Last week, we got a new laminating machine at work. Without going into too much unnecessary detail, a laminating machine laminates (duh!), that is applies a protective barrier to the 54" wide sheets of self-adhesive vinyl that is an integral component of my job.
One morning, I arrived at work to find an unfamiliar man assembling the new laminating machine in the warehouse area. I greeted him with a friendly "good morning" and he nodded in my direction, paying more attention to the task at hand. I opened the door to the Graphics Department and made my way to my desk. An hour or so later, the man wheeled the new machine into the graphics workroom to the space previously occupied by our old laminating machine. My boss and I joined him in the workroom for a training session. The three of us gathered around the new apparatus like the townspeople of Anatevka marveling at Motel Kamzoil's new sewing machine. The man — who resembled Mike Judge as he appeared in Office Space — nervously tugged at his company-required tie, cleared his throat and began his overly-rehearsed training speech.
Actually, before Mike Judge started, he asked: "Which one of you will be taking notes and which one will be taking pictures?" My boss and I looked at each other. Neither one of us had any plans for note taking nor could we imagine what part of the training would need to be preserved with photographic evidence. I obligingly grabbed a legal pad and took my cellphone out of my pocket, clicking open the "camera" app in the process. I suppose this little display of interest satisfied Mike Judge, as he commenced.
|I was told to take this picture.
The tone of his instruction was very stilted. He spoke to us as though we were bewildered elementary school students who had never laid eyes on a commercial laminator before. In reality, our old laminator — the one my boss had been using for the last fifteen years and had just trained me to use — was still just a few feet away. He pointed to the buttons and dials on the control panel — explaining in repetitive detail — the purpose of each one. Several times, Mike Judge told me to "write that down" without specifying exactly what he wanted me to write down. He hefted a roll of laminating material onto one of the aluminum receiving rollers and fit it into the proper position. Again, Mike Judge stopped and asked, "Did you get a picture of that?" "Of what?," I thought to myself, snapping a picture of nothing in particular.
Suddenly, in the middle of threading the laminate through the specified path in the machine, Mike Judge turned to tell my boss and me that he was awarded "Salesman of the Year" and honored with his photo on the cover of a trade publication. (Laminator Monthly, perhaps?) Then he quickly switched back to "training mode." My boss and I silently exchanged confused looks.
After he passed the material under and around several rollers, Mike Judge stressed the importance of safety regarding the operation of the machine. He explained that most accidents on this machine happen to women, because they are not paying attention to what they're doing — always talking and distracted by something else. He emphasized "women" in this statement. Once more, I traded an uncomfortable glance with my boss.
At the end of our training, Mike Judge told us that his company's machines are designed to accommodate people with handicaps. "Y'know," he expounded, "there are people in wheelchairs and some with amputated or deformed hands and arms...." I blotted out the rest of his sentence. I wasn't interested in where he was headed with this.
Mike Judge asked which one of us would like to take a spin at a solo run on the machine, he gestured to my boss first, deeming him the less experienced member of the graphics department. Actually, my boss has been employed here for over twenty years and I just started this job a few months ago. But, since I have white hair and am older than my boss, Mike Judge just assumed..... Once the confusion was cleared up and we each got a chance to demonstrate our prowess on the new machine, Mike Judge packed up his belongings — his narrow-minded, antiquated, inappropriate, sexist way of thinking — and headed for the exit.
Once Mike Judge was gone, my boss asked me, "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Then he added, "Sure you are."