A Twist Of Fate
The Mr. Phillips Screwdriver Chronicles
You didn't ask for it - but you got it anyway!

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(09/03/12 - 11:03 AM)
Wrapped up a more-than-solid month at the shop, even after a disgruntled, former employee called OSHA to report our 'negligence'. The problem? One of the items cited, were only dangerous because the electrician made an error when installing a machine (not the same one as below - this was earlier in the year) and had slit a small portion of the wiring's insulation. But >HE< (the complaintant) decided he knew how to fix an electrical panel. No one asked him. No one told him to. He just decided (before we all stopped him) that it was his duty. I'll let you guess who it was. Suffice it to say, we responded to the allegations with flying colors, and OSHA has closed the case.

He also cited that 'our electrical panels were off'. Well - they were. Because the ELECTRICIAN was in for two days INSTALLING A NEW MACHINE! You sort of need to get in there to, you know, run power.

>SIGH< (06/20/12 - 8:26 PM)
You know, when Mr. Phillips Screwdriver and our company parted ways, I figured it was the end of the story, er... stories.

Not quite.

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver has, it turns out, been calling fellow employees at their homes, and asking if they know why he got fired. Specifically, because he was the only one there who knew anything, who always showed up for work (that part is true, anyway), and was the best machinist we had.

Further, he has begun to posit that he's 'on to' what we're doing: We're firing the older employees in order to make way for cheaper, Mexican labor.

For perhaps a final time, I say, "I can't make this stuff up."

His 'sound' reasoning? We recently hired a talented individual for another position who happens to have a Hispanic background. And while I can't divulge what anyone makes, suffice it to say that he's paid on the same scale as anyone else.

But - hey - try telling that to the most talented guy we had, right?

As I write this, even now, I don't feel any longer as though this will be the last story I impart. Though, I'd be fine if it were.

(06/05/12 - 7:11 PM)
Today was an awkward and momentous day. Mr. Phillips Screwdriver was let go from our employ. While the human side of me pains at the thought of ANYONE losing employment, the business side of me knew that it was more than time.

The final straw came when we got word that a co-worker of his was seeking new employment in an effort to escape his madness. And while we have certainly tolerated a lot, we could not in good conscience let this go unaddressed.

More astoundingly, Mr. P.S. 'handed' us not one - but two - dismissable offenses, back to back, making the whole thing feel like it was meant to be. We had considered some lateral moves in the shop to retain his valuable machinists' skills, but it became clear that a higher power was hitting us with a 2 x 4 in an effort to 'assist' us in arriving at a contrary decision.

While I've gone against my own rules in posting his stories (it's beyond REALLY bad form, especially for a manager), it is also important to remember this: He is a human being. He was born, he has children, a family, and those who love him. And, while we may not always understand others, it is important to recall this. Everyone is someone special, even though they may not be to you.

So, Mr. P.S., I bid you farewell. I do so in a sincere and respectful way. Your talents WILL be missed, even if your quirks will not. I hope you find peace, happiness, and joy somewhere very soon and always know that while I may seem to be a flustered pundit, I always appreciated and respected your positive traits.

Good luck, Sir. It's been surreal.

(06/04/12 - 8:02 PM)

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver In: A Plethora Of Tales!

Tale #1: 'I know what I'm doing - and what YOU should be!'
Our Expediting Manager had given Mr. Phillips Screwdriver a set of components. These were accompanied with explicit instructions to work on the components during his shift. He was then told that he was to leave a clear, concise, note about where he was at in the manufacturing process for the day operator to pick up on the following morning, so that we did not miss an important deadline. Instead, when our Expediter arrived the following morning, he found the day operator working on something else, having no notion of the parts in question. This operator begins work FOUR HOURS prior to the Expediter's arrival. Had the instructions been carried out, the components would have been on time. As it stood, the components failed to make the deadline.

When questioned about the incident, Mr. P.S. stated that he, "Didn't feel that the day shift operator was capable of doing the parts, in his opinion, so, instead, he hid them so he could not find them, and so that he (Mr. P.S.) could finish them CORRECTLY on his next shift."

Glad to know we're in such watchful and concerned hands!

Tale #2: 'Quality Control, The Mr. P.S. Way!'
During the week, an error was made on a set of components. I inspected them, found the error, and returned them to Mr. Phillips Screwdriver for repair. The problem was that he had put chamfers on corners that were supposed to receive radii. While they would no longer be 100% 'per print', they could be finagled to be REALLY DAMN CLOSE. Instead of speaking with me, or fixing the components, Mr. P.S. left the following note for Me when I arrived the following morning:

"You can't make radius when ther's 45° chamfer. Duh. Pass the inspection let it go this time only."

I have left the note 100% in tact. Honest to Gulliver, I couldn invent fictions this wild on my best days of writing.

Tale #3: 'Even When It's My Fault, It's Not REALLY My Fault!'
The day shift operator was setting up to run a component that had been recently run on his machine. In attempting to pull up the existing program (so as not to have to write it anew), he found it missing. At least, it was missing from the simple, elegant, file structure that everyone is required to use. So, on a hunch, he tried finding the program the wrong way and - bingo!

Mr. P.S. had written - and saved incorrectly - this program. Frustrated, but not beaten, the operator went about his business until the end of his shift. One thing I need to mention: He comes in at four in the morning, while others around him have staggered start times. As such, there are often one or two other employees directly adjacent who experience both operators for at least a small portion of their working day. Remember this - it's important.

Anyway, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver comes in, and begins to assess the set up, followed by the program. And it's clear to those around him that he is most consternated by what he is seeing. Then, he becomes vocal about it, specifically, the program. After a few minutes of this, the other employees have had their fill of the 'fun', and let him in on a little secret: it's one of his own programs.

His response? "Yeah? Then why in the hell didn't he fix it!"

Tale #4: 'Put your toys away when you're done playing and - especially - put those away that you've pilfered from others
One of the issues specifically addressed during recent meetings with Mr. Phillips Screwdriver was his continued inability to put things back where they belong. In past months, this has caused veritable HOURS of accumulated, lost time, in searching out the 'new' locations where Mr. P.S. has either elected to move - or leave - items of import to the entire floor staff.

For example: For our first few years of operation we had only one complete set of gauging for pipe threads. The problem was that they were in the production area and what seems like every fourth part requires one for inspection. As time went on, and money was available, I slowly accumulated a new, pristine, set for the inspection area. This was intended to do two things: to prevent me from running to fetch one every time I required them and, to prevent me from searching further if someone was already using it.

Finding mine missing, I spent valuable minutes seeking it out and - ultimately found it in Mr. Phillips Screwdriver's area. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and mentioned that he REALLY needed these sorts of things put back in their place. Yet, two days later, the same instance occurred. This time, the gage was more difficult to find but was, ultimately, found: this time, buried in Mr. P.S's area.

Tale #5: 'It doesn't matter if I do it my way - except that it does'
We had a component come through that I wished to be run in a very specific order. It was important - and I'll explain why in a moment. I took the time to not only write explicit, clear, concise instructions on a print for manufacture, I also drew arrows and used lots of purty colors of highlighter to make it CRYSTAL CLEAR. These instructions were a result of my years of knowledge.

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver - for whatever reason - ran the components a different way and, when confronted about it in the morning, told our Expediting Manager, "Yes, I saw the instructions, but they can broach it either way, so it doesn't matter."

For those of you who just went, 'Huh?', broaching is the act of using a reciprocating tool to cut a rectangular keyway in the internal diameter of a component. In this instance, I had asked that an interfering hole that ran through the keyway not be added until after broaching.

Here, we have him openly admitting that, yes, he DID see the explicit instructions yet, he willfully chose to ignore them and do things his way.

Was he right? Yes and no. What >I< know that he does not, is that the company that does the broaching on the components does NOT want to have a hole pre-added prior to the keyway being broached. The reason, first and foremost, is that, with this interruption, there comes a much higher probability of breaking a valuable cutting tool during the process. While the vendor will still perform the process, under mild protest, they also charge a higher rate for doing so - often as high as 50% more.

But - hey - it's the same, right?

Tale #6: 'If you don't know, guess! If you guess wrong, blame foreigners!'
This one is a cake-taker. In our shop, we run components whose drawings originated not only in the United States but, also, from a number of other countries. Lots of them.

These other countries typically use what are known as ISO (International Standards Organization) standards for manufacture. This is a fairly clear, concise, agreed upon method that the U.S. seems disinterested in adopting, for whatever 'good reason'. While our operators are certainly used to seeing a goodly number of 'American' prints, they are not naive enough to presume that the world is entirely America-centric.

One of Mr. P.S.'s principal complaints is that 'The Germans', 'The Mexicans' or 'The Foreigners' (dependant upon his mood) are idiots who won't conform to 'normal' standards (i.e. - 'Americanizing' prints to our lone, bastard way of thinking.)

I have tried - on more occasions than I can count to explain to him that we, in fact, are the one's who are backwards, the Germans aren't all jerks, Mexicans can, in fact, make taps, and that 'The Foreigners' are, for all intents and purposes, working on a higher plane of organization and unification than we here in the backwoods of the U.S. do, oftentimes.

This morning, I received a component for inspection. I became clear that there was a problem, when I saw the following on the original print: 'R1/8'. Next to it, Mr. P.S. had written, '1/8-27'. Now, for you who have no clue what you just read, let me explain some mundane points:

Pipe taps come in several 'flavors' - for this lesson, I'll deal with two: British Standard and National Pipe. These are broken down further into 'tapered' and 'parallel' - which means just what it says. One has straight threads while the other, offers tapered ones for tight fits. (Also a few other useful, 'sub-species' that aren't really germane to the story exist. Ask me about it sometime, when you need to fall asleep.)

So, back to our friend, 'R1/8'. This is a designator for a 1/8"-28 British Standard Parallel Pipe tap. This means that it's for a 1/8" British pipe fitting, with 'straight threads' and a thread pitch (think number of full threads per inch) of 28.

What our friend, Mr. P.S., had written, exhibited a 1/8"-27 NPT. This is a 1/8" National Pipe Taper thread (a tapered thread) with a thread pitch of 27.

If you've got a grasp of basic fact-finding, you're already beginning to see the myriad problems in 'changing' on a whim from one to another.

So, when he arrived, he immediately came to my office.

"What's wrong with this?"

"What's wrong," I said patiently, "is that that is supposed to be a 1/8"-28 BSPP, and you wrote down - and made it - a 1/8"-27 NPT."

"Well, if they'd just say so on the print, I would have known that!"

I explained, calmly, that they had, in fact, "Said so on the print." I then pointed to the R1/8 ISO designation.

"Well that doesn't tell me anything!"

"So, then, how did you know to use a 1/8"-27 NPT?"

"They didn't say, so I figured that was right!"

"Again, they DID say. It's right there. So, you're saying that you didn't know that that's what that stood for, and assumed or guessed on your own?"

"No! I don't know what they want, because they don't say. That don't mean nothing to me! If they wanted that, they should have put that on the print!"

"And, I'm telling you - they did."

"No! They didn't! I don't know what this means!"

"All right, then why did you guess?"

"Because I thought it was right! Besides, they're basically the same thing. It's not going to hurt anything."

"It is NOT basically the same thing. The pitch is different by one thread, and one is tapered, while - the one they want - is straight."

"So, what am I supposed to do about it?"

"Put the correct thread in, I imagine. It won't be 100% perfect, but switching from a tapered to a straight, with a thread pitch off by one, is usually successful without the customer noting the difference in final fitting."

And - P.S. - it doesn't work the other way around. Even what I was suggesting as a fix is frowned upon but acceptable 'last resort' practice.

At this, he stormed off. As he walked away, I could make out the following, "If they wanted that, I just don't understand why they didn't put it on the print!"

(04/05/12 - 6:12 PM)
Mr. Phillips Screwdriver in: 'Anything you can do, I can do better!':

Earlier in the week, I had a sit-down with Mr. P.S. I sort of let him have it for doing things he need not (read: ought not) to be doing. I really thought I had reached him. For those of you, out there, laughing, and yelling, "Foolish Mortal!" at your screen: you're right to do so.

At the shop, we have a rare few jobs that pop up periodically. Even rarer are those which we get large quantities of over the course of a year, but are ordered in far smaller ones. When we run low on these, I gage workload and make a decision either to run them on the manual machines in the small quantity needed, so as not to form an unecessary bottleneck, or on the CNC machines, so as to maximize output for stock.

Jim (our loyal Expediter) came across a part just like this. When I had set the order up, we had the extra time, so I had requested on the drawing that we run (10) pieces: (3) for the order, and (7) for stock. Jim made a judgement call, as the due date loomed and, based on workflow, elected to switch it up, and only run the necessary (3). This - by the way - was a good call, and the right choice. On the drawing, he blacked out the note for the extras, leaving only the requirement for (3) showing for the operator.

Next, he chose a second-shift operator to run the components, explained the situation, and all was right with the world. He went home to (I imagine) have a well-deserved dinner.

Yet, at 7:30, he received a call at home from the operator, who had a question:

"Hey Jim. I'm supposed to run all ten of these components now? I just wanted to make sure, because you said to only run three."

After a few minutes of baffled conversation, here's the skinny on what had happened:

While the operator had been on break, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver had gone into his area. He had found and looked at the print. He then went into our stockroom (a big and confusing place, if you're not in the know) and had taken the time to locate the remaining seven pieces of material that had originally been cut for the job but, now, were stocked for later use. He took said material, brought it to the other operator's area and - upon returning from break - told the operator that he was to run not three - but ten - of the components.

Clearly this confused the operator but - he considered - that while he had been on break perhaps he had missed something. On a hunch he had called Jim, just to make sure.

Here's the biggest problem: we have no time. Had the operator followed Mr. Phillips Screwdriver's instructions, we would have ended up running components that we didn't have to have, in a super-inefficient manner (because, at ten, it needs to be run on a CNC machine) and would have lost more than one whole extra shift in production, when we are hours and hours behind already.

Thank God for the operator's insight.

(03/22/12 - 5:59 PM)
Mr. Phillips Screwdriver likes to come in and complain about the time clock. He has all sorts of ‘sage’ advice about why it doesn’t work for him (myriad doesn’t even begin to cover it.)

Our time clock is an elegant little thing that, at its essence, is a credit-card-style swipe machine. Insert card, slip downward, go to work. Except, for whatever reason, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver can't seem to manage it. Instead he - inexplicably - jams the card in at Kama-Sutra-esque angles, jerks down, and pronounces it junk. I'd hate to see his antics in bed, if this is any indicator.

Over the months, and years, that we've had this little gadget, he has pulled several of us into his vortex of 'logic' more times than therapy will fix in a lifetime, to explain why it's junk, why we're dumb, and how it should work.

Today, he cornered our Expediter, and was - once more - monologuing about his theories (again) and what WE needed to do about. He spoke of electricity flowing through the body that could be - potentially - the culprit for the time card swipe not working correctly. The word discharge was used and no one laughed. This is how seriously we take getting away from him.

He openly bemoaned the fact that the cards MUST be changed every three months - perhaps less - everyone knew that!, he exclaimed, because the magnetic strips wear out. Credit card companies: You're on notice - you'd better get your shit together, and start sending me a new card quarterly, because now I know your secrets!

Also, cleaning them weekly was put forth as the right and correct thingto do but - with what and how - were not questions that he felt he needed to answer.

After a few more, agonizing, minutes, a normally placid, co-worker walked over to him, interrupted him, and said, "You know," he began, "I sure hope you operate your machine better than you do that time clock." Turned, and walked away, shaking his head.

I owe someone a Coke. Maybe two.

(03/16/12 - 5:46 PM)
This week: The Incredible Mr. Phillips Screwdriver Stars In: Four Short Stories

Story #1:
Earlier in the week, our Expediter was stopped from making his rounds by Mr. Phillips Screwdriver.

"Hey." Mr. P.S. asked, "Is it hot in here, or is it just me?"

Now, he could have gone for the cheap shot and been done with the whole thing. Insead, he looked Mr. P.S. over, and said, "Well, I'm fine, but it might be your t-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, and jacket that are making you warm.

Yep. Truth.

As he was walking away, he was stopped by a neighboring employee. Apparently, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver likes to climb on things. This employee, finding it amusing in the same way we find monkeys touching themselves amusing, had begun taking photos on his mobil phone when this ocurred, and showed our Expediter a few. I have seen only one, and cannot WAIT to see the rest for myself.

Story #2:
... is much more interesting, and in-depth:

We had a couple (two pieces - remember this) of finely threaded, delicate components that were being moved from the turning department, to the milling department. Before moving on, I specifically instructed one of our employees to sleeve the threads in a protective mesh. That done, I moved them on.

The next afternoon, the components appeared in the inspection area, milling done, but lacking the protective mesh. I looked at the initials on the print, of who had done the work, and shook my head out of frustration.

I held my frustration in check, and asked that the individual who did the sleeving for me the day prior to please go and retrieve them from Mr. Phillips Screwdriver's area. (I had a hunch that they might be there.)

He returned, shortly thereafter, with not two, but four pieces of protective netting. He held them up, and said nothing.

"He has the second set of two, similar, parts also, and - let me guess - he took all the mesh off?"

"Yep," came the employee's reply. "But it gets better. When I asked him if he had it, he reached under his bench, into the cluster of things, and pulled out all four. So, I asked him why he hadn't replaced the mesh when he finished the parts."

"What for?" Mr. Phillips Screwdriver had asked in return, clearly puzzled by the inquiry.

"So, I said, 'Well, we took the time to put them in it for a reason. It was to protect the threads. Why didn't you just put it back on when you were done?'"

"What for? We don't need it," was Mr. Phillips Screwdriver's reply. That was all.

"So, again, I mentioned why," my employee said.

"Well, I don't see why we need it. It doesn't need protection to move from here to there," Mr. Phillips Screwdriver retorted.

"But it's already THERE - for a reason - why not just replace it?" my employee said, in what I can only assume was a high-pitched, pleading tone, wont for sanity.

"It isn't necessary. It won't get damaged from here to there. We're all professionals here."

At this point, the employee wisely took the mesh (which is, in fact, quite expensive), and walked away.

I have no rational explaination for this behavior. NONE.

Story #3:
Mr. Phillips Screwdriver 'noted' that we were sawing some aluminum extrusion components (think PlayDough Fun Factory, but with aluminum, and you know what I'm talking about now).

"You need one of those special blades that runs backwards to cut that." he told our Expediter.

