Unspeakably Stupid
Unspeakably Stupid Story #13:
Brush With High-Tech

I once worked in the high-tech industry. For eight and a half months. Oh, we didn't call it that back then, in 1980, but that's what it was. Corporate America had yet to come up with the label "high-tech," which serves as a panacea to the vast majority of the workers in the electronics industry, who man the assembly lines and make diddly shit for pay. Low wages, but hey, you're working in "high-tech!"

I applied for an assembly-line position at Instromedix, Inc., of Beaverton, OR, when I was 21. Instromedix was (and probably still is) owned by Dr. Herbert Semler. The Semler brothers were quite a big deal in Portland, OR, in their day, with Dr. Larry Semler being the city's most well-known optometrist, and Herbert being a widely respected cardiologist. They both still have offices in Portland.

Instromedix, Inc. built cutting-edge pacemaker-monitoring equipment. Their main product at the time was a little device about the size of a TV remote control, with four little metal electrodes for "feet" on the back, that a pacemaker patient would hold against his chest. This little device would then read the patient's heartbeat information, translate it into an audio signal, and put out a signal through a little speaker on the front of the device. The patient would then hold his telephone handset against the tiny speaker, transmitting his electrocardiogram "signal" over the phone to his doctor's office. The doctor would then activate his EKG readout, which was a tabletop device Instromedix also made, by placing his telephone handset into the top of it (two large rubber "donuts" held the phone receiver, which were all the circular old-fashioned type in 1980) and turning it on. The patient's heartbeat would read out on paper like a regular EKG. Instromedix also sold a few devices related to these, such as an "EKG answering machine" which was just a Code-A-Phone telephone answering machine with an extra circuit board in it, so the patient could leave an EKG when the doctor was away.

Like I said, I applied for an assembly-line position. But the Materials Manager, a skinny, late-thirties, prissy bitch named Vicki, had other plans for me. She wanted me to work in the stock room. I didn't even realize at the time that this was a step up from the assembly line, and the pay was a little better, and that she was actually doing me a favor, for whatever reason. Maybe I was one of the few high-school graduates to apply. Anyway, she stuck me in the stock room with a short, plump, cute redhead named Jo. Jo was about 4 foot 11 and had freckles, huge tits, a cute round ass -- and no brains whatsoever. The procedures for picking stock were insane, and I told Vicki the whole thing needed to be tossed out, starting with a new floor plan. She agreed and assigned me to the task. I made the new floor plan, it was approved, and finally the procedures made some sense and were performed with some efficiency. Jo, who had been hired at minimum wage over a year earlier and had since received two raises (one for 18 cents an hour and another for 10 cents), grew resentful. After I got promoted out of the stock room, she blew up one day in the parking lot in front of everyone during a break. My name was mentioned. I missed it.

I had been hired at a higher wage than Jo to begin with, and when the Inventory Control Clerk quit, I applied for his job, got it, and got a buck-an-hour raise. I was still answering to Vicki, but I had my own desk, phone, and a huge Kardex file behind me (computers for inventory were still just around the corner). I was also out of the Assembly building and now across the driveway from Vicki, with a nice big window which gave me warning of Vicki's many daily approaches. I had it made, overall. About two hours a day of work, then chatting with the Purchaser, who sat across from me.

Slowly, I began to gather what a disorganized shit-hole the company was. It occupied three different buildings in an industrial park: One for Assembly and Main Offices (where Vicki was), one for Materials (the building I was now in, which also housed Customer Service and the Molding department), and one for Engineering. The Assembly and Materials buildings were across the driveway from each other, but the Engineering building was something like 400 yards away. None of the buildings were connected to each other by phone. If someone from Texas called me looking for Engineering, I'd have no choice but to tell him to hang up and call the Engineering number.

Dr. Semler himself was a space cadet. I remember two company meetings in particular: In one, Dr. Semler was giving some sort of talk, and compared some situation to a lady whose cat is standing on a high windowsill or some such crap, and pretty soon everyone was looking at each other and thinking, "This guy is nuts!" as an oblivious Semler rambled on and on. And in another meeting, the company had changed insurers, and the new insurance company was at the meeting to explain the new medical benefits. Suddenly, after the insurance company representatives had given their little speech, the workers began to ask pointed questions regarding the cost of their plan. They quickly realized they were getting screwed, that this plan really sucked compared to the previous one, and let them (and Dr. Semler) know that this was unacceptable. This was the closest thing to a revolt I've ever seen at any business I worked at. The meeting ended with Semler promising to scrap the plan and start over.

I eventually realized that I had been promoted through attrition: The company had a huge turnover rate despite employing less than 100 people at the time. It seemed like every other day, while driving to work, I would see one of the assembly-line guys walking the other direction as I approached the industrial park. They never seemed to have cars.

