Dear reader, have you ever read Lord of the Rings? I mean the book, not Peter Jackson’s 65 hour long trying-to-win-an-Academy-Award-in-every-scene monstrosity that psychiatrists sometimes prescribe to insomnia patients when they do not respond favorably to Ambien?
Remember the scene with the massive spider?
They walked as it were in a black vapour wrought of veritable darkness itself that, as it was breathed, brought blindness not only to the eyes but to the mind, so that even the memory of colours and of forms and of any light faded out of thought. Night always had been, and always would be, and night was all.
Frodo, Mr. Frodo!' he called. 'Don't leave me here alone! It's your Sam calling. 'Don't go where I can't follow! Wake up, Mr. Frodo! O wake up, Frodo, dear me. Wake up!' [...]
And suddenly he saw that he was in the picture that was revealed to him in the mirror of Galadriel in Lórien: Frodo with a pale face lying fast asleep under a great dark cliff. Or fast asleep he had thought then. 'He's dead!' he said. 'Not asleep, dead!' And as he said it, as if the words had set the venom to its work again, it seemed to him that the hue of the face grew livid and green.
This generally describes the condition of the factory packing area. Like a haunted house in the middle of rural China. Except that instead of being haunted by ghosts it is noisy (decible levels regularly reached: 130dB, which caused outrage from HOC Key personnel resulting in earplugs [that workers refused to use] being issued out), and full of 16 to 23 year old women packing trays into boxes for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. There were so many spider webs in that place they could have filmed Indiana Jones there. It was like that time the owlish secretary at work decorated the office for halloween and found the only way to express her repressed nature was to overuse the cheesy looking spider webs, but no one called her out on it because she regularly did others expense reports for them (I mean who likes doing their own expense reports?). It was a NEST.
The full scale audit was being carried out today. Invectivaire, the Corporate Social Responsibility/Safety/Quality Control (i.e. your one-stop shop for factory audits) had sent their young associate auditor on the 11 hour flight from California to gather data, give ratings and more specifically find out how the heck a spider got into a sandwich tray! This was his first trip to China, and while excited to be here, still he sat nervously in the factory meeting room waiting for everyone to arrive.
The meeting room at the factory had a long fake wooden table with a window at one of the table and a white board hanging on a wall at the other end. Because of the spider incident a meeting was called the next day and everyone involved in production and the Quality and Technology Deqartment were told to come. Before the meeting the workers stood huddled in the hallway outside chatting amongst themselves. They all wore the same uniform blue pants, blue top and blue hats. For someone with poor vision they looked from a distance like a blue blob rather an individual people. They swayed back and forth as they chatted in blue, like an ocean. An ocean where the ship of accountability could sail out, be swallowed up by the waves and never heard from again.
Everyone filed in and sat down. Dai Man, the factory manager, sat at the head of the table and opened a pack of cigarettes. Grabbing two at a time he threw cigarrettes at each worker starting from his left and working his way around the horseshoe of workers sitting facing him. Down at the far end of the table he still managed to get cigarrettes to land on the table right in front of where people were sitting. His accuracy was incredible. All at once 25 cigarrettes were lit up. Someone got up and went to close the window. It was winter, an easy time to catch a cold.
One of the team leads from the Quality and Technology Deqartment stood and read the days numbers in a droning voice…..
“November 3. Production numbers report: 17,693 pieces of the 17F tray were made, 641 were defects. BL4 flat plates, 9,345 produced, 2,910 were defects. S45 fiber bowl 12,343 pieces, 3,689 defects, 67F tray 12,456 pieces 985 defects. Safety and health incidents, nothing to report. 785 days since our last safety incide………..”
Dai Man slowly sucked on his cigarrette, looking out the window and zoning out as the worker went on. Outside the weather was beginning to turn cold, in a couple of weeks the countdown to the lunar new year would begin. That glorious time where everyone in the country pretends to be working but everyone knows that everyone else knows, that they know, that they’re not. Outside the window a plume of black smoke rose from the pile of PET plastic waste that was burned daily. The worker pushed the plastic scraps around with a pole and wore cotton face masks for the fumes. Somewhere deep down inside of Dai Man, he stomach made a little movement. 10:45am, almost lunchime.
“……..67BL trays, 27,004 produced, among which 6,985 were defects. No more to report on production. Everyone please pay attention to safety.”
And with that a silence settled over the smoke filled room.
Dai Man: “Ok, heres the deal. The Americans found a spider in one of the trays. We know it was one of you, so whoever it was speak up now.”
(23 heads staring at the ground)
Dai Man: “Look at the look on this American’s face! Look how sad it is! You see how sad you’ve made us all?? Huh!!?? It’s an embarassment!!! Now WHO knows how the spider got in there!!??” HUH??”
Dai Man: “Fine. You don’t want to tell us. We’ll get to the bottom of this. That’s why we’re doing this audit! You guys are REALLY PISSING ME OFF BY NOT TELLING ME!!!”
Auditor to Dai Man: “you know what? Its not that big of deal, we are here to help you identify any areas for change and fix the problems”
Dai Man to workers: “You see? You see how good this guy is to you!? You should thank him”
Everyone in unison: “Thank you.”
Dai Man to workers: “now this is it! We’re going down to the factory floor and if it isnt perfect, Im gonna have your heads!”
(Everyone looks at the ground)
Dai Man to auditor: “but first…. Why don’t we grab some lunch? Let me ask you a question Mr Auditor? Have you ever tried Chinese white wine?”
Auditor: “Oh hmmm. Well. At lunch? Well….I do enjoy chardonnay”
Dai Man: “Welcome you to try our Chinese white wine, it’s a local specialty.”
Auditor: “Well I guess there’s no harm in one glass”