Not knowing WHAT to make of that, my Expediter made the mistake of responding, "What are you talking about?"

For several minutes, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver described a widely known and available (in his world, mind you) 'backward running blade' that not only cut the material, but left zero burrs in the process.

My Expediter went around and around with him, and finally flat-out decided that such a thing did not - in the form he was speaking of - exist.

After minutes of arguing, the matter was dropped, and the job was finished (successfully). The irony? It was a $10.00, side job. We lost any profit that might have been had on it, in the minutes wasted in fantasy-land.

The next day? He actually came in, after having searched for the thing he was talking about, and told our Expediter that he could find no mention of it anywhere.

I wonder why?

Story #4:
I was asked to order a new drill chuck and tapered holder for Mr. Phillips Screwdriver's machine. I did as asked, and ordered the particular, superior, brand that the entire shop not only uses - but has used - since it's inception.

The item arrived, I put it in his area in anticipation of his arrival, and figured that would be the end of it.

Think again! (I should have known better, by now.) For, when he arrived, he immediately came into my office, and bemoaned the fact that I had, in fact, ordered an inferior drill chuck, and not what he wanted at all.

"I ordered precisely what you asked for, in the brand that the entire shop uses, and that the owner has chosen. What's the problem?"

"It's inferior! It's made in China! It won't hold a drill! It wobbles all over, and you can't drill nothing with it! It's crap!" Mr. Phillips Screwdriver raved.

News to me, "That particular brand," I posited, "Is the industry leader. We've had those in-house and in use for as long as you've been here. Why - now - is there suddenly a problem?"

"Well, maybe those were superior because they were old, and still made in America! This one has a little mention of China on the box! These are worthless!" he continued, frothing.

"Have you actually found that the chuck will not hold a drill and that it wobbles, as you say?" I asked, losing patience.

"No! I didn't even put it together, because I knew it was inferior and that you'd want to send it back to get the right one!" he replied, like I had asked for a tongue bath, rather than a rational response.

"All right, so: which one is superior to that brand?" I asked, point blank.

"Well - I don't know! But there has to be something made in America that's superior!"

I won't be redundant, and repeat all of the back and forth that then ocurred but, suffice it to say, my shop is now using an inferior product and doing so, under protest, by one lone employee.

(11/23/11 - 6:08 PM)
It's a two-fer week in Mr. Phillips Screwdriver land! You lucky, lucky folks.

For the past week, several operators have come to me inquiring where the 45° fixturing blocks had gone. For those of you that just went, "The what now?" allow me to clarify:

I run a machine shop. Each machine in the milling department has a vise. The vise is a workholding device you've probably all seen versions of before. These, however, are extremely strong and precise. Occasionally, when holding a component to work on it, the operator needs to set the component at a perfect 45° angle. This is sometimes achieved by placing one of the aforementioned blocks in the throat of the vise, below the component, and then seating the component on it. Voila - 45° bliss.

For some reason, on the first occasion, the blocks had disappeared. The senior operator who came to me to inquire as to their whereabouts did so because he had asked everyone in the shop where they were, and no one was using them. We both suspected what had happened, but he was kind enough to be polite about the whole thing and ask me politely if I could inquire with second shift as to whether they had seen them.

I said that I would, and we left it at that.

Then, I did something I almost never do: I forgot all about it. And I feel REALLY awful when I do that, because my employees deserve better.

So, a day or two later I was informed they had been found - behind Mr. Phillips Screwdriver's personal tools. I apologized for having forgotten about it, and meant to speak to Mr. P.S., but never got around to it that evening.

Apparently, I should have, because the next day they were - once more - not where they ought to be. Only, this time, we couldn't find them. Afternoon - and Mr. Phillips Screwdriver - came along, and he returned them from hiding.

Things went well for the next two days, until they disappeared a third time. At this point, several employees were pretty vocal about their frustrations - and rightly so. So, when he came in for his shift that afternoon, I politely confronted him about the whole affair.

"Did you move the 45° blocks again?"


Oh, dear: Combative. I tried to tread lightly with my next statement, "Where did you put them?"

He walked me to a bin of 'odd angle' blocks. These are non-standards, and as such are kept separate from the standards. I explained this to him, "We don't keep them here, because it takes longer to locate them, as these are non-standard. Can you please leave them where they belong?"

"Well, they've always been in this bin for as long as I've been here!"

"No," I respond, "See that square where no dust is, on top of that little cabinet? That's where they've been."

"Well, I can't reach them there, so I put them down here where they belong!"

If you think you read that wrong - you didn't. And if you don't get what's insane about that statement, re-read the previous three paragraphs... got it now?


"Look," I said, "I know the guys have asked you not to put these in here. How about we compromise? Can we put them, say, there >point to more accessable, open area< so that everyone can find them easily, and you can reach them?"


"Why not?"

"They belong in the bin with the rest of them."

"I don't want them there. I want them kept separate. I don't think that this is a big deal."

"Well, I don't think I want to do that. They belong in here. Why should I do that?"

I pulled a card I pull maybe once every few years. One I save for special occasions, "Because I said so. That's all you need to know. I'm not asking you - I'm telling you - that is where I want them."

"Oh, well that's fine. Why don't we just put them there, then?"

He has now turned my demand into his suggestion. Honest to goodness, I didn't think it could be done - but he's just done it with a straight face.

Oh, to be me.

(11/21/11 - 5:26 PM)
Laaaaadies and Gents! I am proud to present to you, "Mr. Phillips Screwdriver, and the case of the droopy light!"

It was mid-afternoon, and I found myself traversing the shop from end to end. My office is in the far, Northwest corner of the building, and the guy I needed to see about something is at the far East side. I make this trip a couple of times a day, depending on what I'm up to.

As I'm walking by Mr. Phillips Screwdriver's machine, I see it devoid of employee, and still cleaned up from the prior operator. I know that Mr. Phillips Screwdriver is here, because I saw him come in. A half second later I spy him, monkeying around behind another operator's machine. The operator has gone home for the day, and all I can see is the top of Mr. P.S.'s head. I figure there's a problem with an air line or some such thing, forcing him to trace the problem back to its source. In fairness, Mr. P.S. does - on occasion - find most of our air line deficencies and allow us to rectify them. So, I figure I'll just look the other way, and let him fix whatever he's fixing.

Ten minutes later, I'm headed that way again, and - again - I see the bald pate bobbing around behind the other operator's machine. Now I'm starting to wonder if leaving him to his own devices the first time around was such a hot idea, so I grit my teeth, and make my way over to him.

"What are you fixing, there?" I ask in a polite tone, giving him the benefit of the doubt.

"Well >Hem< this is all droopy!"

Since nothing more accompanied that explaination I once again began the dance that is teasing the conversational issues out of him. A dance I've done all too often before. "What's all droopy?"

"This! It's all droopy, and won't stay up!"

See? We're getting somewhere, but I still have no idea what he's telling me. He's still building the conversational equivalent of a Dagwood Special sandwich, one annoying layer at a time.

"Actually, I don't see. What - specifically - is droopy?"

"This light! It's all droopy and it won't stay up!"

So now I get it: He saw that the other operator's work light was not up to HIS rigid (sure - pun intended - what the hell) specifications, so he took it upon himself to 'fix' a problem that the day operator seemed perfectly fine with - and perfectly capable of manipulating to a successful end, were he not.

"Well," I said, trying not to laugh, "It seems to be fine for >Day Operator<, so let's just leave that up to him, and focus on your own work."

I'm actually surprised this is going as well as it is. Christmas came early, I think, as he says, "Well - all right."

As I begin mentally singing, "We are the Champions" he drops the conversational bomb. I celebrated too soon:

"You see," he begins, gathering steam, "These lights operate on joints that..."

I won't bother you with the rest of the several minute, unstoppable, dialogue but - suffice it to say - it was long, and all stuff I already knew.

In the end, it took me another two minutes of assuring him that I understood the construction and operation of the luminescent device enough for him to decide that maybe it was now time to do some work.

I love my job.

(11/02/11 - 5:06 PM)
I don't know how much of this story has already been relayed, and I'm too lazy to look. So here, in its entirety, is the tale of Mr. Phillips Screwdriver and the Great Wall:

With all of the new equipment we've been shoe-horning into the already space-constrained shop of late, things have become beyond tight for most of our employees.

One pair, in particular, are Mr. Phillips Screwdriver and a second operator. To paint the picture: Mr. Phillips Screwdriver is relegated to a spacious enough, but awkwardly shaped, area. The other operator, because of how his machine is placed, is relegated to a twenty-four inch wide by six foot long strip of real estate that I wouldn't wish on anyone. Especially when you consider all the hot metal chips and coolant flying around. Amazingly, he's been a sport about it.

To make up for this egregious space constraint, the Owner built him a customized, mobile workbench that is quite tall and long - to give him plenty of room to put things and make up vertically for the lost space horizontally.

Sounds fair, right? Here's the problem: remember that one word? MOBILE. Uh oh...

It was not in place more than a few hours before Mr. Phillips Screwdriver came to work, and then to visit me, bemoaning his ability to do his job - at all - because it just took up too much of his space. In an effort to be open-minded, I decided to hear him out. And, so, we went out to the work floor together.

He showed me what he meant, and I tried not to laugh. Essentially, his arguement was that IF he had to run a super-long part, and IF he needed to move his machine's table all the way to the left at its furthest extremity, then he would be impaired from doing so.

"That's fine", I said. "But you may recall that you, and I, and our Expediter (who decides what work goes on what machine) all had a conversation specifically discussing the fact that you would no longer be asked to run the extra-long parts due specifically to this fact."

After a heavy round of repetition on his part, showing that he hadn't listened to a word that I'd said, I walked away, frustrated. It was like we had never spoken at length about it, and I was now speaking Mandarin.

As the days went on, it became obvious that Mr. Phillips Screwdriver was hell-bent on making his point, even though it had been nullified from the start. So every day when he came in, he moved the bench right into the other operator's already constrained space, in an effort to be prepared for that long part that just might come along. Bear in mind that their shifts overlap - so the other operator was still in that small space.

The other operator put up with this for a few days, but finally had had enough, and began to push back. This elicited an interesting response. Each day, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver would now come to me and explain that he'd, 'Never done anything to the guy', so he couldn't 'understand why the guy was being such a jerk!'

I mentioned that what HE himself was doing was unecessary, and was the catalyst of the issue. His coming in each day, and moving the bench without cause, was a massive - and unecessary - irritation. His response? Why, to monologue about how he could not run long parts for five minutes, of course!

This went on for a couple of weeks and, seeing that Mr. Phillips Screwdriver was in his own town, population of 1, the Owner and I knew a new solution was in order. His idea? Create brackets that would capture the wheels of the workbench that permanently mounted in the concrete floor. They could be 'opened' to move the bench, if that ever became necessary but would otherwise remain closed and locked during the times it did not.

I explained the solution to both parties equally, not wanting more strife, and both agreed that it was a fine solution.

So, over a weekend, I had them made and installed. And I figured that a sane person would believe that the problem was solved. I knew better. And I was right, because...

The bitching continued. His first day back, he came to me and said, "Did you do that!?"

"Did I do what?"

"Put those brackets in the floor like that?"

Now, imagine my surprise when I considered that I had CLEARLY OUTLINED for him my intentions before the work began. More than once, in fact. And he had AGREED to it.

And now? His only response was - you guessed it - that he could not run long parts.

"Well," he says, shaking his head, "It isn't going to work like that. You'd better think of something else, because that isn't going to work."


"Well," he responded, stone-cold serious, "Because with it like that, I can't run long parts."

For those of you saying to yourselves about now, "Oh Heath - come on - you're embellishing! He couldn't possibly have said the same thing that many times!" I say NOPE - It's ALL TRUE. Every day he would begin anew, with him coming into my office and reminding me that he could no longer run long parts because of our folly.

Then, today, the inevitable happened. I knew it was coming and, to be honest, I was surprised that it took this long. I got a call from our Expediter on the radio that there was a problem in Mr. Phillips Screwdriver's area, and would I please come to the floor immediately?

I went out, and found Mr. P.S. tirading at my poor Expediter, who we have explicitly expressed to everyone over and over again - privately, and in numerous company meetings - was NOT to be bothered with matters such as the one he was being bothered with now. This was MY part of the show. I can't imagine how that message never got through.

So take into consideration that I'm really, REALLY, busy with real stuff right about now, and I have negative time for crap like this to spare. I cut to the chase as he continues to speak directly to our Expediter, even though I'm now there, and ask the thousand dollar question:

"What's the issue?"

I have to ask twice more before I get a reply. Or, at least, what Mr. P.S. feels is a reply. Specifically, he takes a 20" piece of aluminum that's been in his hand the whole time, and pokes part of the wall, grunts, shakes his head, and then looks at me. That's it. That's his response. Honest to God, I can't make this stuff up: Scout's honor.

I ask twice more, and twice more he grunts and pokes, saying nothing.

Now I hear over the radio that a customer is on the line for me, and I see another coming into the shop who needs to speak with me about a project we're doing for him. Couple this with the stuff I was already pulled away from and my wits were pretty much at an end. To be honest, I lost my temper internally, and my first reaction was to go all Lou Pinella on the situation.

Instead, as calmly as I could, I said, "Don't poke, tell me what the problem is!"

"LOOK!" he hollers in my face, poking the wall once again. "I told you this would happen! I told you I couldn't run long parts! Now how in the hell am I supposed to run this? I knew this would happen!"

Here's what I see: He has successfully rammed his $950.00 Servo unit that moves his worktable on the X-Axis into one of the 2" x 4"s supporting the wall, bending it's heat sync vanes over on top of themselves.

I try to speak, but he goes first anyway: "I can't run this shit over here! This is stupid! I told you this would happen!"

A second call on the radio puts me over the edge, "Fine. Pull the job, and move on. Are we done here?"

He decides that we're not, and tries again. Finally I get louder than him, and tell him once more that I have real issues to deal with and just walk away. Something I never do, but I was going to kill someone otherwise and he was awfully close at hand.

When all of my business and phone calls are completed, my Expediter comes to me to review what had happened. He's concerned that he made a bad decision in allowing the job to be there, on that machine. I explain that the day operator was doing just fine with it. I also explain that >I< could have run that part on that machine just fine. And I am not a machinist. It was entirely do-able. Instead, Mr. P.S. had decided that he MUST be made to be shown to be right, and had elected to crash his machine on purpose. It was really as simple as that.

We were both just dumbfounded for the briefest of moments, but knowing what we know about him we both, on some levels, knew it was coming.

In the end, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver had shown us how foolish we were. Yep - he sure did! Even though he had to act like a deaf three-year-old to do it, and "accidentially" damage something in the effort. Way to go, Buddy! Way to go.

(10/21/11 - 7:18 PM)
Sanity... hello?... sanity... are you here? Hello... I can hear someone here... is it sanity... oh... oh, God, no... it's...

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver

Recently, we've made some drastic changes in the layout of our shop to accomodate for some new equipment we really didn't have enough room for, but that we needed, nonetheless. And everyone, to some degree, has had to make some sacrifices. Some more than most.

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver's area is perpendicular to another operator's. The operator has less than 24 inches of space between he and his machine to work in. As a compromise, my Boss built him a sizeable workbench which is on casters, and has more vertical and horizontal space than others, to maximixe efficiency in a small space.

This did not sit well with Mr. P.S. Oh, it's not that the bench is bigger than his. And he's not jealous of the fact that while he has enough room in front of his machine to do the entire Nutcracker Ballet, the other operator is lucky if he can bend over. Nope he's mad because if - IF - he gets a really long part to work on and, IF, he needs to use the very limits of his machine's travel, he might hit the upright of the bench.

Notice that I said, 'IF'? There's a reason for that. Our Expediter, Jim, is well aware of the space constraints. In fact, when this all happened, we discussed making certain that long parts were run on other machines, just to avoid this sort of thing. And we not only mentioned it to Mr. P.S. then, we've continued to do so as his daily tirades have continued, unabated, as though they are the first time all over again - EACH AND EVERY TIME.

Apparently, we don't know what we're doing. Because here's what's been happening for three weeks now:

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver comes in. The FIRST thing he does, is shoves the workbench to a point where he COULD run ANY part. Even though it's been set up to avoid just this situation. And even though he's been told not to. And even though he has a small part IN THE MACHINE. And even though the other operator is STILL TRYING TO WORK IN HIS 23" space. Even with all of this in play, this still happens.

So, we've begged, plead, reasoned, threatened, and questioned. And to no avail. He still makes this move first thing. Needless to say, this has been an escalating issue over the past few weeks and, at it's height, he denied ever having done anything we were discussing.

Wait, WHAT?!?

Yep. Right to the owner's face. He doesn't know what we're talking about. He is, in fact, upset that the OTHER operator is pushing the thing into his machine.

So, since logic and reason are now dead and buried, I and the Owner devise a new tactic: The bench will be made immobile by means of a bracket. A custom made jobbie with concrete anchors and padlocks. All so a more than grown man will stop with this nonsense.

So, tomorrow morning, I had to have a guy come in - on overtime - to put these brackets in place. Not to mention the time and money spend in manufacture, nor the time wasted dealing with the issue, only to be told he didn't know what we were talking about.

It is never a dull moment with this guy around.

(08/25/11 - 9:13 PM)
Welcome to this installment of the Mr. Phillips Screwdriver Chronicles!

This week was another new high. Mr. Phillips Screwdriver called my Boss - on his cell phone, while he was up north in Wisconsin working on his other business venture.

But it gets better. He called to tell him that he was displeased with his recent decisions, and to let him know that he MUST have a meeting about numerous things that he didn't like about others just as soon as he returned. He just had to. There were no two ways about it.

Way to take the initiative Mr. P.S.!

More interesting was the fact that, unbeknownst to my Boss, Mr. P.S. had also been giving me daily 'advice' in the same vein. Specifically, each day he came in, he stopped by my office to 'suggest' that I have a meeting with certain individuals privately, because they were so terrible about something or another, or with the company as a whole about grave injustices being wrought against him.

When the Boss and I finally put our stories together, it became clear that, with regard to running the company, we were idiots who had no clue. And if only - IF ONLY! - we had consulted Mr. P.S., then all would be right with the Corporation.

How had the both of us overlooked this phenomenal Management and Business asset for so, so long? What fools we were!

(07/20/11 - 10:42 PM)
Have you ever heard the term: 'The right tool for the job?'

I'm guessing Mr. Phillips Screwdriver hasn't. This is how our story begins...

