“Do you understand?” He was gaping at me the way someone would who had just tried to explain calculus to an ape. And not one of those clever apes that knows sign language, but one those apes on the nature channel that’s eating its own poop.
“Seriously?” I responded.
“Yeah,” he spat the word at me in the most condescending arrogant voice he could conjure. “Did you understand what I just explained to you?”
Note: in fairness to him, the most condescending arrogant voice he could conjure, turned out to simply be his voice.
Allow me to go back to the beginning and explain: I am referring to an experience I had as a temporary worker. When you’re a temporary worker, there are certain things that are presumed:
- You possess the education of a 12th century manure mucker, your biggest aspiration is to one day be allowed to use a shovel.
- You need everything explained to you at least a dozen times.
- You need everything explained in a tone that one would use when explaining to a small child why he shouldn’t eat all the fingerpaint, and vomit into the fish tank.
- You need everything explained to you in monosyllabic language. (Ironically, the word monosyllabic is exactly the type of word that should never be used when explaining something to a temporary worker.)
- You need everything explained to you with accompanying diagrams. These diagrams should be drawn in crayon if possible.
- All diagrams should be drawn in non-threatening colors such as forest green or navy blue. Bright colors confuse and disorient temporary workers (fuchsia makes us crazy).
I was busy with the important task of opening bottles of juice and dumping the juice into a barrel; there was a problem with the labeling and the juice needed to be re-bottled. (Evidently, even non-peon workers make mistakes.)
Note: I’ve promised not to divulge the name of the famous juice company where this happened. I will not welch on that promise. If I were do that I’d be a welcher. I don’t want to be someone who welchs. Was that last bit subtle enough?
I was interrupted from my duties by Rat-Faced Guy, (not his actual name) who informed me that he needed my assistance.
He dragged me over to a line where juice was being packaged in small cans. As cases of these cans progressed down the line, a machine would lift every other case and then fling the cans into the air, spilling them across the floor. Evidently, that’s not how the machine was designed to operate.
Rat-Faced Guy (probably not his name) explained to me that the malfunctioning machine would be shut down, and I would step in to take its place. As the cases came down the line in pairs, it would be my job to pick up the first case of juice, and place it on top of the second case of juice. Then I would have to do that again and again, until the machine was operating properly again.
It was at point that Rat-Faced Guy (potentially his actual name, when I say Rat-Faced Guy, people seem to know whom I’m referring to) asked me if I understood.
“So, you’re asking me if I understand putting one thing on top of another thing?” I asked him.
“Yeah.” He looked at me with his beady eyes, his wispy mustache twitching nervously.
“What if, instead of putting the first case on top of the second, I put the second case under the first case?” I proposed.
Rat-Faced Guy (probably his actual name) looked at me incredulously. “Why would you do that?”
“I’m a visionary,” I told him. “I’m like Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, or Thomas Crapper.”
“Just do it the way I told you,” squeaked Rat-Faced Guy (almost certainly his actual name).
For the next two hours, I stood in one spot, and successfully put one thing on top of another thing.
Perhaps now they will trust me with something challenging such as putting one thing next to another thing.
The sky’s the limit.
I know what you’re thinking: Thomas Crapper, a visionary? The toilet guy? Yes. Thomas Crapper, the toilet guy, was a visionary. Consider what it was he proposed. Try to imagine the first time he discussed it with his friends:
Thomas Crapper: You know how outhouses are filthy and disgusting places, riddled with rats and snakes.
Friend #1: Horribly dirty things, outhouses.
Thomas Crapper: And you know how we put them a certain distance from our homes because of the stench and the disease and the vermin.
Friend #1: Yes.
Friend #2: Ha, vermin’s a funny word.
Thomas Crapper: I’m thinking about moving that inside the house.
Friend #1: That’s insane.
Thomas Crapper: Maybe put it in a small room near the bedroom.
Friend #1: That’s just crazy talk. Is this because we keep making fun of your name? Because if it is we can stop.
Friend #2: Ha, Crapper is a funny name; I’m not stopping.
Thomas Crapper: We could even put it in the same room that we bathe.
Friend #1: Now you’ve gone off the deep end. Next you’ll be telling us about a machine that will allow men to fly.
Thomas Crapper: Well, there are these two brothers named Wilbur and Orville, and they have an idea.
Friend #2: Ha, Wilbur and Orville, those are funny names.
An uncanny likeness to Rat-Faced Guy, and possible outhouse resident.
(image source: wpclipart.com)