Saturday, April 24, 2010

An Ode To Confidentiality

In late February, I believe it was the 22nd, my phone rang. That would be my archaic, touch-tone, caller-ID-infused, non-digital land line. The ID said that the pursuant party was from Company X, for whom I had worked last autumn as a temp. The person on the other end of the line was Steve, the facility manager. He asked me what I was up to, and I replied that I was currently out of work, and still seeking employment. The gist of his text was that James, one of the regulars, was going to be on jury duty for a couple of weeks, and they needed someone to be there to help Clint, his partner-in-crime. It was only a couple of weeks, but it was work -- that pays. Thus, on February 23rd, at 7:00 AM, I was back on the job for " a couple of weeks."

The first thing I discovered is that one of my temp fellows, Tony, was already back there. Tony is a funny, odd, driven fellow. He is the sole owner/operator of a small business called Eternal Caregivers that provides year-long maintenance and things like floral arrangements for deceased loved ones here in East Tennessee. But that doesn't pay as much as it should, so Tony works when he is able to find it. And, as a 28-year veteran of a monstrous soft-drink company (somewhere in L.A.), he is quite familiar with chemicals and chemical-driven processes.

So, for a couple of weeks I helped out in any way that I could. When 14 days was up, there was still a good bit of work laying about to be done, and no one had told me to stay home, so I remained on the job-site and payroll. I performed a goodly number of small "wash jobs," the process for which will have to remain top-secret. I also worked some in the fabrication area, tearing apart spent products for recycling purposes, which I find refreshing.

In the end, I wound up where I always had assumed I would, working with Pal Tony, and Chuck, a chemical engineer whom I had dubbed "Chuckles The Science Clown," back in 2009. I don't know what Chuckles has done in life to warrant the torture of working with a couple of chumps like Tony and me, but it must have been bad.

For the job we were going to perform, there was a lot of new piping, wiring, and setting up to do. Thus, the company hired a father and son team, Randall and Shannon. As far as I can tell -- by trade -- Randall and Shannon are plumbentericians. I make this assumption based on the fact that, no matter what needed to be done, they could do it -- well. Shannon is also a member of the local fire department, which must be handy for them when they have plumbenterician-type work to be done. And even after all of the initial set-up was done, Randall and Shannon hung about, just in case. It's a good thing. I, personally, am not qualified to use a hammer and nail, both in the same day; much too complex.

But soon Tony and I were on the job and in the groove; except, of course, when Chuckles had a question, comment or suggestion. That was always at least a fifteen-minute exchange, laden with scientific theory, molecular divination, and/or philosophical rumination. Chuck loves talking theory, exchanging information and arguing methodology. Had he been a lawyer, he would be heading his own firm by now or dead at the hands of an opposing client.

One of the really fun parts of the job, was the safety gear we had to wear. Any time we were in the main area of labor, we were required to don full chemical-resistant suits, goggles and visors. This was just fine on mornings that were in the forties, Fahrenheit. But when the temperature began approaching the upper sixties, and above, things got a bit uncomfortable in water/chemical repellent togs. We were working one day, and I had planned to stop in a shop on the way home; that is, until I removed my safety gear for lunch. That's when I discovered that I absolutely reeked, and would not be encroaching on anyone's personal space until I'd had a shower or five.

Now, as I said before, I would like to give details about the difficulty and complexity of the work we did, but I am unable, due to the fact that this is a new, confidential procedure, and the folks at Company X are trying their best to keep the competition from learning the hows, whys and wherefores of the process. Suffice it to say that it involved the mixing of chemicals to create various reagents, the use of truckloads of distilled H2O, and the puzzle of working within the space of a postage stamp, such that we had to pass through others' work areas constantly, creating difficulties for everyone at Company X. It also involved the use of a gigantic air compressor and pumps of varying size and type, with all of the requisite piping and connectors that any person with industrial experience would recognize. It was a mess, but it was our mess.

And when we needed something built from metal, we had a secret weapon. Company X has a fabricator who is, as far as I can tell, about twelve years old. But, despite his youth, Mikey can weld anything. and he can make it attractive. No big, ugly welds for him. When he finishes a job, everything is neat, smooth and polished.

Mikey re-engineered a piece for us which had a pipe that was ninety degrees off, and he built us a set of hose racks for the plethora of gigantic hoses that Chuckles had bought for Tony and me to use, move about, and curse.

Chuck, Tony and I brought that job to a close on time and under budget, and I would love to tell you that the company, in glowing appreciation, hired us both as executive VPs. Unfortunately, there's still something of a recession going on, and Company X has not experienced enough growth to hire a couple of know-it alls like Tony and myself. Besides, they still have Chuckles -- and he -- despite his tendency toward elongated discussion, is most likely a tad more valuable than I. So, back on the market I go, an industrial whore in search of a John.

Anybody need a date?

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