Our second-shift operators are all working at their machines on their respective projects. One in particular makes note of a loud banging coming from the far end of the shop, but doesn't think too much of it. My employees make all sorts of loud, scary noises during the course of their workday (go ahead - insert a fart and burp joke here - you know you want to), so we don't get too frightened until we hear a tool break - then we jump to stop the machine from running. And that sound is pretty distinct.

So: this loud banging goes on for some ten minutes before this operator's curiosity gets the better of him, and he decides to see who and what in the hell are making all that racket.

As he moves toward the sound, he sees an unthinkable act being performed before him. There is Mr. Phillips Screwdriver, with a zinc hammer, wailing on a custom-painted, metal drill cabinet. Over, and over and over again. The bottom of which is now all bent and dented to hell.

"What are you doing!?!" my good employee inquires (and rightly so, bless him).

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver stops long enough to explain that the cabinet sits a little too far back on the cabinet it sits atop of. So, his logical solution was to leave it loaded with 500 pounds of drills, and hammer the shit out of it until it had scooted along the few inches he thought it needed.

If I only had video, this would make a lot more sense, I realize. But do the best you can in your head to envision it, and it's probably close enough.

He went on to say that he had felt that it needed to be moved for a long time, and that since no one else had moved it, he felt it was his duty alone to do what others refused to. And the best way to do it, apparently, was not to unload it of some or all of its burdens; not to seek a second employee for help; not to do the right thing: let me know you want it moved, and give me a chance to help you. Nope! A hammer and ten minutes of damage was TOTALLY the right way to go here!

Uh... what? >SIGH<

At least I got a blog entry out of the deal. I just feel bad for the poor cabinet.

(06/15/11 - 6:42 PM)
This week: Mr. Phillips Screwdriver and the magical bendy metal!

Apparently, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver was unhappy with the way the air hoses around his machine were hung and strung. His solution? He chose to ignore all the usual implements on the path to rectifying this - perceived - problem: wire coat hangers in abundance, zip ties, bungee cords, nylon twine, and probably some other things that one could use, but wouldn't make a ton of sense given the abundance of the aforementioned.

Nope, instead, he went into our welding area. He not only took TiG welding rod, he elected to take stainless rod. And not just ANY stainless rod. Nope! Just the best stuff for him! He chose the 316 stainless rod - a high nickel and molybdneum stainless steel. The cost for a 1" x 2" x 36" box? More than he makes in two days.

So, he takes dozens of these rods, and creates a veritable habitrail for his hoses. Our welder found them this morning, and politely blew a gasket. He kept his cool, but approached me and asked if I had authorized it, because it was the most expensive rod we had, and wasn't really meant for that.

I said that I hadn't, and I thanked him for bringing it to my attention.

Handling it seemed simple. I elected to go hands-off, and simply leave a note on Mr. P.S.'s time card stating that he was not to use this welding rod - or any welding rod, actually - for this or any other purpose. I then proposed viable alternatives *(see above).

My welder took the rod back to his area, and will attempt to use it.

So, I figure, problem solved. Right?

Say it with me kids: 'NOPE!'

The next morning, we find that he has re-strung the entire works using another round of the same rod.

I can't even begin to vocalize my consternation at his apparent inability to grasp the written English language, nor logic.

So, my Expediter beats me to the punch when Mr. P.S. arrives for work (And God bless him for it, because I didn't even know where to begin).

He asks all the leading questions and, it turns out, he just didn't think that the note really pertained to him.


So, my Expediter takes the time and energy to outline any and all scenarios that might arise where Mr. P.S. might once more feel the need to raid the welding rod stash, and he subsequently should not, up to and including an armed marmot uprising or nuclear winter.

Even so, we're still not sure that the message was received.

(06/08/11 - 7:56 PM)
Attention! Mr. Phillips Screwdriver is about to take over this entry. You have been warned...

Late this afternoon, I was walking to the back of the shop. As I passed the newest machine, I heard a sound like an air hose popping its fitting. As I looked over, I saw by the look on my operator's face that he had heard it as well.

We both discussed what we had heard, and looked for an obvious source. As we were looking, a third employee came from across the aisle, and mentioned he had heard the noise AND seen a flash.

Behind this particular machine are two of our five, large, breaker panels. So, starting at the beginning, I opened the panels. In the first nothing was amiss, but in the second, a breaker had been tripped. By this time the employees were on break, so I went to find them.

"I found a tripped breaker. I didn't want to reset it, in case something goes wrong, as your machines are still running. After break, let's come to a stopping point and re-set the breaker and see what we see."

Break ended, and my operator went to the panel, found the offending breaker, and flipped it. I heard two more 'pops', and saw both smoke coming from the opposing panel, and a freaked-out employee who looked like he had just seen Jesus.

I went over to investigate, as he was about to flip the breaker again.

"Don't - just a minute," I said. I now noted that the original breaker was tripped, as well as two more in the adjoining box. Not realizing how stupid I was being (and I'm in charge, mind you), I let him try and reset them once again.

Now the pop was LOUD, and the smoke was HEAVY. We could see a shower of sparks in the top of the adjoining box, and now five breakers were down.

"Alright," I said one breaker too late, "Don't touch anything. I'm calling the electrician."

Which is what I should have said earlier.

So, I call the electrician, who hems and haws about coming right up until I get to the part about explosions and smoke. Then he appears to grasp the gravity of the situation, and graciously agrees to come immediately. Which was much appreciated, because nothing was forcing him to do so.

So, as the electrician is en-route, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver reports in for work. Six minutes later, one of the operators in the know flys into my office, and lets me know that he had to shoo Mr. P.S. away from the panel with extreme prejudice, and I need to get out there before he kills himself or blows something up.

Here's what happened: Upon arrival, he somehow got wind of what had happened. He then took it upon himself to meander over, open the panel doors, and was pontificating on what was wrong. As he was about to throw one of the blown breakers (which we have already proven was a stupid idea on my part), the operator stops him. He decides he knows better, and moves to remove the panel cover, at which point the operator becomes more verbally forceful. This momentarily stops his hands, but not the monologue. The other operator in the area runs interference, as the operator attempting to thwart Mr. P.S. flys into the office to find me.

As I arrive on the scene, he's still pontificating in monologue mode, advising no one in particular what's happening in a situation he knows very little about.

I plead with him to step away - a certified and licensed electrician is en-route, and he'll fix the problem just fine on his own. Further, I advise that no good will come of monkeying with it further, and that I really need him doing his job now, rather than playing electrician.

Apparently this was Mr. P.S. speak for, "Please tell me what you think is wrong inside a panel you cannot see within, and explain why I am stupid for buying this brand."

It takes a pair of minutes to talk him down from the suicidal mission he has set himself upon and, begrudgingly, he moves on to his own area.

The ultimate question is: What would have happened if he HAD kicked the breaker or opened the panel? I shudder to think.

(05/23/11 - 7:26 PM)
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmister Philllllllllllips Screwwwwwwwwwwwwdriver!

I was summoned to his machine this afternoon to be made aware that his task light was no longer in working order.

I told him it wasn't a problem, that I expected my Boss back in a day or so, and that he would get it looked at.

At which point, he went on to explain that he knew why it wasn't working - it was the stupid way it was wired, you see. Apparently, without having even opened it, he knew how the thing was wired.

Astounding, really.

I VEHEMENTLY told him that under no circumstances was he to touch the inner workings of the light, regardless of his thoughts and opinions on the design. The reason? On another machine, we had a bulb burn out in a high-impact, sealed, light that was several hundred dollars to purchase and was intended to last forever. Instead, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver took it upon himself to take that one apart, and then proclaim it a shoddy piece of equipment and not worth the cost when it failed to ever work again.

Now, it just so happened that my Boss - who was a machinery mechanic, and a damn good one, at that - for years before he elected to start his own business, understood how this lamp was to work. The problem, he found upon inspection, was that the lamp would no longer work because critical components were no longer in attendance. Turns out, when he was tearing it apart, Mr. P.S. took no heed of what he was taking from where, nor where the components ended up - leading to his diagnosis of 'faulty and stupid design'.

So I wasn't taking any chances on him 'fixing' another one.

But he wasn't done - oh no, no, no. He went on to regale me about the stupidity of the switch on this lamp that had clearly been replaced at some time, because it was a stupid one and where he had worked before they all had a different kind - the right kind.

My retort was to advise him that it just so happened that >I< had purchased that precise light he was pointing to some years back and that - in point of fact - that was the switch it had come with.

He disagreed, but moved on. Then it was a monologue about how good lights had one, consecutive, run of wire versus the stupid ones that I was now on the hook for buying because they had connections at each junction.

Again, I took this opportunity to mention that the ones I had repaired in the past had had one run to the socket from the plug, so I could not concur with his assessment that they had two and three connections in transit from one end to another.

I was then regaled with the stupidity of the shop (read: ME) for having bought anything other than the perfect lights that he had used so successfully at his old place of employment. That these lights that WE had were only, "...cheap ones." and that we should spend a little more money on the more expensive ones.

In point of fact, these were about $150.00 each and the ONE nice one that we had purchased to phase these out was closer to $300.00 - before he had PERSONALLY destroyed it, that is.

There's irony in there somewhere. I'm fairly certain of it.

Anyhoo... I figured, I can't argue that I'm not stupid. So instead I just plead with him to leave the light be and walked away.

I know - I suck. Thanks for reminding me though how little I truly know about the things in the world around me. What would I ever do without you?

(04/12/11 - 7:13 PM)
Ladies and Gentlemen: Mr. Conway Twitty... er, no... Mr. Phillips Screwdriver.

It begins like this:

Our lathe operators have some things in their areas that are useful to them, that the outside observer might see differently without knowing more. Specifically, they have pieces of 'leftover' or 'junk' stock that they use for gapping jaws, spacing components, etc.

It's sort of like a little bin of miscellaneous material leftovers in different shapes and sizes that they collect over the years because they are useful to them, and are more than likely heading for recycling anyway. So we let them keep whatever they need to remain expedient in their work.

Tonight, our Expediting Manager saw our Saw Operator working on painting and inventorying a large pan of miscellaneous materials the likes of which I have just described.

Curious why he wasn't working on what the Expediting Manager needed done, he interceded, and politely asked.

"Well," began the Saw Operator, "I was walking by the lathes, and Mr. Phillips Screwdriver called me over. He said, 'See this pan of materials down here? Take this back with you and put it back in inventory', so I did as I was asked."

Our Expediting Manager was angry, and perplexed.

Essentially, here is what happened:

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver wandered out of his department, and into another. Within the department, the largest machine was sitting idle, as the first-shift employee had gone home for the day, and our second-shift operator runs the smaller of the two machines.

He then proceeded to poke around under the workbenches of said machine, find this pan of materials that the lathe operator used for his own devices, and make a decision on his own.

He then stopped a fellow employee who, for all intents and purposes, is an equal in the chain of command, and commanded him to remove this pan of materials from an area that was not his own. He then gave further, explicit instructions to our Saw Operator to re-inventory it.

Our Saw Operator, figuring this was important, and not sure about answering to this fellow, did as asked. He took the pan back, and began sorting through it. This takes time, and effort, as it has to be parsed out to determine what, exactly, each material is. Then, once it's determined, both outer faces require painting in an appropriate color for clear identification. Finally, it has to be logged for input into our real-time system the following day.

This is what my Expediting Manager found our Saw Operator working on, instead of the jobs that needed to be cut to move to the machines so that all departments had current jobs to work on.

This, my friends, is the enigma that is Mr. Phillips Screwdriver.

(04/11/11 - 6:22 PM)
Mr. Phillips Screwdriver in: 'Love Thy Flush Arbor':

At work, we make our own soft jaws for our turning centers (these are the steel things that hold the pieces in the chuck while you turn them, and they can be cut just like a part to conform to a certain shape and size to do so - so they get used up over time). We've found that we can make them slightly cheaper than we can buy them and that, in making them, the operator running any of the operations is also free to do something else at the same time, thereby making it a no-brainer.

The final operation takes the longest. It is the serration of the individual jaw, which is adding all those fine-toothed, pyramidal shaped dealies that interlock the jaw to the chuck on the back side, while making it outwardly or inwardly adjustable.

While performing this operation, we found that our preferred cutter got dull early, and so we were forced to substitute a less desirable choice cutter in order to keep the job runing while the first one was re-sharpened. The operator responsible for the job found a way to make it work by using some of the components of another tool in the shop called a flush arbor.

Now, it just so happens that this is the only arbor of its kind in house. Further, it was specifically requested that we add this tool to our arsenal some time back by none other than... Mr. Phillips Screwdriver. As such, it has remained covetously in his area since then, even though it belongs to the shop and anyone may use it. Suffice it to say that as long as it's out in the open, we don't really mind where it resides - and everyone knows where to find it. So, in that light, it's not all that unusual.

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver came in for his shift about the time that the operator was putting together this kludged-workaround tool, and said, "You can't use those arbor spacers on that arbor! They're for THIS one!"

The operator replied that yes, he knew what they were for, but his workaround required them, and so he was using them to keep production moving.

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver was not at all pleased.

So, the evening came and went. In the morning, the second cutter also proved too dull to make any more components, so we sent it out for sharpening as well. To do so, we had to deconstruct the workholder that our employee had cleverly put together to work around the problem. He laid it out on the bench in an 'exploded' manner, so that anyone following in his stead could figure out how to put it back together, if the sharpened tool happened to come in when he was not around.

Clever, I know. And the forethought was much appreciated on my part.

The next day came, and the cutters came back, all nice and sharp and ready for action. The original operator was there, so he went over to the machine they were running on to re-construct his workaround unit once more.

There was just one problem: The spacers that Mr. Phillips Screwdriver didn't like him using had vanished.

So, he spent a good deal of time searching for them, when an idea dawned on another employee. Acting on a hunch, the employee went to Mr. Phillips Screwdriver's area, and began looking for the original box of the cutter whose parts Mr. P.S. did not want used.

Shortly, the box was located - then opened. Within the hidden box were the spacers. Mr. Phillips Screwdriver had, apparently, taken it upon himself to re-unite the spacers with the rest of the cutter, and then proceed to hide the entire box and contents to keep them from being used again.

What can I say? The man likes his tool, I guess.

(04/06/11 - 7:37 PM)
Today at work, an employee's wife called in to say that he would not be in as he had had a heart attack.

This was a first. This fellow is a great machinist who keeps to himself, but is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet once you get to know him. And I appreciate him as a machinist and employee, but also as a friend and confidante in the day to day life of the company.

We immediately made it our business to track him down, hospital-wise, and find out how he was doing. He'll be fine, thank God, and we look forward to his speedy recovery without discomfort - we love ya, Big Guy.

Now this, in and of itself, is blog-worthy news. But it takes a twist about the time Mr. Phillips Screwdriver comes in to work and asks what happened to his co-worker.

One of his co-workers explains that he has suffered a heart attack, and without blinking, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver says, "I told him, Milk will do that. You gotta stay away from that stuff."

One of my employees laughed so hard he was in tears, and the others in hearing just stared at each other, dumb-founded, silently questioning with furtive eye movements from one another if they had just heard that right.

So folks, I implore you: Stop killing your children by feeding them breakfast cereal. You should all be flayed alive for introducing the cardiac menace of bovine lactation into your children's lives.

I hope you're happy, murderers.

(03/12/11 - 7:22 PM)
Wow! Back-to-back!

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver was letting me know what was wrong with one of our mills today. With this information came what we needed to do to fix it, as well as a monologue on the ineptitude of my Boss in these matters.

I couldn't disagree more, but hey - who am I?

Then he showed me two nuts and two bolts.

"See? These are soft. When they're soft, they strip out, and you have problems. Look at these (points to a cluster of three, hex-head bolts on another part of the machine). Those markings on the heads mean that they're hard. That's why the markings are there. Any time you see markings, you know it's hard."

I knew I shouldn't argue. But I knew - KNEW - that he was WRONG.

"Actually," I said, "The markings are indicative of what material was used to manufacture the bolts, as well as whether they're hard or not. Just because they're marked, doesn't mean they're hard. This way, you can distinguish what they are in-situ and make appropriate assessments for replacement."

"No, it just means they're hard - trust me, I know."

Uhhhh... Here's why I'm right, in case anyone's interested. *(Click on the image, and it will enlarge so you can actually read it.)

(03/11/11 - 8:06 PM)
The story you are about to read is true. All of it. I can't make this stuff up.

And now - ladies and gentlemen - your favorite and mine - Mr. Phillips Screwdriver...


I was in my office doing some quoting when I heard him coming. Like the harbinger of doom riding piggy-back on the Grim Reaper, he arrived.

"What's up?" I asked, pleading for simplicity.

"Why in the F%$! did we need to stress relieve this part?"

Not a problem, "Well, based on the final configuration, I figured it would be easier to achieve the tolerances if we did, and we were sending a batch out anyway."

"Well, I don't know why we had to do that."

Now I'm sensing something deeper, so I ask the inevetable, "It's already done. You're making the part. Why is this important?"

"Why!?" came the surprised response and then, more dulcet, "Well, I F%$#ed it up, that's why."

Alright, at least now the question made sense on some level. "What happened?"

"Well, I was >MUMBLE MUMBLE< and the whole thing fffffft right out of the vise - I don't know what happened. The part is destroyed."

In my line of work, there's 'destroyed' and then there's 'DESTROYED!'. So, I began to ask, "So we can't wel..."


One more time. "So we can't weld it or..."


I'm not giving up that easily. "So, we can't weld it or otherwise save it by any means? It's a complete loss?"

"YES! It's GONE. The stock we have looks like shit. We're going to use THAT?"

Whoa, whoa, whoa... what?

"I ordered that particular piece of stock. We didn't have any. I will have to order some more to re-make the component with."

"No, it looks like shit. I mean, I'll use it if you want to but... >shakes head like I'm a moron< I don't know."

If you could only have heard the incredulity in his voice, I swear it would add so much more right now. Not only do I not know what he's talking about but - in his mind - I've already forced him into making a bad decision.

"Explain what you mean, because I ordered this stock specifically for this job."

"Well, our stock looks like shit. I mean, I'll use it if you want me to but - I don't know."

WOW! That cleared up your last statement! Repeating it made TOTAL sense there!


I'm putting it together, so I walk him through it, "So, you're saying that you've taken it upon yourself to go into our stock room and find a replacement piece, but the only thing we have is aesthetically unpleasant."