During my short time there (under nine months), Dr. Semler hired a new CEO who had watched his previous company go bankrupt. A lot of employees came and went quickly. Our purchaser, a really nice lady who hated Vicki, quit. She was replaced by another lady who admitted she was on her way to better things, and I understand eventually became someone high-up in the purchasing department at Nike. And so on.

Now, when Vicki had promoted me to Inventory Control Clerk, I had to promise her that I would learn to type. She wanted me to type purchase orders for her, and other crap that would, in effect, make me her personal secretary. I never did learn to type (ever!), and that was the beginning of the friction, I suppose.

But Vicki had managed to rub everyone the wrong way at one time or another. EVERYBODY hated her. She was married to a doctor, had no children (if you knew her, the idea of her having kids of her own was simply unimaginable), and never wore the same outfit twice. She was not particularly cute, but well made over. And she walked in tiny steps like she had something up her ass, which she usually did.

But I had no idea how many enemies she had in the company until one day in late summer, 1980.

Around 3:00 one day, with no Vicki in sight, I left work 40 minutes early. It was not something I did often, with Vicki's office in the front of the building right across the street. But she was in a meeting or something.

The next morning, Vicki called me into her office. It seemed she had been looking for me late yesterday, and couldn't find me anywhere. She had even checked the parking lot for my car! I was so incensed by the notion of this painted-up little bitch walking around the parking lot for proof of my misconduct that I began to plot something as she spoke. I told her I was there all along, taking a shit in the bathroom. She said she knocked on the bathroom door. Now I know I'm dealing with a real cunt, so here came my desperation plan. I told her I was delivering mail to the Customer Service, Molding, and Engineering departments. I actually did this every once in a while, and the long walk down to Engineering would account for my long absence. She said she would check up on my story, and dismissed me for now. I knew it would take her a while to follow up on my story, because she was lazy on top of everything else. I never even stopped at my desk, going straight out to cover my tracks.

My first stop was Customer Service. I can't remember the guy's name, but it was a one-man department in the back of a mostly empty warehouse, and he was a nice fellow with little to do. We chatted often. You remember the "EKG answering machines" I mentioned above? Well, this guy handled the return of all of them. I mean, ALL of them. NONE of them worked! They were taking a plain Code-A-Phone answering machine and trying to make it do things it couldn't do. Anyway, since I knew him well, it was no problem getting him to agree to tell Vicki (if she asked) that I had indeed delivered mail to him on the previous afternoon.

Next stop was the Molding department, where they built the housings for the receiving end of the EKGs. The head of the Molding department was a really nice guy named Bill, who everyone liked. We had never gotten high together, but had some conversations about tripping on acid and such before. He not only agreed to lie to Vicki, but asked, "Anything in particular?" when it came to lying to her. What a guy.

My last stop was Engineering, and I knew nobody there but the receptionist, a real nice girl. She told me she had been gone yesterday at the supposed mail-delivery time, so I would have to talk to the Head Engineer. His name escapes me, but he was a typical egghead in a white lab coat. I had brought along actual mail for this department, and I explained that I needed him to tell Vicki that I had delivered it the afternoon before. In an angry tone, he said "Okay, but I don't see what difference it makes!" I said something like "I don't either" and got out of there.

I waited all day for the axe to fall. It was after noon when Vicki called me into her office. I figured I was getting fired. But Vicki was slouched back in her chair. She gave me a glare. "I have to apologize to you," she said tensely, and blathered on with some obligatory statement her boss had obviously scripted for her. (Her boss was a guy named Randy who once told me that the electronics industry was "recession-proof." What an idiot.) I had beaten her: People hated her so much that they lied for me -- in one case a complete stranger had lied to Vicki on my behalf! She mumbled something about keeping an eye on me, and sent me away.

Vicki got what I'm sure she perceived as her revenge a couple of months later: I was laid off, along with about a dozen other employees. It was great. They took me and a dozen assemblers into a room and gave us the news. Some of the women started crying, and I had to hide a giggling fit, thinking that at the minimum wage these people were making in the middle of an oil crisis, they might save money by staying home. It was the only time I ever got laid off from a job, and I remember saying "This is the best thing that ever happened to me!" when I emerged from the meeting. I milked them for unemployment for the longest possible period (over a year) while working for my dad for cash.

I'm still waiting for them to hire me back. It's been a long recession, eh?

EPILOGUE:

JO got pregnant right after that and became a welfare mother for life. A local newspaper article I read many years later, when she got flooded out of her apartment, revealed as much.

VICKI is still undoubtedly a cunt, wherever she is. And pushing 60.

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