozen to the bone.

“Even coming out in winter to go to the coffee truck, it still feels a lot warmer. It’s a funny concept. In summer you come out of there to your car that’s 120 degrees and it’s like getting hit over the head.”

Jantzi says the warehouse, near Highway 401 and Winston Churchill Blvd., holds just about anything you’d see along the freezer aisle of any grocery store.

“Everything from TV dinners, to chicken nuggets, hamburgers, we have it all.”

For a while, anyway.

He says they circulate ammonia in pipes to keep the place at –18C, a requirement of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to prevent the growth of bacteria in frozen food.

“It’s just like the compressor on the back of your fridge, only on a much larger scale,” he says.

The temperature is cold comfort to Mike Brydges, 43, who’s worked there for 13 years.

“It doesn’t bother me, because when you’re dressed properly, it’s OK,” he says.

“I can’t work in the heat.”

For co-worker Deon Compton, the big chill means big relief.

“It’s nice and relaxing, especially in the summer time,” he says. “It’s like having an air conditioner on all day long.”

 
 
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