"Well, yeah! I Mean, I'll use it if..."

Got it. "Alright, here's what we'll do. Go out and see Jim. Let him know what happened, and show him the stock. Based on his thoughts and needs, I'll trust his decision, but let it be his decision.

Head shakes, shoulders shrug, off he goes.

Now, my rightful action at this point would be to go out and assess the damage. But when someone is so emphatic about something being destroyed, I usually believe them. And Jim is perfectly capable of handling this, and he's already out there on the work floor.

I probably should have known better, so shame on me. More on that later.

I hear him depart, but I also hear him run into Jim at the door to the shop floor. I hear mumbling, and then I hear Jim's response, "Is this a print question?"


"Then you need to see Heath. He handles print questions."

Which is true, and what I've asked Jim to say so he doesn't get distracted with stuff he can't answer - it's not his job, and he's got enough to do.

Aggravated mumbling, and then I hear the door close. Then I see Jim - and he's doing other stuff not related to what I just asked for.

"Jim," I say, "I sent him to you so that you could assess the material he found, and see what you wanted to do."

Puzzled look from Jim, "What?"

I spoke with Jim, and explained the situation to him, less all the Screwdriver-isms. He was notably surprised and flustered.

"That's TOTALLY not what he said!"

I let him know that what I heard bolstered that fact, and could he please just handle it?

He exited to the floor to do just that because he's a professional.

Three minutes later, he returned, notably annoyed.

"Will the piece he found work, or shall I order another one?"

Tactfully, he asked, "Did you even go out and look at the part?"

I mentioned, knowing better, that I had not. Then I mentioned that I should have, and shame on me for not doing so. He was right to point this out. I knew better.

"The piece he has will be fine. But I have no idea how he did what he did to it. You really need to go out there >other employee< is literally scared at the moment because of that tool crashing into the part / accident Mr. P.S. just had. Also, Mr. P.S. asked me a print question on two slots. I couldn't find where they were called out on the print, and neither could he. I told him to come and see you, but it would be best for you to go and see him, probably, because it doesn't seem as though he's coming."

It became clear that I needed to be involved, and get more information - Jim was 100% right - so I went to the floor. When I saw the part that was 'destroyed' I had two thoughts at once: It was not destroyed - far from it - and I could already see it was a non-issue based on how the component looked when finished. I could also see that the crash had to have been powerful based on his having described the component coming out of the vise, and the striations from the wayward cutter marring the whole top surface.

I began speaking to Mr. P.S., and over his shoulder I could see the other affected employee waiting to weigh in.

"Mr. P.S.! This part is totally salvageable!"

"I know!" Laughs.

"You told me it was destroyed. It's far from 'destroyed'!"

"Yeah, I know!" Laughs more.

Now I'm angry, but I maintain my composure. But before I can speak again, I hear the employee behind him speak, "I told him he was running it way too fast. It scared the hell out of me."

Noted. And by all appearances, he's dead on correct, and a little spooked. Knowing what it would take to result in what I was seeing, I think I would be too.

"Mr. P.S. - listen - this isn't funny. In fact, I'm a little upset here. You're in there telling me that there's no way to salvage this, talking over me, and taking the time to find more material. Yet this component is perfectly able to be salvaged.

Still laughing, "Well I know!" As though I'm a moron for thinking otherwise.

I keep my cool. "Alright. So just to be clear, we can fix it by doing >explain the obvious<. Are we on the same page?" "Alright, I'm over this. But next time you tell me something is 'destroyed', make sure that it really is. I can't make good decisions with bad information."

MOVING ON, "Jim mentioned that you had a question?"

"What? No, we're going to use this piece and make it work."

In my mind, I'm rewinding, and remembering that Jim specifically mentioned a question about two slots, "I understand that. We're beyond that now. Jim mentioned that you had a print question that you were asking him."

"What? No! He didn't know that I had come to you already and that we're going to use this material."

Maybe I'm not being specific enough,"He mentioned that there was some confusion over some slots - two of them. Which ones are they?"

Same response as before.

"So," I finally say in frustration, "There is no print question?"


"So Jim is just making stuff up - you have no idea what I'm talking about?"

"No. We're going to use this material."

Once more, just so I'm sure. I look him dead in the eye... "So Jim is just in there making stuff up - you have no clue what I'm talking about?"


Check and mate.

Here is where I don't know whether to laugh or cry, so I just walk away.

As I'm walking away, scared employee confides in me in private what happened in more detail, and also assures me that Jim is not 'making stuff up'.

Which, I already knew, but it's nice when people stick up for the wronged parties. I liked scared employee even more at the moment for his need to do the right thing, and do so in private. I mentally hugged him for being forthright.

So, I re-enter the safe confines of my office, and I tell Jim that in no uncertain terms that he's making stuff up. When he looks at me, perplexed, I explain the whole dramatic event to him.

His response was pretty much what anyone's would be.

About five minutes later, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver is once more in the office, this time holding a pair of 24" digital calipers (a measuring instrument, of which we have two pairs in the shop.)

"Where are these?" he asks.

Amazingly, I respond without thinking, because with him, you never really know what he means, so it isn't always the thing that first comes to mind. "Where are what?"

He shakes his head, raises his eyebrows, and moves the hand holding the calipers up about an inch. Apparently, this is some sort of Mr. P.S. speak for, "What, are you stupid? Guess, you moron!"

"What do you mean?" I ask.

"These!" up goes the caliper-laden hand once more, "Where are they?"

"Well, you have them in your hand, so I assume that you mean the other pair."


"They're out. One of our vendors..."

"Oh! OK, so they're out for calibration."

"No. One of our vendors is doing a project for..."

"So they're out for calibration, then."

I'm not giving up, dammit. "NO. One of our vendors is doing a project for us, and needed them for a day or two."

"Oh." ... "Well, it would have been nice to know. you couldn't leave a note or something?"

"I could have, but we have two pairs so that during the day I can have one set in the inspection area, and the floor has a set. This way we don't get all over each other looking for them. Everyone on days knows where they went, and on nights I'm not here to need them - and everyone knows we have two pairs and where we keep them - so I didn't think I needed to let you guys know."

"Well, you could have left a note or let us know. Because >I< didn't know!"

The amazing thing here is the fact that he's already got hold of the other set - which are perfectly servicable - yet he's taking the time to berate me for not telling him where the other set - that he doesn't need - are.

"Well, I didn't think it was necesaary. I apologize."

>MUMBLE MUMBLE< ... exits the office.

I hear Jim from behind me. "You know what? I'll be the bigger man on this one. I'll put a note out there."

It's ridiculous, but he's trying to be accomodating. "That's fine except... what are the odds that he's putting one out there right now? Taking the time to put it there, on our behalf, on company time?"

Ten minutes later, Jim is in my office with the note. Mr P.S.'s note. It is a full-page post it, outlining the whereabouts and return timeframe of said calipers.

"I can't say I'm at all surprised," I say to Jim. "Probably should just leave it out there at this point."

"I replaced it with the one I wrote," he says.

And we both just marvel at the whole situation.

At 6:30 that evening, Mr. P.S. Blows up another cutter in the same piece, once more scaring the already once-frightened employee and creating another issue in the same component.

On a scale from one to ten, I think this story easily merits a forty-six. The whole thing was so insane that one could not possibly make it up. It's all true - it all happened.

(02/24/11 - 6:23 PM)
Someone in our parking lot at work today had left their lights on. I was told by another employee, and set about finding out whose lights had been left in this state.

The only other pieces of information that I had was the color of the vehicle, and the fact that it was a truck.

Being a red truck, I went straight to Mr. Phillips Screwdriver who owns his own fleet of some six vehicles, including a red truck.

I asked him, "Mr. P.S., did you drive your red truck to work today?"

"Why?" was his response.

"There's one in the lot with its lights on, and I thought it might be yours."

Simple enough, right? NOPE! Here's the kicker:

"Well, what year is it?" he asks.

I am stupefied. "Did you, or did you not, drive your red truck to work today?" I ask once more.

"No," comes the response.

Which, ultimately, begs the question: What does the year of the truck, then, have to do with anything? And - AND - how in the hell would I know what year it was?

(01/05/11 - 6:13 PM)
Sometimes, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver takes things a bit too far. Yet, instead of backing down, he prefers to nosh on both feet as they are firmly ensconced in his mouth. Today was one of those days.

He entered my office with a question on a blueprint. Nothing surprising nor unusual there. He began to verbally revile certain nationalities for their ineptitude of not being him. In this instance, it was an Italian blue print. With me so far?

So, once I point out that it's in Italian, and I can't decipher what he's pointing at, he decides to regale me about how no one in Italy manufactures machinery for the paper industry, and how in the world did such a print, then, originate there?

The obvious aside, I mentioned that, in fact, there WERE companies in Italy doing precisely that - companies like Uteco.

His reply was that they couldn't possibly make machines of any substance or size, so they must be tiny.

Again, I retorted by mentioning that, in fact, their machines were used in the newsprint industry, and tended to be enormous.

But he was hearing none of it. Then he went on to impart his wisdom that the reason he was right was that - and I'm quoting here, folks - "All Italians make terrible managers."

I wanted to let it lie, but I just couldn't. But before I could get another word in, he continued, "You never see any Italian managers in any company. Not one."

I mentioned that this was probably not the case, but off the top of my head I could not argue coherently. Then I pointed out that I am 1/4 Sicialian-Italian, and how did that work?

Overpowering my end of the conversation, he just rolled on, "We had two Italian Managers where I used to work at >Old Company Name Here< - one on the shop floor, and one in the office. The company went to hell, and do you know who the only ones fired were? Those guys."

Now, it happens that I know precisely the company he is speaking of, and my data doesn't quite spin it that way. So, I take another tack instead:

"So, let me get this straight," I say, "Your basing the management abilities of an entire country's population on nothing more than anecdotal evidence based on two people you used to work with. Have I got that right?"

"Exactly!" he says.

He goes on rambling, but I just don't have the frame of mind to absorb any more madness, and he soon leaves when he realizes that I am no longer listening.

Wow. Just... wow.

(12/13/10 - 8:46 PM)
Jim, our Expediting Manager at work, was making the rounds tonight just before leaving. He had his coat on - a Carhartt that has certainly seen better days but still keeps him warm and dry.

When he got to Mr. Phillips Screwdriver's station, he made known his needs for the evening. Before he could leave, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver says, "You need a new coat. This one's all ripped up!" And, with that, he put his finger into one of the numerous holes in the jacket, and pulled, making a fist-sized hold where once a finger-sized one had been.

My question is simple: Why? What possible good does that do? Seriously?

(12/08/10 - 6:14 PM)
Mr. Phillips Screwdriver inserted himself stealthily into my office this afternoon. He was upset about a job that was being run with, "Junk technology" in the form of a modern, cutting-edge, milling cutter.

Yes, you read that right.

He began a monologue about how the other cutter we have (a post 1950's design that has been phased out by even the largest provider of carbide inserts for said-same tool) is far superior to this new-fangled one, and how he just doesn't fathom why we wasted all that money tooling up with this new technology several years ago, when this old one is more awesome than Jesus and a Leprechaun put together.

I made the time out sign, as I tried to stop him verbally as well. Instead, he talked louder for another full twenty seconds before my hitting his conversational brakes finally took hold.

"Okay," I said, "You're unhappy about the way this job was started. Fine. I get that. Feel free to change cutters, and use whatever you like. That's the solution here. I don't need, nor wish, to discuss cutter engineering with you over this project. It isn't necessary, nor will it solve anything."

Simple enough, right? Nope!

"I just don't see why they even use these junk cutters..."

And so the monologue began anew. Again, he began at the beginning and, again, I tried to physically and verbally stop him.

Finally, it worked once more,"Okay," I said, "You're unhappy about the way this job was started. Fine. I get that. Feel free to change cutters, and use whatever you like. That's the solution here. I don't need, nor wish, to discuss cutter engineering with you over this project. It isn't necessary, nor will it solve anything."

Okay, now I've said it twice.

And so the monologue began anew. Again, he began at the beginning and, again, I tried to physically and verbally stop him.

Finally, it worked once more,"Okay," I said, "You're unhappy about the way this job was started. Fine. I get that. Feel free to change cutters, and use whatever you like. That's the solution here. I don't need, nor wish, to discuss cutter engineering with you over this project. It isn't necessary, nor will it solve anything."

Okay, now I've said it three times.

This time, it finally seemed to stick. Then I said, "If you're that dissatisfied with the job, leave it for tomorrow and I'll have the guy who started it, finish it."

This seemed to satisfy his needs, and he walked out of the office as quickly as he had come, still monologuing about cutter engineering.

I make the following comparison:

"I don't want to work in this house! It has Phillips screws, and not Fillister screws. Phillips design is inferior! I realize that I have both kinds of screwdriver, but Fillister was just fine in the 20's, and they still make them, so they must be pretty awesome!"

(11/18/10 - 6:06 PM)
Mr. Phillips Screwdriver came into my office today to complain about some taps I had bought.

For those of you not in the know, a tap is a small tool - sort of like a drill, but with screw threads - used to add screw threads to a hole.

He pointed out with more than a hint of irritation that these were made in England (Rule, Brittania!)

To take a step back, my personal preference is a tap company out of Japan. I usually make it my business to order from this company whenever possible. The problem is that during the economic downturn, they depleted most of their stock and now some standard sizes are so in demand that the waiting list is into January.

So obviously I have to buy something before that time, unless I want my guys trying to figure out how to tap things with a chisel.

I chose the next runner-up brand in my mind, hence the English taps.

At this point, we return to our story:

So, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver makes the following statement:

"See this tap? It's English. I hate English taps. I would rather have Brazilian taps, over English."

At this point, I'm in no mood so I retort, "Can you make me a list of countries that you hate, in the order that you hate them? Because - to me - it's not about country of origin on a product, but the inherent quality of the product. And these taps are just fine."

He walks out all in a huff, and as soon as he departs the office, my Assistant, Becky, says, "He needs to draw us up a flowchart of how each country rates against one another. That would be even more helpful."

At which point I proceed to laugh myself stupid.

This whole conversation was so ridiculous that I don't even have anything rational to say - it speaks for itself.

(10/14/10 - 9:01 PM)
Oh, dear readers, you are in for a rare treat today!

Preeeeeeesenting... Mr. - Phillips - Screwdriver!

>Crowd Goes Wild Here<

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver pops into my office way before he's supposed to come to work.

I'm surprised, but I figure he needs something. Cleverly, I ask, "What may I do for you?"

He goes on to explain that he has taken his pet to the Animal Hospital up the road. It takes him another full minute before he divulges that it is a cat.

He then spends the next two minutes on a monologue about the following:

Cats' food should have real meat in it. The first two ingredients should be meat. If they aren't, it isn't any good for the cat. Because you don't see farm cats eating grain, do you? Of course not - they eat meat. Specifically rats, mice, and other things, which is why farmers' keep them around.

Well that explains that! I had no idea!

He goes on to let me know that cats have always been meat eaters. They're hunters, you see, so they eat meat. And they only eat meat.

An abrupt subject change on his part leads to the next bullet in the monologue:

Did you know that you should never use creams on animals for any kind of worm treatment or prevention? You should only use pills. Because, you see, creams can evaporate, or come off over time. Because cats are oily.

He then explains that this is why when he gets ringworm, he won't use ointments - because he himself is quite oily. His wife, on the other hand, is a very dry person.

His oiliness, in fact, is what leads him to get fungal infections on his arms. When his dog goes outside, and then comes in and lays on his arms, you see, his oils pick up all the fungus.

And did I know that athletes foot is also a fungus?

At this, he puts up his foot to explain and show me that athletes foot is a fungus that can get in between the toes especially. It's not a disease at all, but a fungus. And was I sure I knew that?

So, after another minute or so being >ahem< 'educated' about fungal infections, a line begins to form behind him. But he's not done, so it doesn't matter.

He then decides that he doesn't know me as well as he ought to, and asks whether I have any animals. As I say yes, and try to say 'a cat', he talks over me:

"What have you got? A dog? Cat? Bird?"

I let him list all the animals he's going to list before I see my opening and blurt out cat.

This proves to be a mistake, as he then begins re-iterating point one: cats eat meat. Followed by him asking what specific ingredients are in the food I feed mine.

I say I don't specifically know, and this apparently was Mr. P.S. speak for: "I haven't heard a word you said, and I might kill my cat tonight if you don't re-re-iterate everything you've said regarding felines."

Which, of course, he promptly does with the proper amount of scorn for:

° Me, as a foolish cat owner
° The cat food industry in general
° Know-nothing vetrinarians
° The 1986 Chicago Cubs
° Rue McLanahan

He finally gets distracted by one of the employees behind him, and in true Mr. P.S. fashion, stops mid-sentence to persue a topic more interesting to him.

I thank God, the Saints, and anyone else who will listen as I beat a hasty retreat.

I did learn something valuable from the entire - uh, interaction: He think's I'm waaaaaaay dumber than I am.

I'm talking like a drooling vegetable, apparently.

(09/14/10 - 8:24 PM)
Oh, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver, you continue to amaze!

This promises to be the best story yet - hands down. Ready?

My employer and his wife have, in recent years, begun preparing for their retirement by purchasing property in the Phelps area of Wisconsin. They began with a house and cabin, followed by another pair of cabins, and recently acquired some more cabins. What they do is purchase run down properties on prime land and then, with the assistance of their highly-skilled families, fix them up so as to be modern and nearly unrecognizable from the shells of their former selves.

It takes a TON of sweat equity, but it's becoming more worthwhile as the years progress.

This past weekend, my employer had privately invited two of our employees up to go fishing, as it's something they all enjoy and have in common. It's not that he didn't mind if anyone else came, but these guys have been with us a long time, and they have something of a fishing bond. If that doesn't explain it, then just ignore it and move on with the story.

So, it's a lovely morning. The gang is up and about, with the exception of one of my fellow employees. Suddenly, a car pulls in the drive. My employer's family (who are also staying in the large facility) comment, and ask if anyone is expected.

My employer recognizes the vehicle, but can't quite wrap his head around what he's seeing. Within moments, Mr. & Mrs. Phillips Screwdriver eject from the vehicle, and make their way over to say their hello's to the now dumb-struck group.

Then he asks, "So, have you got a place for us to stay?"

And believe me - he's not asking for a rental.

My employer - ever the Christian accomodator says sure, there's always room for one more.

