Saturday, October 11, 2008

No News

It is 7:30 and I am waiting for the factory whistle to blow. It is Saturday, but in the Mill Town where I live, the 8am whistle blows every morning, again at noon, and again at 6pm. I sometimes get to hear the first one. The Mill where I work does not have a whistle, but the firehouse blows a horn at noon . My Mill has a clock bell and a nearby church with a carillon. If I weren't walking across a parking lot as big as my college campus, I could almost believe...

It is a working Saturday for Carrie Bender and her mates. The weavers have been working through the night, and cots were provided. It is the end of decent civilization as we know it. Drawing In will being at 10:30, which is quite late for our room, and only means we can expect to fetch dinner pails, and take our turns on the cots.

I have only one pattern to draw in. And we have made it before. Just setting it onto a new loom today. But all over the world. That's usually where we send things hopelessly askew. Because, see, the UK never wears plaid because of cultural connotations, and the Benelux countries want a different shade of blue. In Germany and Austria, they disdain this pattern entirely, and will ask to have it left on the bolts we ship to them.

I overplay this metaphor to show how absurdly the high-tech mill approaches its manufacturing. A former workmate once tried to explain to a customer who wanted something customized beyond our capacity that he should think of us like a carpet factory who made rectangular rugs. "You are asking for a circular rug," he explained, " and our machinery isn't made for that." But the customer was not fooled. He replied, "but you are not making rugs."

Now take that story and turn the customer into another designer -- a designer in another country who thinks the design should work a different way. Put 2 of those designers in every country where you do business. Layover geopolitical rivalries and rule it all from a distant American Employee-at-Will state. Have this fight every month across 5 time zones.

Our European mates are protected by their labor laws, which include (get this) "a minimum rest period of 11 hours in each 24 hours." They will not be having cots delivered. In fact, they will be having a compensation package delivered, for violating their 48 hr work week (35 in France).

I suggested to The Boss I was surprised there hadn't been more protest about this, particularly from the weavers, who are the most put-upon group in this equation. She replied, "They are used to it. They have to do it all the time because of the weavers in [Dubrovnik]." I kid. They aren't in Dubrovnik.

I guess I am not really surprised. We don't complain ourselves. We mutter. We sigh. We don't get overtime. We rarely get out of the rotation. But even the month when we were asked to arrive at 5am (when there is no whistle, and even the guy who blows the whistle is asleep) I thought we would all vote No. We didn't. Well, I did, but I retracted, and that's a different story.

Enjoy your day. Go pick a pumpkin, or something. (They didn't grow there, by the way; they are trucked in. But enjoy it anyway.) I am off to buy cube-snacks and seltzer. Which should be the name of a pub.

more later.

1 comment:

  1. I found the wikipedia link very interesting, especially since my group is beginning to focus more on global things than before. I forwarded it on to 'the boys' in my mill, although I seriously doubt they will even look at it. M.


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