BLOG: Keeping Up With the Indiana Joneses
“God help whoever sits beside you on an airplane, Pete; they're gonna get talked at,” is what I’ve been told.
“And why shouldn’t they?” is what I tell right back.
You never regret talking to people. Check this out:
Last week I flew to Plainfield, Indiana, to get a close look at Meritor’s re-invigorated remanufacturing facility. It was like getting a PHD at Brake shoe U; and the plant trip was worth every mile. You can read about that in our magazine.
But the trip from Toronto to Indiana and back involved four flights;- one from Toronto to Detroit and then Detroit to Indianapolis; and the same coming back.
Each one lasted about 90 minutes, from loading up to getting off.
That adds up to four seatmates: the first one going down was a 24-year-old off to teach English in Taiwan. She’d had already spent a year there; she was just back to see her sick Grandma.
There are lots of jobs for young grads, she says, and that some organizations are better than others but for anybody who likes travelling it’s perfect. Memo to everybody getting degrees this semester: Why not do exactly what she says?
Next flight I sat beside Pete the sequined-cloth salesman.
"Pete," I asked, "Do people still use sequins?"
He sort of rolled his eyes and asked if I ever heard of competitive figure skating? Or Vegas.
Anyway, his company has a new machine that revolutionized the sequin industry. Did you know that until recently, sequins were actually sewn on to fabrics? With thread going right through the middle of every single little sequin? Who knew?
He has this amazing machine that mounts them with glue.
He told me the story of being at a trade show last year in Florida, and a proud woman who’d spent seven weeks completing a piece of fabric with sequins was showing it off to him. He said he showed her his magic machine and replicatedher work and it took him about four minutes.
She got all teary eyed, is what he told me.
(I got teary eyed just hearing it.)
Flight Three: Hope. A 34-year-old blonde Mom who looked fit and healthy and had a firm handshake but told me she has been sick with some exotic blood disease from the time she was five and she’s on blood thinners now plus she has some weird arthritis. (I wrote the afflictions down because I’d never heard of them before: Systemic eryathematosis and anti phospholipid antibody syndrome).
We bonded like Krazy glue because she and her husband until recently ran a dump truck business and we discussed the 24/7ness of working with drivers and breakdowns and insurance and how hard it was to escape once so many driver families are dependent on you.
I gave her a copy of Today’s Trucking and she started telling me about her philosophy on life “You get what you bring” is what she said, meaning, if you project a positive outlook you’ll get positive results. She was great. I said, “How did your parents know to name you Hope?” And she’s says, “yeah, I know.”
Finally, from Detroit to Toronto, I sat beside Lydia, 16, from Florida, en route to visit her uncle up here in Toronto. She and her family immigrated from Bulgaria to Florida seven years ago and then her father ran off but her mom is raising her and her sister and her uncle is a doctor here in Toronto and he was meeting her at the airport.
Lydia actually asked me to help her get through the passport line because she’d never done it before alone and I showed her the video from me doing the Edgewalk and said she should get her uncle to take her on it.
The airline attendant stopped to watch the clip, too and asked where it was happening and I said in Toronto. I said “You know that tall building you pass when you fly in—the one that looks like a needle?”
And she says “I don’t get to look out the windows I’m always too busy.” Imagine.
Plus I told Lydia, “Stay in school. I’m pretty sure you don’t want THIS job.” And I showed her the video I had taken earlier in the day, back at the brake factory.
Factories are always fascinating. At this one, they actually let us stand on the assembly line for 90 seconds to see what it was like putting little components in little plastic bags. The system of bagging and measuring and weighing the materials after they came off the assembly line is called a Poka-Yoke system.
Anyway, it was eye-opening I had a 90-second taste of what life would be like for anybody with one of the hardest jobs ever.
One of the bins I was supposed to be fetching parts out of was holding little springs with hooks on the end so they kept tangling on each other and I fell behind the rest of the assembly line because I had to shake them apart. I felt like crying again but this time for another reason.
I just wish everybody who’s thinking of dropping out of school could stand there for an hour or so. That’d make a student out of’em. So stay in school, get your diploma and then go teach in a foreign country.
After all that excitement? I think the highlight of the trip was after the 90-second shift was over, I got to say to the person beside me, “I guess what we can take away from this is the Poka-Yoke IS what it’s all about.”