My other co-worker now awakens to my employer grinning at him. When he asks what's up, my employer casually mentions that he will be sharing his living quarters with two other friends for the evening, and my co-worker says no problem - there's plenty of room. Then he sees outside who is being spoken about.

As the day progresses, my employer casually asks how long these new arrivals will be staying. It turns out, about five days.

They meander into their new quarters with two five-gallon buckets. My co-worker, curious as anyone would be, asks what's in them.

One, he is told, holds some odds and ends. The other, holds some walleye that they had caught somewhere. He inquires about the walleye, and learns that they are 4" below legal size, but Mr. P.S. just shrugs it off and laughs.

This is kind of a big deal to anyone who understands fishing etiquette, not to mention a violation of state and local laws.

Plus there is a clear and present posting forbidding fish in the cabins for various - and obvious - reasons.

So, the evening wears on, and in the morning, Mr. P.S. and wife disappear in their car.

After two days, they still have not returned, and now my employer has another problem. They had said they would be staying five days, but he has to leave, and to do so he has to lock up the cabins. He has no notion if they're returning or not, so he makes the decision to lock them up anyway.

I just can't believe what kinds of crazy can transpire when this man is involved. I truly can't.

(08/25/10 - 8:13 PM)
What would today be without a Mr. Phillips Screwdriver story? Oh, yes: A better day.

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver recently made us aware of a genuine problem on his machine. Which is great, because we need to know these things.

HOWEVER: when he came in to explain the problem, I immediately got it. I responded, "I totally understand. I will have Dave come out an look at it just as soon as he is off the phone, and thanks for letting me know."

Seems simple enough, until:

"Well, you see, it's bad because it allows the machine's spindle to move up and down while I'm cutting. And I don't know what's causing it. Maybe I should show you what I mean."

Okay, I think: Clearly my acknowledgement and understanding were not conveyed properly, because I totally got the issue, and thought we had this covered.

"I totally understand why this is a problem. Dave fixes all the machinery around here (which everyone - including he knows), so as soon as he's done on the phone I will send him out."

Once more, he re-iterates PRECISELY what he just said, and then proceeds to go into detail about where in the machine the problem might lie, what the problem might be, and why it's important to fix.

Once more, I try and stop him, more strongly and articulately illustrating that I cannot help him further, nor is it my place to speculate on such things, and that I will send Dave out as soon as he is done on the phone.

And I'm praying that it's soon, because I'm getting flustered.

As soon as I'm finished, he begins to once more re-iterate everything he has just said before, adding new speculation, while nagging me to come and see what he means, because maybe he's not explaining it right.

We have two more bouts of this before he finally leaves, feeling unhappy because hey - I just don't get it, apparently - and why wouldn't I just come out to the floor with him to see the problem I so firmly grasp to save him some time explaining what I CLEARLY don't get, for some reason.

I don't even know what to do with the guy anymore.

(06/28/10 - 5:27 PM)
Mr. Phillips Screwdriver has an enormous new bumper-sticker that he has lovingly placed on the rear of what would otherwise be a pristine, maroon, PT Cruiser. It reads:

"Hot Chicks Vote Republican"

Who IS this guy???

(05/28/10 - 7:23 PM)
I had a component come out of the mill department today at work. I checked it, and it was all good. It was now ready to go to the final stage of manufacturing: flat grinding.

Because the operator who did the milling also knows how to grind, I elected to just give it right back to him to finish up. I asked him to do so on the following morning, and he said no problem.

Then, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver came in for second-shift. He runs the machine that said operator runs on days, but at night. Not only was the component not within his realm to be trifled with, but our Expediting Manager, knowing full well the affectations of Mr. P.S. specifically pointed it out and said, "Please don't mess with that."

Seems simple enough. Well, to me anyway. For you see, not thirty minutes later did I find the component in my inspection area once more. Only this time, it had a note on it. The note read:

"Straighten before grinding. Not flat."

Hmmmm... So, for giggles, I re-checked the flatness - maybe I had missed something. And it was, in fact, not perfectly flat (which I already knew).

But here's the thing: I hadn't worried about it in the first place, because when grinding, the grinder has a magnetic plate that "grabs" the component(s) sucking it/them down with an amount of force commensurate with the number of lines of magnets in the plate. We refer to these as "wide-line" and "fine-line". Wide-line plates have less holding power than fine-lines. So, it's a good thing that ours is a fine-line: lots of electromagnetic sucking power there.

The second thing you need to know is that, oftentimes on blueprints a flatness, parallelism or perpendicularity between surfaces is specified. These are what we call "geometric tolerances", and can be quite important. Had the print posessed any of these, then my decision to send the component to the grinder would probably have been the incorrect one.

So, after re-assessing the component with the new wisdom imparted by someone who had no business taking company time to assess, note, and return something which wasn't his to deal with to begin with, I re-made my decision to send it to the grinder.

Just to be sure, I added to the note: "The grinder will suck it down, and there's no geometrics. It will be fine."

I then went to talk with Mr. P.S. and return it from whence it came. He was tied up doing math with his back to me, so I let him be and simply put the component back.

Imagine my surprise when it was in my area once more, just prior to leaving. The note had one new addition now: "NO!"


So, I figured screw it, I'm giving it to someone else because I can't kill the guy, and I was tired of this.

Guess what was ground and perfect the next morning when I came in?

To Mr. P.S. I say this: Do your job - not mine.

(05/06/10 - 6:44 PM)
Just when you think Mr. Phillips Screwdriver has done it all, he turns around and surprises you.

Today, I had a job from a customer that they wanted modified from an existing component, to match a component that we make for them. I pulled the print that they wished the existing component to look like in the end, and then I made copious notes on the drawing, as well as colored in the areas to be modified so that there could be no possible way that confusion could arise.

Our second shift employees came in, and Jim (our Expediter who is responsible for divvying out work as he sees fit to get it done in a timely manner) gave it to our newest member of the Sugar River team.

He was in the restroom, so he elected to leave it on his machine which is the international symbol in our shop for "Jim has been here - do this next please."

About twenty minutes later, Jim sees said individual working on something completely different, and asks why he isn't working on what he had left for him while he was in the restroom.

"I have no idea what you're talking about, but I saw something matching that description in Mr. Phillips Screwdriver's hand. He took it up front."

So, Jim goes to investigate and - lo and behold - there is the item in question in the inspection area. The item now has all new notes, thoughts, ideas, questions, etc. all over the print where once only my clear and concise directions had been. Some of my instructions, in fact, had been crossed out in favor of apparently "better ones" imparted by Mr. Phillips Screwdriver, even though he wasn't the originator of the project.

So, we got gutsy and asked Mr. Phillips Screwdriver what the deal was, and he informed us that the print didn't make any sense to him, and he thought it should be done differently. This was his explaination for having invaded a co-worker's area, removing the item to be machined, taking the time to re-vamp the entire print, and then placing it where I would find it the next day - completely un-worked on.

My, what big balls you have!

(04/05/10 - 8:13 PM)
Sometimes you hear a story from me that is so crazy; so insane that you believe that you could not possibly get a gem better than that one, and if you didn't know me, you'd think I was lying.

And they almost always involve Mr. Phillips Screwdriver.

This one does as well...

My Boss, who is a vociferous WELS Lutheran and wants to save the world (and I don't speak of this as if it's a bad thing in the slightest) always invites all of his non-churchgoing and non-Lutheran friends/co-workers/etc. to open-house-type church services.

For Easter, his church was having one of these and each employee was given a personal invitation card to come to the services.

There was to be an early service, then a breakfast, followed by a second service. The idea being that you could go to church, and then have some fellowship with your new-found faithful, or you could have the fellowship, and then worship with them. It was your choice.

After first service was over, and breakfasting had begun in earnest, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver and Mrs. Phillips Screwdriver do, in fact, take him up on his sincere invitation to come to his church (in Belvidere, IL), even though they live all the way in Janesville, WI.

Their collective attire is less than church-worthy, but I dismissed that based on the fact that not everyone has the money or the means to dress as such. Plus I figure God doesn't mind, so long as you have sound intentions.

In truth, I figured that they just didn't feel like putting forth the effort, and that's probably closer to the truth. But I cannot know for certain.

My Boss, ever the good host, greeted them and breakfasted with them amongst the parishoners that were only now getting their first taste of Mr. & Mrs. Phillips Screwdriver (one is bad enough, but the two together are like a vortex of strange).

As breakfast wound down, everyone made their way to second service.

As service began, it became more and more clear that Mr. & Mrs. P.S. were nowhere to be found.

So had what happened?

Here are the facts, in a nutshell:

Mr. & Mrs. P.S. drove down from Janesville to Belvidere after first service for a free breakfast of french toast, bacon and juice (or so I recollect - the menu wasn't the sticking point in the story). They eat and hang out, but leave before second service begins.

And the gall of this simply leaves me nothing short of astounded. But not too astounded, mind you. It is Mr. Phillips Screwdriver, after all.

(03/24/10 - 10:12 PM)
Mr. Phillips Screwdriver likes to play by his own rules (in case you hadn't noticed.) We have procedures at work that he openly ignores, and others that he gets involved with that have no need of him. He's a finicky guy that way.

Sometimes, a job will go to the floor with what is called a routing. The routing is a step-by-step instruction guide of how we (i.e. - the company) wish the component to be manufactured.

Often, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver will take something simplistic and mundane and cross it out on the routing. Then, he will impart his own wisdom via pencil.

He's so charitable.

So, today I get a routing with a part that has come from him. He has brought it into the final inspection area as a completed component. As I study the routing, I find where we are currently at, and then I see this:

Mill Component Complete Per Print
Drill 9.2mm hole

Which - essentially - is the same thing. But here, dear readers, is the REALLY funny part: He changed the routing, to make it >AHEM< 'correct', but he made just one small error. The hole - in fact - was supposed to be 9.52mm. Not only did he modifty the routing incorrectly, but he made the parts incorrectly as well.

Perhaps he expended too much brain power on the alteration. It's difficult to say.

(03/17/10 - 8:11 PM)
I got wind of an incident that occurred last night. Apparently, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver ran out of a certain type of tools (this isn't supposed to happen - if you are getting close to running out, you get ahold of me and I give you more.) Of course, his lack of foresight 'drove' him to do something that I have, in the past (on numerous occasions) explicitly forbidden him to do: He scavenged someone else's tooling without their prior knowledge.

I'm not sure of how it came to pass that our CNC Turning Center operator on second shift got involved in the whole thing, but two scenarios come to mind: Mr. Phillips Screwdriver went over and bothered him (most likely) or the CNC Operator wondered why Mr. Phillips Screwdriver was over in an area he had no business being in, and in the interest of productivity went to see what was up (possible, but not likely.)

So, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver explains his dilemma to his now captive audience.

Let me take a step back: On each box of inserts (which are small carbide pieces that are changable into and out of a tool as they go dull or break) there is what is known as ISO nomenclature. The International Standards Organization has developed standards to identify and quantify these tools across the board to avoid the inevitable confusion of proprietary codes across the broad spectrum of vendors out there.

The inserts Mr. Phillips Screwdriver was seeking were from a certain company, in a certain colored box (each company seems to have their own box color) in a certain size, style, and grade.

He appeared to have the right ones that he had squirrled away from the other operators' area, but he was consternated, as the numbers on the box didn't match where he believed they should.

"See - here," he pointed out to my CNC Operator, "These seem to match, but these numbers don't match, and I think this is the grade. What should I do?"

Aha! A perfect question to ask a LATHE operator, who uses LATHE tools, about MILL inserts! Genius!

The Operator, in a show of good sportsmanship assessed the situation, and immediately saw the flaw in his time-thief's logic.

"Mr. Phillips Screwdriver," he began, "Those numbers on those stickers are dates. They appear to be when the inserts were purchased from the tier-2 vendor, to be sent to us."

And he was dead correct. Want to know how the numbers looked?

'03/08/2010' versus '03/10/2010'. These were the numbers that Mr. Phillips Screwdriver was just certain were the grades.

I can't even begin to understand how that happened. I really can't.

(03/10/10 - 10:08 PM)
I'm nearing the end of my work day. Second shift has checked in, and I'm thinking about getting some real work accomplished in the lull of the late afternoon.

Suddenly, my Expediter comes into my office, clearly flustered, and says:

"Heath, can you please go and see Mr. Phillips Screwdriver. He's ranting about a tap that he thinks the print is calling out incorrectly, and I don't have any more energy to deal with him. "

Fair enough.

So, I make my way to the floor to find Mr. Phillips Screwdriver essentially making laps around the tap cabinets and doing nothing in particular.

"Mr. Phillips Screwdriver?" I say, "What seems to be the trouble?"

At this, rather than stopping to speak with me, he immediately changes directions and hustles toward his machine.

To the outside observer, it would appear as though my halitosis has driven him away like a Vampire from garlic. To anyone in the know, you would realize that that was the international sign to follow him.

It takes a while to master these subtle nuances of his.

So, I sigh and follow. Immediately upon reaching his machine (And before I'm totally there) the 'speaking-in-tongues' monologue begins. I'll give you a brief glimpse of what this is like:

"This part, uh, small tap... not standard... too small... they want... I dunno!... can't find... spaceman."

Alright, the spaceman part I might have thrown in for color.

So, I do what any good manager would do - I shut him up and make him talk to me in cohesive chunks.

"Hang on," I implore. "Let's look at the tap in question."

It turns out it's a tiny, 2mm jobbie. Tiny, yes. Incorrect, no.

After much conversational parsing, I come to the conclusion that he's concerned there's been an error on the print (there hasn't - just because it's small, doesn't negate it's relavance. Which is good, because otherwise my wife would... you know what? Nevermind.)

He's also telling me that we don't have said tap in our inventory.

So, I ask the obvious, "Have you checked both the plug taps AND the bottoming taps? Because you really need a bottoming tap in this situation, anyway."

Rather than replying, he says, "Well, it's an odd size!" And nothing more.

So, I ask once more, "Have you checked the bottoming and the plug tap drawers?"

"It's an odd size, I dunno why they want this!" And, again nothing more.

I realize that he's on planet Screwdriver right now, and that the only way I can save my time and temper is to simply check for myself.

As I'm making my way to the drawer where I now know he hasn't looked, I ask once more. "Have you checked the bottoming and the plug tap drawers?"

"Yes! It's such an odd size, I dunno why they want this!"

Uh, yeah. I got that, Mr. P.S. As he's saying this, I'm opening the drawer. And lo and behold, there in front of me, is the tap in question. Like a shining beacon of hope in a little fluted stick of metal.

"Here's the tap that you should be using." I say patiently. "You see, it's a bottoming tap, so the long, pointy lead has been removed to tap into those hard to reach places like the one you're attempting. There's a string of bearing balls in that block you're tapping, and if you go too deep, you'll ruin the bearing block."

At this he looks at the tap and says, "Well, there's no lead on this one!"

Are you even listening - AT ALL?

"I realize that," I say, and then re-iterate the importance of keeping the tap and tap drill shallow so as not to damage the bearing block. I also re-iterate that this tap is, in fact, the cats' pajamas for what he's doing.

"Well," he says, "I'm going to have to use this one, but the lead is gone, so... I dunno. I don't understand why they want such a small tap. It's almost never used!"


What's really bad, is that he kept me in his gravity long enough to say this same thing thrice more, without (apparently) hearing my continuous rebuffs to the contrary.

Eventually the components got done. But at what cost?

(02/18/10 - 6:42 PM)
I walked out into the shop today, and was immediately confronted by Mr. Phillips Screwdriver. His arms were drenched, and he was holding a major-league bottle of peroxide.

"Dude!" I said, "Are you okay?"

Inwardly, I was wondering what kind of shennanigans I had just stumbled upon.

"I can't stand it anymore!" was his sole reply.

"Can't stand what? Are you okay? Did you cut yourself?"

"NO!" he says. At this he lifts his arm to face height, still soaked, and says, "My psoriasis!"

Only then did I see that the entire inner-arm was the affected area, and how gross it looked. I felt bad for the guy, but I questioned the use of peroxide as a remedy. I also questioned why he felt the need to show me the grody arm up-close and personal.

Why did I even ask in the first place?

(02/10/10 - 9:53 PM)
I was walking in the nether regions of the shop today when I turned a corner and there he was. Breath like a corpse and itching to annoy... Mr. Phillips Screwdriver.

"Hey! Look at this," he says as I am inevitably sucked into his vortex of mumbled chaos.

At this, he holds out a piece of material that he is working on.

"See that? Feel that! I think this is the wrong material and it's hard."

I sigh. I just cannot help it.

"I'm actually certain that that is the right material," I respond. "And I know it isn't hard, because we just stress-relieved it in a furnace."

You don't need to know what that means. I'm only throwing it in for the sake of continuity.

"Have you checked the inserts in your cutter there, to make certain that none are chipped or mis-seated?", I ask patiently.

To take a step back: A number of tools in our shop are what are known as 'indexable' tools. These are holders specially designed to accomodate from 1-50 specially-made inserts. The inserts themselves are made from carbide and provide the cutting. These can then be changed out when they become dull or broken, so one doesn't need to buy a new tool each time. The inserts themselves run anywhere between $6.00 and $23.00 each, and come in boxes of five or ten. Remember this, as it will be important in a minute.

He mumbles about checking the tool, and I begin to move on because the problem is him and, therefore, I cannot possibly solve it.

"Oh!", he says, just as I am freeing myself of his singularity. "I need some more of this kind, but in an .032" nose radius."

At this he gives me a little red box that has three inserts left in it. I recognize them (sort of) and realize that the box has no ISO nomenclature sticker on it. This is important because there are about a bajillion different combinations of insert styles, rakes, coatings, grades, and on and on. So many, in fact, that the International Standards Organization regulates the nomenclatures. And it's confusing at the best of times. The reason that these numbers are especially important to me is that we use over 130 different varieties of insert in my shop alone. And that's alot.

"Where is the ISO sticker?", I ask.

"Oh," he says, "I always take those off right away, because it's hard to open and close the box with them on."

'LIAR!', I secretly think. It's not hard, you dolt. What in the hell are you talking about?

Outwardly, I say, "Well, I need that so that I know what to order for you."

As I say this, I move my eyes over to his stacks of inserts. And sure as shooting, there's scarcely a sticker among them.


So, now I have to play detective, because something stupid has been done; something that makes no sense.

When we initially purchase inserts, we do so with specific ends in mind. Once they're in circulation, we keep the boxes so that - when they're empty - we can simply replace from stock or re-order with ease. We call it 'not re-inventing the wheel' (clever, I know.)

Eventually, I figured out what he needed, but how ridiculous was that?

(02/02/10 - 10:36 PM)
Where I work, our final inspection/shipping area is divided right in the middle by a large granite plate. This plate is precisely flat, so that it may be used in conjunction with measuring instruments to final-inspect things. This is my home away from home in the mornings, as I've been performing my 'short-term' job of Quality Control since we lost our last inspector in 1999.

To the left, the completed and ready-to-ship items are placed by me, when I deem them suitable to ship and free of defect. To the right is where my employees bring their finished components for final inspection and approval to ship.

The counter itself is about three-feet deep, and over sixteen feet long. So, with the real-estate taken up by the granite plate, this affords about 6 1/2 feet of remaining space on either side.

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver apparently needs space. Lots of it.

Here's what I mean:

On my side of the counter, I begin my morning by clearing space in one way or another. I either move on the easy stuff, or I manipulate the inevitable mess that's been left for me into an orderly fashion that makes sense to me.

Over the last few weeks, I have noticed a strange pattern, and on several recent occasions I have caught the culprit red-handed.

For, you see, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver has exhibited a brand-new quirk! What he will do is this:

He will approach a counter that has two items on it. The items are 8 1/2" x 11", as the blueprints are folded to fit into a protective, plastic sleeve that is 9" x 11 1/2". The components are then placed on top, to conserve space. So, we can safely say that of the roughly 19 1/2 square feet of available counter space, 2 square feet are accounted for at this point.

What I have actually seen Mr. Phillips Screwdriver do - on three occasions, thus far, is bring up a new item. But rather than placing it within the confines of the copious amount of open area, he elects to jam it right into one (or sometimes more) of the existing ones. This pushes the items all over, overlapping them, and sometimes knocking things over.

Why, oh WHY!?

I have also witnessed him bring something up and, seeing the counter half-full, he will simply place his items in a pile on top of the EXISTING ones, rather than placing them on the empty counter.

Dude, SERIOUSLY? What is your malfunction?

What makes this even worse is that about three to four months ago, he began leaving his blueprints out of their protective sleeves when bringing items up choosing to, instead, put the oily/greasy/dirty components coming off his machine on top of the blueprint, which is then placed atop the sleeve.

What the hell, man?

(01/19/10 - 7:14 PM)
Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is my esteemed priviledge to bring you the following tale of insanity. What you are about to read really happened. Not only did it happen, it happened without embellishment. Seriously, it just doesn't get any better than today.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I once again introduce for your reading enjoyment - Mr. Phillips Screwdriver.

Nine-twenty AM: I am in my office. I am working. Behind me, I hear a small noise of paper being mildly disturbed, followed by a throat clearning that God himself would hold in the utmost esteem.

And like a deer in my headlights, there he was. Unlike a deer in my headlights, I didn't have the option to hit him.

"What's up?", I asked, not even remotely wanting to know.

In his hands, he held a blueprint. A blueprint that I had lovingly annotated prior to sending it to the floor so that a situation such as this could not arise. Apparently, I had lacked clarity.

"This here," he began, "Am I doing this [points to features with notes and arrows SPECIFICALLY saying that], and this is getting EDM'd [points to other features with more notes and arrows SPECIFICALLY saying that too]? Is that what this means?"

A step back: EDM stands for 'electro-static discharge' machining. Think of it as using shaped lightning to obliterate steel in those hard-to-machine situations. This particular component required the operator to mill two areas on the top-portion of the part. The remainder would then be obliterated via EDM, as it was nearly impossible to achieve the feature via conventional methods.

And EDM costs money. Like any other service in this world, ain't nothing free. (I'm using ain't ironically, by the way.)

"Yes," came my congenial reply. "We are doing the top portion, and the remainder will be EDM'd."

There. Question answered. Right?

Not - even - close.

"Well, then why don't we just let them do the whole thing?"

I fought back the urge to punch him in the testicles. Instead, I said what he already knew, "EDM costs money. I'm only having them do the portion that we cannot, so that we retain as much profit as possible on this component."

Elegant in it's simplicity, really. I was not prepared for what I heard next.

"Well, that's just stupid. They might as well just do it all, then."

I mentally took off one glove. If he was itching for an arguement, I was going to be annoying as hell. "Them I'm stupid, [Mr. Phillips Screwdriver]. Nevertheless, it's a decision I have considered and have made. Every .001" of material they remove costs 'X' dollars. This is the most economical way to make this part. Do you have any other questions?"

I was definately not prepared this time either.

"Oh! That reminds me," came his reply. "My wife wants to sell cookies."

At this point, he gazed at me like an owl on Valium.

When it appeared I was supposed to respond, as in his eyes I had been given more than enough information to do so, I responded, "I don't understand. Sell cookies?"

"Uh. Yeah. She wants to sell cookies. She'll - you know - batch 'em all up in tins and such... a dozen in each. And sell 'em."

Now, the average person could infer a whole host of things from this conversation at this specific juncture. I, having been painstakingly trained in Mr. Phillips Screwdriver's behavioral quirks, realized what he was now saying.

"She wants you to sell them here? At work?"

"Yeah. There a problem with that?", he asked with an honest-to-God aire of annoyance.

"Well," I measured out my response carefully so as to deflect, "You'd have to ask Dave about that."

Dave is my Boss, who is currently in Costa Rica, and has been for the past eight days.

"Well, alright. When's he comin' back?"

"Thursday evening. He should be in Friday for sure."

At this point, I noticed something. Something I would not normally look twice at, but in the context of cookies coming from his home and into our shop for our employees to 'buy', I felt it worth noting.

Specifically, I looked at his shirt. Now, no one where I work is even close to being considered a fashion plate. We all wear whatever works, because more than likely it's lifespan will be short and dirty in the environment we work in. What struck me about his shirt, was that it was COATED (and I mean COATED with a capital 'Ewwww') in some sort of animal fur(s), fuzz, and some other things I could not identify but looked wholly unsanitary.

All I could think was, "If this stuff is that engrained into your home environment (and clearly, it is) then how much of that will be cookie-borne into potential >cough< 'customers' stomachs?"

I actually shuddered a little.

This, apparently, was the end of our conversation, as Mr. Phillips Screwdriver simply turned away and left at a totally awkward moment.

Oooookay - whatever.

But it doesn't end there! Dear readers, hold onto your keyboards - for today you're getting a two-fer!

I proceeded to wrap up what I was working on, and in less than five minutes I was in the inspection area working on another facet of my job. I noted that the coffee in the decanter was dangerously close to being non-existant, so I decided to be a nice guy and make some for the troops (I don't drink the stuff, personally.)

So, I got a pot going. Half-way through the brew cycle, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver ambles from Lord-knows-where over to the coffee maker. Without so much as glancing, he removes the carafe from its rightful place. The moment he does, coffee continues to expel from the machine directly onto the warming plate.

As the hissing becomes more incessant, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver looks down, only now seeing the mess he's making. After a brief look at me (maybe for moral support? Who the hell knows) he puts his cup beneath the outflow until it is full. Then he replaces the carafe, turns to me and says, "No see."


So, now there's a puddle of java all over the coffeemaker, and the counter area. After waiting a few beats to see if he's actually going to get after it before it hits the floor and points beyond, I see him look directly at the paper towel I keep on my counter to wipe oil from my hands.

Then he turns away. As he does, I now realize that I had better take care of this. I move DIRECTLY NEXT TO THE COFFEE MAKER where a roll of highly-absorbent BLUE shop towels hang literally three inches from the coffee maker, where they have been hung since 1998. I begin taking a few off, when he suddenly turns around and mumbles, "Oh. There's some there."

At which point he watches me clean up, and says, "No see." once more just before lumbering off into the sunset.

I love my job.

(02/12/09 - 11:22 PM)
We had been performing a miracle at work for a customer all day today. As the day wrapped up for first-shift, I had to decide who on second shift would take over and continue the miracle components.

My choice was clear: even though he's annoying, he's a damn good machinist.

I had to choose Mr. Phillips Screwdriver.

I spoke with the day operator, who is one of the most seasoned (if not the most) in the shop. He said one thing:

"Mr. Phillips Screwdriver is going to want to increase the feeds and speeds as soon as he walks in - DON'T LET HIM. The feeds and speeds are optimal for this job, to keep the heat out of the part. Plus, the inserts in the cutter have lasted the whole job so far. If he ups the feeds and speeds, he'll burn up inserts (about $11.60/each x 3 to load the cutter, F.Y.I.) and he'll induce heat - and therefore stress - into the material.

This is significant, because we were attempting to hold tight tolerances, inclusive of flatness, parallelism and perpendicularity. These would all be jeopardized if heat were introduced into the material. Think of a pork rind curling up when it hits the fryer, and you pretty much get the point.

I thought it was odd that he would give me such a warning. It was clear - even to me - that the feeds and speeds were optimal. Why would a seasoned veteran like Mr. Phillips Screwdriver attempt to do otherwise?

I let it go.

Then he arrived, I explained the situation to him. Imagine my amazement (I know, I should have known better) when Mr. Phillips Screwdriver says, "That's old-school machining (he's a full twelve years older than the day shift operator) - I'd never run this under 600 RPM (it was being run - successfully - at 270 RPM.)

I explained that it was working, and that I'd like to please stick with a proven winner in this case.

He then want on to explain that he could do the job on his machine.

I let him know that that was obvious - but that the job was already setup in this machine, and I wanted him to finish it here in the interest of avoiding redundancy and saving time.

Guess what he did right after I left?

If you said, "Cranked up the RPM's and moved the job to his machine!" you're absolutely right!

(01/13/09 - 11:26 PM)
Mr. Phillips Screwdriver has been in monologue mode to the Nth degree this week. Two of my VMC operators each received - in succession - a 22-minute monologue about caliper screws (and hey - who DOESN'T want to discuss those!)

Was his machine running during this time? Nope! The semantics and design of caliper screws were apparently far more pressing than actually working for the money he was earning during those moments.

I also got to learn a great deal about all of the other things we, as an organization, were doing wrong; how a certain make of machine was a piece of junk, compared to another, and turn-of-the-century wiring techniques. All while he was being paid! Such a deal.

We have a part-time guy with us once more who hasn't been around for years (welcome back, Greg!) He made a slight error on a component, and I simply elected to put it back into general circulation for resolution with my usual green-highlighter-circle around the item in question. It was a super-simple, quick fix that required no explaination whatsoever beyond the simple green circle. Time-management is a great tool.

But this wasn't good enough for Mr. Phillips Screwdriver. Oh no, no, no. Not only did he momentarily ignore the jobs we had given him for the evening, he scrounged around the open job shelf, found the job in question, put a sticky-note on it saying, "Fix 3" Width" and then proceeded to give it to the part-time guy of his own volition. Which was a good thing, because clearly the decision I had made that did not involve him was WRONG, and I'm sure he knew that we needed him to Manage his co-workers in his position as an Machine Operator.

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver also has a certain knack for knowing what we - as an organization - require. He further has a knack for pointing out the lack of these items on a daily basis, and imparting his prescient advice as to why we are foolish for not having said items in place.

To wit: This week, he gave a stunning monologue on the absolute necessity of power boxes at each machine that would allow us to shunt direct power flow to each individual machine thereby eliminating the possibility of a power spike damaging the equipment. In fact, he went so far as to say - and I'm quoting here: "I don't understand why in the world you guys haven't done this yet - it just makes sense!"

I agree. Except: It also costs alot of money. A great deal, actually. Further, we are constantly re-configuring our shop every couple of years, which would necessitate the re-wiring of the whole deal all over again.

But - hey - who's into logic and reason in this day and age.

As I went outside to my car, he was at it again, "You know, you need to buy one of those cigarette things for outside the door instead of using coffee cans. They're only like $50.00. I don't understand why we don't have them here."

I finally snapped. In a joking voice, I replied, "You know what? That's a great idea. But if we implemented every idea you insisted that we could not do without, we would be out of business. And fifty-bucks is fifty-bucks. We're in a tight economy here, and it's not a necessary expense. To take it one step further, if you didn't smoke, I wouldn't have to buy anything and YOU would have the fifty bucks in hand to buy this thing we need so desperately."

Without blinking, he said, "What? Are we trying to save money now?"

"No," I replied, "We're trying to HOARD money now, because the economy is tanking."

He laughed at this, but I think the underlying point wasn't entirely lost on him.

(01/05/09 - 11:04 PM)
Mr. Phillips Screwdriver usually visits me in my office each day shortly after his arrival. About 40% of the time he has an actual question. The remainder of the time, he has some gripe about the way a blueprint is drawn, as though I can somehow fix it.

What's worse is that, often, the print is so old that the guy or gal who drew it is most likely dead (and probably their kids, too) or it's from a foreign country, or from a company that no longer exists in the form it once did when the print was drawn.

And he knows this.

Yes, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver, I realize that every print is not drawn to your meticulous standards. Yes, I realize that a few more rotational views would be helpful - even if they aren't necessary. Yes, I get that for your purposes you do not require the phantom-lined assembly structure. I get it - I truly, truly do.

But I can't fix it. So, like you, I make the best of it and use the skills I have honed over the years to still make certain a correct component is produced.

What made today's visit even worse, was that as I was talking, he kept getting closer. Then he cleared his throat, and I felt a few little sprinklettes of his spit hit my tongue full on. It was all I could do not to barf.

So, how was your day?

(12/18/08 - 11:42 PM)
I was running late at work. I needed to leave. I had been there for nearly twelve hours. I had my coat on. I had my gloves on. I had my empty coffee cup in hand. I had just clocked out. I opened the door and...

And then, it happened.

He was there! Right behind me! How had he been so stealthy? Oh, God - he had that, "I need something right now!" look.

Nooooooo... too late.

Each year, as I have mentioned before, my Boss puts out a veritable buffet of food. Each day, he mixes it up a bit with a new and or different offering. On this day's menu was swedish meatballs in a crock pot. Second shift had settled in, but there seemed to be a problem...

"Is there any more sauce for the meatballs?" asked Mr. Phillips Screwdriver.

"There may be," I said. "There's really not enough sauce for the remainder of the evening, huh?" I asked.

"Well," he replied, "There might be. But I don't want them to burn, you know."

I'm thinking, 'It's a crock pot. Turn it off and keep them warm by leaving them inside. Your shift is only so long, I can't possibly imagine that there isn't enough sauce.'

Instead, what I said was, "Let me take a look for you."

So, I trudged back into the office. I turned on all the lights, and unlocked all the doors. Then, I scoured all of the cabinets, all of the boxes of food items, my Bosses' office, and every other place I could think of where another can of sauce might be stored.

Finding nothing, I then tried a different tactic. I attempted to contact my Boss both on his cell phone and his home phone - no answer to either.

Next, I tried contacting my Shipping/Receiving manager. She had put a small part of the spread out that morning with the owner, and I thought that there was an outside chance she might know where more sauce was.

She told me to try the fridge.

Okay, so, 'Duh!', I hadn't thought to try there.

I went out, and after some uneventful fridge mining, I discovered it on a bottom shelf. Success!

By now ten minutes had gone by, and Mr. Phillips Screwdriver had gone back to his area. I went back triumphantly to let him know that his precious sauce had been found! Life would go on! All was once more right with the world!

When I told him, he said this: "Yeah, I found it just after you went in the office."

I couldn't believe that he hadn't - oh, I don't know - COME AND TOLD ME HE FOUND IT, instead of wasting ten minutes of my time.


(12/10/08 - 11:44 PM)
Mr. Phillips Screwdriver had a doctors appointment this afternoon, so he came in an hour and a half late. I made the rounds to give him his check, and said my polite hellos. As I attempted to move away, I did something stupid. I asked if everything went all right at the doctor's office. What the hell was I thinking? Seriously, I KNOW better.

Oh, you should have seen the gleam in his eyes - like a seven-year-old seeing a high-end bicycle under the tree on Christmas morning. His eyes said, "Sweet! Someone I can tell this story to! Yippee!"

My eyes said, "Kill me, Jesus. Take me into your sweet loving bosom now. I'm ready."

So, he tells me that he's gone to the doctor because he has had some massive skin irritation on his chest and he believes it to be some sort of allergic reaction. He's learned in the past that he has severe allergic reactions to the strangest things, including yellow number five. Then he begins listing all of the things that yellow number five is in (most I know - it's terribly common) as though I might wish to somehow document this information for future reference.

Then, it got a whole lot worse. He said, "See, here's what I'm talking about."

As he began to unbutton his shirt, I pleaded with him that I didn't need to see the rash - I believed him.

He didn't even hear me.

And there it was. His 62-year old, pale as a cave dwelling fish chest. Complete with a constellation of redness and swelling that looked like poison oak a week after contraction.

I nodded vigorously, in the hopes of physically conveying that I had seen enough, as verbal conveyance usually proves fruitless.

Eventually he put his shirt back on. But he wasn't done. Oh no, no, no.

He then goes on to ask if I recall the foot injury he had shown me sometime around the inception of his employment. I acknowledged that I recalled (how in the hell could I forget? It's still burned into my cerebral cortex.)

"Well," he says, "That was a fungal infection. So I thought that this new one might be from that. My wife gets them all the time. Then I thought that it might be a sweat-gland infection like I get sometimes, but it wasn't that either. So, the doctors put two patches on my back with little grids of things to see which ones I reacted to, in the hopes of finding out what's causing this rash."

Great!, I think. Apparently, as I began wishing him a speedy recovery and began walking away, that meant 'Please! Tell me more! Keep talking! Please, don't even think of stopping now!'

And guess what - he didn't! Ya-hoo!

He then went on to tell me about a myelogram that he had, and how I may not know, but that was for your back. And they inject you with a dye so they can see what's wrong. Turns out that the dye was chock-full of yellow dye number five. Guess what that did to him?

I actually almost giggled, but his story was so harrowing that I couldn't help but feel sorry for the guy. Imagine, being massively allergic to something (at the time, he didn't know what it was - he found out about the yellow dye thing later on) and being injected with copious amounts of it.

He said it felt like his whole body was on fire, and I can't imagine how that felt. Alright, he got some pity points on that one.

In the end, the lesson is this: Don't ask the question if you can't accept the answer.

(12/07/08 - 10:48 AM)
Last night my company had its Christmas Party at a local restaurant (great food, by the way.) The portions were so large that even I could not finish them (I tried - I failed) and I'm no Emmanuel Lewis.

So, as the waitresses made the rounds in the hopes of upping their tip percentages to their fullest potential, we each in turn politely declined dessert, citing the fact that none of us posessed an annex to our stomachs.

Earlier in the evening, I had made damn sure that I was not at the same table as Mr. Phillips Screwdriver, because I thought that going on living beyond that evening seemed like a fairly promising endeavor.

Yet as the waitress arrived to present her inquiry to himself and the missus, I heard a slurred reply that I did not expect.

"What do you have for pie?"

Where was he planning on putting this? And when did he get a buzz on?

My back had been to him the entire evening, so all of my information as to his status of inebriation was coming second-hand from my assistant's assistant on my left.

The waitress, probably excited about earning another .45¢ on her tip, replied with a smile in her voice that there was pecan pie, or they also had cheesecake.

Seems pretty straightforward, right?

Oh, but then came the next iteration of the conversation, "Do you have cherry pie?" he asked as though it were the most natural thing in the world for the waitress to have just momentarily forgotten the existance of cherry pie on the vast menu that confronted her on this very evening.

The answer was obvious. I missed the rest, but I was then informed that Mr. Phillips Screwdriver attempted to take the waitresses' hand in his as she attempted to depart. What was THAT about?

Oh well, at least I didn't have to sit with him and be regaled with stories about:

  • How the Germans were behind everything bad that had ever happened, and their engineers are insane
  • How something was wired wrong
  • How he single-handedly revolutionized something or another that was heretofore the domain of morons until he showed up to radiate the vast knowledge that he posesses to make the product, procedure, or item in question superior to its fullest potential
Yeah... it definately could have been worse.

(11/26/08 - 11:23 PM)
Welcome to a special sub-installment of the Mr. Phillips Screwdriver chronicles!

Love! More Love! Even More Love! Yet Still More Love! How Much Love Can I Impart? Isn't This Obnoxious? I Mean, Seriously - How Many Of These Do I Need? Oh, What The Heck - One More!

As stated below *(refer to main blog page), our new time clock has proven to be problematic. Specifially, you have to slide your credit-card dealie (yep - that's the technical term, as far as you know) through at just the right speed, at just the right depth, in just the right way on just the right side (it sounds alot like foreplay, I know - but work with me here.)

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver jumped on this immediately with his vast expertise and began the stump speech in near-record time.

He explained to us, what with his apparent vast experience with electronic time clock technology, how this clock was faulty; how it should accept the card more fluidly and was, therefore, faulty.

I, using nothing more than 'logic' and 'reasoning' had had the same potential thought. The difference was that I had reserved judgement for several reasons:

  • The clock is new, and may require a 'working-in' period for the inner mechanics
  • We're simply not used to the clock, and our natural instincts are to treat it like a credit card machine at the local box store
  • The clock is placed at a potentially awkward angle, and perhaps our natural tendancy to move the card through confilicts with the fact that there is about a 10° incline in the slot - it is not straight through.

Of course, there's no point in expressing these viewpoints to a man who, most likely, holds five of the nine patents that went into the design and manufacture of this particular clock, and who could probably strip it down and rebuild it in forty-two seconds flat much like a soldier gains the ability to do with his trusty rifle. Yep - no point (I actually tried, though. Can you imagine the futility?)

This morning, it got all the more interesting. Instead of leaving well enough alone, and comprehending that everyone else in the shop was experiencing the same 'growing pains of newness' with this time clock, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver elected to write a comprehensive, open note to all employees and place it on the bottom of the clock.

The note read:

"Slide your card through slowly because the clock sticks. Otherwise, it won't work." *(Okay, I don't recall the 100% specific wording, but this is 99% of it.)

Are you serious?

*(P.S. - If you haven't noticed by now, whenever you mouse-over a graphic, I always have something witty embedded there. Usually. Try it!)

(11/06/08 - 11:26 PM)
So, I'm on my phone today with a customer, when I hear my office door close behind me. I turn to see who it is, but before I can make the revolution, I know: Mr. Phillips Screwdriver has now invaded my sanctum sanctorum. Apparently, he's cool just to wait until I'm done with my phone call. He doesn't mind that maybe I don't want him hovering over me as I complete a phone call of indeterminate length.

As I continue speaking with my customer, I hear the usual assortment of throat clearing, followed by a healthy fart. I'm not kidding.

I wrap up my call minutes later, now really annoyed. Before I can even speak, he's off!

In a voice that is not quite yelling, but is also not conversation over tea, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver begins todays inquisition:

"I don't know what your policy here is, but when I fuck something up, I want to know about it. And when someone runs a part, I think it makes sense for them to run the same part again!"

What he was speaking about, dear readers, was two things:

The first was a component that had been damaged during the deburring process by one of our parts preparation employees. Due to this damage, we had to send the component out for welding so that it could be re-cut to eliminate the damage. When the component returned - one that Mr. P.S. had worked on the day before - I elected to give it to another employee who was extremely competent, efficient, and was between jobs. More on this in a moment.

The second issue was the replacement of one of two components that had been all but completed, but required a sawing operation to remove a large portion of material before finish machining. Our saw operator had mis-cut one of the two items to the point of irreconcilable damage, and a replacement had to be made. I spoke with our Expediting manager, and found that one of our heavier-duty mills was open at the moment. We elected to place it there, rather than with Mr. P.S. because I had a job with an overnight delivery date that had to be completed on the mill. The only mill who could successfully fulfill my immediate need belonged to Mr. Phillips Screwdriver. So, in order to make the delivery and to get everything we needed done as well, we elected to split up the work as stated above.

What makes this even more interesting is the fact that Mr. Phillips Screwdriver is nosy to a fault. I can't even begin to express the number of times that I, or others, have found him pawing through things and areas he has no business in. In fact, my Boss had a long talk with him for a third time to that effect just last week. Yet, somehow, he managed to come across these two items outside of his area - one, in fact, which had been hidden by our Expediter so that Mr. P.S. wouldn't raise a stink. It was, apparently, not hidden well enough.

So, when I explained the situation to him, and explained that I should not have to explain myself, he still didn't think what we had done was right. I felt like telling him to apply for my job, then, because he had no business telling me how to run mine - thank you.

Instead, I agreed with him that - under the RIGHT circumstances - he was correct. But in this case, we had used logic and reason to parse out the situation to its most beneficial end.

He finally left, knowing he was right, but also knowing that I was too stupid to see things his way. As long as he left - that's what's important.

(10/30/08 - 11:34 PM)
He's a complicated man, and no one understands him but his woman - 'Mr. Phillips Screwdriver'! You're damn right...

* (For those of you just tuning in to pop culture, that's the theme from "Shaft".)

I haven't mentioned this before, but Mr. Phillips Screwdriver has his own personal fleet of vehicles (five, at last count.) So, imagine my surprise when one of my co-workers was selling a Cadillac DeVille and Mr. Phillips Screwdriver was interested in purchasing it. Bear in mind that it's just he and his wife in the old Screwdriver homestead, and they already have five vehicles plated, insured, and ready to roll into action at a moments notice.

So, he asked all the usual questions. Then, he began asking some unusual ones. He wanted to know, specifically, who had performed what maintenance on the vehicle in the past. My fellow co-worker dilligently supplied the information, much to the consternation of Mr. Phillips Screwdriver. For, you see, he didn't want to know where the work was performed, so much as he wanted to specifically know who had done the work. As though we all befriend every grease monkey mechanic that we encounter.

"Hey! You, working on my car there! I see your name is Jack. Hey, tell me a little about yourself. Would you like to come over for dinner tonight? What are your turn-ons?"

No one does this. Who remembers the name and pesonality of the pimply teen at the Lube Hut from last week, let alone cares?

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver does!

So, when the questions proved to be unanswerable to his expectations for all intents and purposes, he elected to purchase the vehicle to add to his armada anyway.

My co-worker was so glad that her intensive interactions with this individual were completed. But it was not to be so!

For, you see, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver elected to pay by personal check. This was most likely only accepted because he was a co-worker. As such, my co-worker had to go to his bank - in Janesville - to get the check all cashed and squared away immediately (she was selling the car for someone - it wasn't hers) so that she could pay the owner. When she arrived at the bank, the teller seemed to know immediately who the check was from because she said, "Oh, this guy."

Apparently, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver is entriely memorable, and has made his mark everywhere.

When the check was run, there was just one tiny problem. He was $50.00 short in his account. So, here's the scenario: My co-worker who was doing a faovr for a friend is now in Janesville at a foreign bank trying to get the money for the car whose title she has just given over to Mr. Phillips Screwdriver and his bank says he's $50.00 short.

It just doesn't get any better!

(09/19/08 - 11:21 PM)
Ladies and Gentlemen! You've know him, you love him! We proudly present - back by popular demand - Mr. Phillips Screwdriver!

Yes indeedy, he's back!

Today, all of my forkilft drivers had left at around the 3:00 mark (they had all had a long week, come in early, and just wanted to go home. And I didn't blame them for actually going on time, for once.) At about 3:30, a semi pulled into one of our two driveways to pick up an LTL load. A moment later, a second semi pulled into our other driveway with a drop.

I hopped on the forklift (yee-haw!) and began to load the first semi. As I'm manipulating the load, and the driver is guiding me to where he wants it, I see him out of the corner of my eye. Like the harbinger of certain doom, he appeared. As the driver was attempting to guide my actions, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver begins to ask him questions. The driver attempts to be polite and answer him, as he's still guiding me. After a minute of this, I finally get the load settled and ready to shift and align on the truck. By now, the driver of the other semi has come my way to let me know that he's here (I've seen him, but he doesn't necessarily know this).

Now, I'm asking the driver of the first truck how he wants the load shifted, but he can't answer me, as Mr. Phillips Screwdriver is asking him question after question. After a few seconds of this, I finally ask, "Do you need something, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver?".

Without speaking (NOW he doesn't want to speak?!), he simply holds aloft a simple light bulb. He had come all the way outside to find a new lightbulb for his work light. Apparently, the world stands still when you don't have one of these. I grit my teeth, and calmly state that my assistant knows where they are, and that since I'm tied up would he be so good as to consult her on the matter?

Without a breath he says, "She sent me out here to you!"


So, I stop loading, I stop the forklift, and I get on my radio. I calmly ask my assistant to please (PLEASE!) get this man a light bulb so that his world will turn once more. I calmly tell her where they are, and then I send him on his way.

I finish loading the first truck, and as I'm driving toward the second truck, the other driver is shaking his head. He gets it.

I finish up outside, and then I come back in the office. I make mention of the fact that I can't believe what just transpired to my assistant and then I get another surprise.

She tells me that he came in to ask her for a lightbulb, and as she was thinking out loud where they were, he began walking away. She was still speaking to him as he exited the office, and came seeking me.

"So you DIDN'T send him to me?" I asked, incredulous.

"NO!", she says. "I know where the light bulbs are - I was just thinking out loud and getting up, and he just walked off.!"


(07/02/08 - 11:42 PM)
It's been weird this week. Mr. Phillips Screwdriver is on vacation, so I've had to annoy myself. Turns out, I'm not nearly as good at it as he is, but I do enjoy my evenings at work more for some strange reason.

(03/17/08 - 11:44 PM)
My Expediting Manager was ill today, so I had to commandeer his role as well as my own for the day. Part of this usurpation of tasks involved divying out work the the new, part-time guy. I hand selected four jobs for him, and at two-thirty, double checked that all was in a state of readiness for his arrival. At four thirty, he arrived. He then let me know that he had three jobs in his area that were no problem, but he also had three pieces of material that didn't go to anything.

I let him know that, in fact, he had four jobs, not three, and the specific material in question did indeed have a print that was in his area for certain. When we walked out to his area to rectify what I was certain was an oversight, it turned out that he was now correct: Only three prints for four sets of material. I looked high and low for the print, and explained to him that the material in question was part of a larger weldment. The first stage of manufacturing the weldment was to mill these three pieces so they could be fit later when the turning operations occured.

"Oh!" he said, "Well, that fellow there came over when I arrived, and as he was looking through the pile of prints, he pulled one out because he said that I wasn't supposed to have it."

It was all so clear to me now. Guess who he pointed to?

Yes, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver. A man that the new part-timer had not yet met during his two previous daytime shifts to get him acclaimated. An individual that I had hinted would be of no help to him whatsoever in the evenings, which was WHY I wanted to acclaimate him during the day when friendly folk were still about. Yep. His first encounter with Mr. Phillips Screwdriver, and this was how it was going. Splendid!

So, I moved kitty-corner into Mr. Phillips Screwdriver's area, and immediately found his stolen booty. There was the print, sure enough. I explained to the new guy - loudly enough for Mr. Phillips Screwdriver to hear, of course - that I wasn't certain why the print had been removed from his custody, as I had personally willed it upon him in the hopes of having that portion of the job completed that evening.

After outlining the situation, and getting progressively louder, I finally got Mr. Phillips Screwdriver's attention.

"Oh!" he said, "I didn't think that he was supposed to have that!"

Okay, fair enough. So I asked what his line of reasoning was. There was a routing with the print, and the parts were with the print. Had he investigated this prior to usurping the parts?


I also inquired as to why I was not immediately advised that there was some sort of problem, so that I could rectify it because I was STILL THERE AT WORK.


Finally, I asked that he not remove anything from anyone else's area without first seeing me from here on out. I figured that if he wanted my job that bad, I could just start being the one who mumbled about the stupidity of everyone not myself and how everything always led back to somehow being the Germans fault.

It still does not cease to amaze me the volume of audacity contained in this man's corporeal housing. Truly, quantification can only occur on some heretofore unknown scale. Perhaps the "Screw" would be metaphorically viable.

(03/04/08 - 11:03 PM)
Today at work, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver came into my office seeking my advice. Probably, that is.

He first accosted my assistant regarding her knowledge of saving files on floppy discs. She politely told him that she was essentially a child of USB's and CD's, so floppies were pretty much foreign to her - like tabouli.

Next up: Me.

So, he tells his tale of woe: How he cannot save a looooong filename with about five periods in it. I begin to respond, but it becomes immediately clear that this conversation is, in fact, another patented monologue. Seriously, I opened my mouth to speak about twelve times and the most that I managed to say was, "erm!"

He tells me that he cannot save the files on disc for this one particular customer only. Now, I know that he's using a Windows based system with a proprietary overlay for his machine. I also suspect that the problem lies in the communication between the two with specific regard to long file names, sans truncation. But it doesn't matter as he has effectively hit the mute button on anyone within a six foot radius and created a small "No Logic Zone" for us all. Yippy!

As his tale winds down, and I stop trying to speak - at all, actually - he lets me know that the crux of the problem is that he had once heard, at a company that he once worked for, that the company that the print in question was for had somehow gotten computer and software manufacturers to get these files to be un-savable so that proprietary information could be prevented from being leaked hither, thither and yon.

And he was deadly serious about this, folks.

Now, the problem is - back in the world of logic and reason - we "smarties" all know that, while some mid-range manufacturing firms do hold some clout - somewhere - the odds of collusion of this magnitude are about as good as a Muppet porno flick. It ain't happenin', no matter how much you wish it to be so.

So, the odds of this story being accurate are nil. Alright, it's impossible. And stupid. There - no more sugar coating. And yet, as he points to his temple and winks, he states once more that he has it all figured out; that collusion has occured and that no one - NO ONE - can save these files because that would allow for the dissemination of proprietary information.

Problem number two: Why not just copy the blueprint and say, "Hey, Bob! Here ya go! Here's something I'm disseminating to you because I should not be, and because I can't write a proprietary program for my specific machine and save it for you, which is what I would really rather do because it's so much more useful to just anyone than a bona-fide blueprint of the component. I hope you can still make the part without that proprietary program that we - the vendor - have written. I know it will be tough working from a complete and accurate blueprint, but you'll just have to make do because those fat-cats at so-and-so corporation are just too smart for us."

Get real.

Finally - FINALLY - I jet out a sentence. "It's a long-filename issue that I'll look into. It appears as though it doesn't like the periods, or the length - or both."

His response? He leaves, and immediately asks my Expediting Manager, "You know anything about floppies?"

And my Expediting Manager, God love him, knows as much about computers as he does yodeling or French cuisine: Bupkis.

Whatever. At least he went away.

(02/26/08 - 08:28 PM)
I came home from work today. I actually had dinner with my wife. I had just settled in for the night, when I received a call from my Expediting Manager at the shop.

"Uh," he asked, "Did you tell Mr. Phillips Screwdriver to work on those aluminum plates?"

"Noooooo," came my hesitant and concerned reply. I didn't like the sound of this. Specifically, I didn't like the sound of this because the parts in question had already been through Quality Control and had been deemed correct. They were then moved on to the next operation, which was a finish grinding operation to maintain a tight thickness tolerance prior to jig grinding. The person responsible for this operation was to be the day shift operator on Mr. Phillips Screwdriver's machine, and I had spoken with said operator about my desires to be carried out the following day, as he was headed for home. Then we put the components far off to the side where no one would molest them, and called it a day.

One other piece of information that is crucial here, is a basic understanding of our methods. A copy of the blueprint goes to the work floor for manufacturing. As it moves through each process, a yellow highlighter is used to indicate that a feature exists, is correct, and has been checked. This way, if a print is not highlighted 100%, it cannot get an "Okay to ship" approval sticker from our Shipping & Receiving Manager, and gets kicked back to Quality Control. If an error occurs, a green highlighter is used to make a circle around the offending feature, and is summarily returned to the offending employee (whenever possible or practical) for rectification. Also, I personally review each print before it goes to the floor to determine where grind stock will be left, and how much is to be left. This allows a semblance of tight controls on what is expected of the machinists, and disallows any cowboying to try and tweak in tight tolerances, or individuals thinking that we expect them to hold impossible tolerances because our desires are unclear.

Got all that? Sorry - it was necessary to the story.

Anyway... it turns out that my Expediting Manager, somewhere in hour thirteen of his day, found Mr. Phillips Screwdriver working on these parts - again. Out of curiosity (because he knew nothing more than the fact that they were supposed to be finish ground the next morning) he confronted Mr. Phillips Screwdriver politely, and asked, "Did Heath ask you to do something with those?"

"Yeah," came his reply, "I'm opening up these holes."

My Expediting Manager was skeptical - and rightly so. Usually, when I ask anyone to do anything I advise him that I have done so because when I do, I overstep his authority and it's common courtesy to let him know as soon as possible that I have done so. So, he called me at home and asked me why Mr. Phillips Screwdriver was working on these parts at my behest.

"He's doing what, now?", came my first question. After explaining the situation to me, I replied that I had not only not spoken to him about them, but also that they were deemed acceptable by Quality Control, and should require no further machining within our facility - unless Mr. Phillips Screwdriver had unilaterally chosen to remove the jig grind stock - which would be catastrophic.

Last aside, I promise. Jig grinding is the act of removing miniscule amounts of stock to achieve ultra-tight tolerances in holes and on surfaces. In this case, the tolerance on the holes was +/- .00019". An average strand of human hair is .018"in diameter, so you can see how tight this is. If he were trying to perform this function on a machine such as the ones we use, his odds of success would be slightly better than being gang raped by circus seals singing the opening aria to 'Carmen'. See my concern now?

"I've got to go," said my panicked Expediter, "He's definately making cuts on the material, and I have to stop him."

I agreed, and dropped everything to return to work to sort this out.

When I arrived, I didn't even have the patience to confront Mr. Phillips Screwdriver because I knew that I would eviscerate him with something blunt. Instead, I locked eyes with a perturbed Expediter who took me aside and said, "I asked him again if he talked to you, and he said that he had. So I asked him if he was sure, and he said, 'Well, the parts were laying there!' So I asked him again, and his response remained the same. So I asked him again, and his response remained the same. Finally, I told him that just because they were near his area (and near was a loose term at best, folks) does not mean that he needs to grab them, search for a problem, and fix it. The print clearly stated jig grind stock was to be left; we didn't ask him to work on them; we left him no note to work on them, and nothing was circled in green. Then he let me know that he had re-inspected each of the four components - in their entirety - and found that the jig grind stock was nearly .020", and not .010-.012" as it said on the print."

"Big deal," I said, "That happens all the time; it's aluminum, and the surface area to be ground is minimal, at best."

"I agree," he said, "but he took it upon himself to re-setup on the pieces to remove that extra .008" or so prior to jig grinding.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about - this is a futile and stupid act. Let me re-iterate - STUPID with a capital "S". Not only did he waste a ton of time re-inspecting these components, he wasted even more time re-setting them up on the machine, and then re-machining them. And THEN, he had the nerve to out and out lie to my Expediting Manager, to the point of rousing me from my home to come in and defend an action that I never even initiated.

I didn't even have the energy to confront him. I've had it, I've had it, I've had it with this guy. And I'll be damned if he's going to tell people that I'm the reason that he's a doofus.

(01/23/08 - 11:23 PM)
Mr. Phillips Screwdriver is ill. I mean, this guy looks like something Milla Jovovich should be chasing after with a shotgun in a video game-based film. Which is funny, because he's my own 'Resident Evil'. Ha-Ha! Hilarity!

Resident Evil


Today, he enters my inner sanctum and mumbles in a congested, sexy voice, "I'm not feeling well today."

"Jeez!," I replied, "You don't look well."

"If I need to go home early, would that be okay?," he asks.

"Absolutely. You need rest, and we're doing okay with the workload. Whatever you need."

Normal conversation - and it's over! Right? RIGHT?!?!?!

Oh, shit...

"See", he says, now all warmed up, "I've got a ton of pghlem in my throat - you can hear it. And my nose is all drippy and runny. I'm all cold and clammy..." And on and on and on.

After regaling me with his afflictions of hives, hemmorhoids, and homophobia for three whole minutes (I just needed three things with an 'H' - he really doesn't posess [or exhibit, anyway] any of these traits, to my knowledge - it was more for effect, you see... nevermind...) he went on his way.

Whew! That was a close one!

Five minutes later, he was back.

"So, we gettin' checks, or what?"

"I beg your pardon?" was my reply.

"It's payday. We gettin' checks, or what?", he says again without elaborating, only louder.

See, if I had gotten it the first time, I wouldn't have pressed for more because, well, I would have gotten it and more would have been unecessary. And turning up the volume won't really help, either. It's like speaking English to a Spanish person: No matter how loud or slow you get, or how many words you add 'o' to the end of in the hopes of hitting on something remotely Spanish, it won't force the listener to suddenly comprehend English. Comprende? Anyway...

"Payday is supposed to be Friday," I replied calmly, "But some time ago we began giving out checks on Thursday. However, since it's Wednesday today, payday will not occur until tomorrow."

"Oh", he says, clearly disappointed that I haven't somehow made it payday through the use of my special powers or Santeria spell casting. "Well, okay then."

I Love! Mr. Phillips Screwdriver!

As he walked away, I heard him say to himself, "See, I kiss my wife on the lips, and this is what I get."

I'm still shuddering from the thought...

Five minutes later, he was back again. This time, he had a part and a print. On the print was a note to 'see so-and-so (a day shift operator) about tooling'. The problem was, so-and-so had gone home for the day. But Mr. Phillips Screwdriver had pressed on, trying to do things without help. He asked how the part was manufactured, and I replied that so-and-so had come up with a method - and a tool - and would need to be consulted if the tooling was not with the job.

It was not with the job.

"Oh," he says. "Well, how did he..." and on he went.

I tried to stop him. I really did. I let him know that rather than re-inventing the method, it would be best to consult so-and-so at a later date. I had made the note on the print with one of two scenarios in mind. The first being that a day-shift operator (perhaps so-and-so, if I were lucky) would find the job next in line and either do it, or consult so-and-so. My assumption had been that if so-and-so were unavailable or a second-shift operator obtained the job they would pass it over because - obviously - something was missing that was critical to success. He didn't seem to get this on his own, so I got firm and politely outlined these thoughts for him in a logical progression. I thought that I had gotten through. I thought that he would leave the job for the next day, when someone could consult so-and-so as I had asked.

But, when I went out to the shop floor some twenty minutes later, I found him in the CNC lathe department which is 180° from his department. This did not seem to deter him, as he asked our CNC lathe operator how he would go about making this part (I had already expained the how, but a tool and holder were necessary, and I didn't know where they were at the moment, which is why the note was left and how the whole problem began.) With the patience of a Saint, this gentlemen calmly explained that being a CNC lathe operator, he really had no notion of how a highly-skilled mill operator might have gone about completing the component.

Undeterred, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver began hypothesizing - not to inquire further - but to somehow educate my CNC lathe operator on how he thought it might be accomplished.

Are you serious?

I came over with a 'question' to rescue the operator from commiting murder-one, and we both watched as Mr. Phillips Screwdriver ambled back to his area - part in hand, and apparently in no mood to do the sensible thing that we had discussed earlier. Nope - he was hell-bent on doing this part, even if it meant bothering others and taking way too long as he re-discovered a method and tooling for success. Brilliant!

(01/15/08 - 11:12 PM)
For Christmas, my boss lets people run wild with their requests for presents - be it cash, shop tools, or other he lets you ask for whatever you might desire. If it's within reason, he gets it for you. How cool is that?

One of the things Mr. Phillips Screwdriver asked for for Christmas was a set of metric dial calipers. These are kind of an obscure tool, but are really handy to have (I personally have four sets in my inspection arsenal.)

So, we ordered him a set. Of late, the company who was the leader in the field of measuring instruments such as this has been going the way of their competition by cheapening as many components as they can to get the overall costs of the items more in line with the competition. In light of this, most manufacturers have gone to a one-piece hinged plastic case, where in the past a two piece case made of padded metal or wood had been the norm.

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver received a set in one of said cases, and he was having none of it. He came into my office and let me know that he would like to see about purchasing a snazzier case at his own expense, if I could find one. "No problem", I said. "I know where to go if one exists. I know exactly what you are talking about. I'll get on it."

Case closed, right? HAH!

Behind Mr. Phillips Screwdriver, a line is now forming at the Heath Store. My expediter needs something, and my Mazak operator has just shown up because he needs something as well. His turn over, you'd think he'd hit the road. But he keeps talking. What is he talking about? Important things? New points that have not been covered thus far? The secret location of the Lindbergh baby? Oh no - no, no, no. He's decided that I couldn't possibly know what he's talking about, and he's therefore decided that he had better describe every difference possible between the regular case, and the snazzy one. He can see the pile up happening behind him, but he keeps the verbal battering ram pounding away.

But wait! It gets better!

Now, my Shipping/Receiving Manager pops in with an urgent look on her face. He sees her, and fails to acknowledge her existance. As this is happening, I can hear my assistant taking a call for me, and putting the caller on hold. As he's talking, she's trying to save me by saying, "Heath, you have..." but he just gets louder because, dammit, he needs me to understand that his dream case has foam and not just a molded plastic bed. Foam, dammit - FOAM - F-O-A-M. For those of you who might have now lost count, here's what we've got:

  • I have three people in my office waiting with real problems
  • I have one phone call holding
  • I have an assistant trying to save me from certain verbal assassination
  • And one unimpeeded jackass with his vocal chords a blazin'

Finally. FINALLY, after THREE MINUTES of being regaled with the same five restructured sentences over and over and over again, he figures I probably won't screw up too bad, and excuses himself.

(12/12/07 - 08:58 PM)
I'm sitting in my office tonight, and working on a quote that would be alot easier if the engineer of the components didn't have such a God complex, when behind me I hear a rip-roarin', throat-clearin' jamboree. And there he was. Mr. Phillips Screwdriver.

Without so much as a hello, he bellowed in an irritated tone, "When you gonna get the toilet fixed?"

Friends, I had no clue what he was talking about. So, I said, "I have no clue what you're talking about." See how clever and inventive I can be during sitiations of extreme duress?

"The toilt in the back," he replied, clearly annoyed at my lack of intimate knowledge of all things porcelain. "It's broke - hell you can see the crack goin' clear up the front. It's been cracked, and leaking, but now it's really cracked, and leaking all over the place." Then he went on to explain to me in exquisite detail about how a toilet mounts to the floor, and how making sure the screws are not too tight, but not too loose either, is really a lost art now posessed by arcane priests who make ritualistic blood sacrifices, and Martha Stewart.

I let him know that I was, heretofore, unaware of any waste-disposal cataclysms. But that, he could rest assured this evening, that I would contact our plumber immediately and get it rectified. Further, I would put a happy little sign on the door to let errant urinators and all individuals desiring to launch a mookie-log know that this throne, was verboten. I thanked him for his bringing the issue to my attention, and this seemed to placate him enough for him to at the very least return back from whence he came.

Why does this man feel that everything is a personal affront to him? And, moreover, why does he seem to decide that I am somehow personally responsible for the lack of usable bodily waste disposal areas?

(12/09/07 - 10:18 AM)
Today, is a monumental day. A day that shall ring throughout the ages as both significant, and pointless. Today friends, I unveil a blog first - a sub-site devoted to one single string of storyline over the months that this blog has been in operation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, RuPaul & George O'Dowd - I proudly present, The Mr. Phillips Screwdriver Chronicles. Now, whenever your little heart desires you can access the entire thread by clicking on the link that I will be installing at the bottom of each and every monthly page, as well as the master blog page. You can re-live your favorite moments of advice, mischief and general disarray. I hope you will enjoy reading it a hell of a lot more than I enjoyed living it. When (not if) new stories arise, they will be summarily added to tickle your fancy, or your itchy trigger finger.

Enjoy, dear readers. Bask, and enjoy.

The Mr. Phillips Screwdriver Chronicles

(12/08/07 - 11:32 PM)
We had our company Christmas Party (yes - we still call it a Christmas Party, not a "Holiday Party") tonight at a restaurant that's about two minutes from our home, is always packed, and where we had never eaten before. Which, in hindsight, was too bad because everything was better than good there.

We had two large tables set aside for our group, but amazingly all but three employees showed up, and so we usurped a couple of outlying booths directly next to the tables reserved for us. As the latecomers trickled in - the bosses son, our Expediter and his girlfriend who had come directly from his seventy-two year old grandmother's wedding (you go, girl!) took one booth. The second booth was occupied by our cleaning girl, the sixteen-year old daughter of one of our part time employees, and cousin to our Shipping/Receiving Manager. She had brought her boyfriend (who I had never met, and seemed very nice) and they sat down.

I felt a chill go up my spine, looked up, and there he was, like a geriatric ninja - Mr. Phillips Screwdriver himself, with Mrs. Phillips Screwdriver in tow. Oh, no! I thought. Our cleaning girl, who has never spoken to this guy is going to get stuck sitting with him. This will not be good.

Sure enough, he chose the only open option, and he and the missus seated themselves on the outside of what I now liked to think of as the booth of doom. The kids were trapped, and for the next two hours would be regaled with overzealous, Grandpa-Simpson-esque stories that went nowhere. "Now, the important thing to remember was that I had an onion on my belt, which was the stlye at the time. We were looking for turkey; or, as they were called in my day - a 'walking bird'..."

Sure enough, in no time at all I looked over, and Mr. Phillips Screwdriver was clearly empassioned and regaling her with some story or another. As he did so, he invaded her personal space, all the while ignoring the huge-eyed look she was telegraphing as she shrunk into what remained of the space between her and the wall. This did not deter, however. Oh, no - not in the least.

How she managed to survive two full hours of this was beyond me. I'm sure psychotherapy cannot be far behind.

(12/04/07 - 10:41 PM)
Mr. Phillips Screwdriver came up to me last night, asking me to talk to the day shift operator on his machine. It turns out that while their shifts used to overlap, inexplicably the day shift operator began coming in an hour earlier, and leaving an hour before Mr. Phillips Screwdriver comes in. Who knows why stuff like this happens?

Anyway, he asks me to talk with the day shift operator, because, "Every time I have a brand-new endmill in a holder, I come back in the next day, and it's gone. I can't find it anywhere, and I think he's maybe putting them in his toolbox and locking them up, which does me no good."

He also took this opportunity to mention that no matter how many notes he left for the day shift operator, they were always ignored. Now, let's take this and run with it, shall we? Because not only has Mr. Phillips Screwdriver taken things off of the shelf with OTHER PEOPLE'S NAMES ON THEM TO RUN (i.e. - I specify a certain operator for a job, which makes it hands-off to anyone else via a large sticky note), he's then proceeded to puzzle over them (because he doesn't have the critical information that the specified individual has about that certain component, which is why IT HAD THEIR NAME ON IT in the first place), but the very next evening he came into my office asking all sorts of questions that I happened to know the answers to which were clearly outlined on a note left by the day shift operator ON TOP of the job. I know this, because I had seen the note not thirty minutes earlier, prior to his arrival. But, I digress.

As to the matter of the missing endmills, I told him I would look into it. Today, I looked into it. The day shift guy said, "I'm not certain what he means, but I know that I'm not taking them. Has he checked here on the shelf, or under this rack?"

I said that I didn't know, but that I would convey the answer. I did so, and he said (and I swear I'm not making this up), "Oh, well yeah, they're probably here on the shelf." What absolutely destroyed what little remainder of my soul that I still posessed was that he said this in a manner that - honest to God - indicated that I was the accusing party, and that this answer was as clear as day, if only I were capable enough to have come up with it on my own.

I never thought someone could be so blatantly condescending while solving their own problems. Apparently, it's possible.

(11/30/07 - 11:12 PM)
"Ladies & Gentlemen! Boys & Girls! Presenting the smartest man in the world! Misterrrrrrr Philliiiiiips Screwwwwwwdriverrrrr!"


On Tuesday, I hit this guy with a pre-emptive strike. I knew there was a problem with his machine. I knew what it was, and when it would be tentatively fixed. So, I hit him hard and fast as he came in for his shift.

I told him the problem. I told him the root cause of the problem. I explained, in detail, why the problem existed. I explained what we were doing to resolve it, and specifically how - step by step - it would be resolved. I outlined a timetable. He acknowledged. I was in heaven!

Then, today. He hits the door, and chooses a nuclear retaliatory strike. He explains that there is a problem with his machine. He explains what he believes it is - possibly the thing we had already talked about at length - but more likely something out of left field that he knows nothing about. I asked how he could have possibly made this determination, without first fixing the original situation in a classic process of elimination, but he was not to be swayed from his wild stab in the dark. Then he went on to suggest that we follow a course of action for repair with all haste - a course of action that I had outlined on Tuesday - and what that course of action should consist of. Then he re-iterated the root cause to me, as I had imparted it to him only four days earlier, as though he had done some serious Hardy Boy-esque sleuthing to come up with this conclusion.

I didn't even know what to say. What do you say? I told him all of this four days ago. I outlined all this. He acknowledged this. And now, here he was standing before me and God regurgutating this information as though it were his own - indignantly, no less, at his plight of having to not only use a sub-par machine, but at having to find the apparent source of his misery on his own.

I have no explaination. I have no answer involving reason. I can't even laugh, because it's just too bewildering.

(11/28/07 - 10:27 PM)
Da-Da... Da-Da... Da-Da-Da-Da-Da-Da-Da-Da... Mr. Phillips Screwdriver.

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver regaled me tonight on how stress relieving and normalizing steel is the same thing. And how normalizing and stress relieving are done at 375°.

I feel compelled to explain this to those of you who just went, "Huh?"

Steel, in its raw form, retains stresses on a molecular level. When a cutting implement removes some of this material from the original whole, those stresses are allowed to act upon the remainder of the material. Usually, the result is the material twisting, bowing, cambering, etc. The premise behind stress relieving is to take the raw stock, now cooled from its initial manufacture and forming into a usable state, and heat it up to a point where the molecules can get a little more organized and re-configure themselves into a more homogeneous state. The result is a material that has far less tendancy to move around when you cut it.

Normalizing, while a similar process, has an additional end in mind. The principle behind this is that sometimes materials get treated with heat to reconfigure them further. Usually, this treatment is done once the component is complete, or near complete. It is typically a hardening process designed to add a case, or hard outer shell, to the material to prevent early wear or to allow certain surfaces to take more abuse in the application of use in the field. During this heat treating process, metals tend to gain stresses, or move during quenching. To alleviate this eventuality, materials are normalized by heating them up to a temperature exceeding the temperature at which they will be heat treated. For example: If a material is to be heat treated at 1100°, one might normalize the material at 1200°. This does two things: It inherently stress relieves the component, and also allows the molecules to organize at this temperature. The theory here is that the material will have no need to move at 1100°, because its already been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt. As such, you achieve a great deal less, if none at all, distortion and movement during the heat treating and manufacturing process.

Alright, so... if normalizing were truly done at 375°, then why wouldn't my company simply buy a Hotpoint oven and cook us up a batch of steel on premesis? And maybe some cookies too, while we're at it. The answer is: we wouldn't, because this guy doesn't know what he's talking about. It's one thing to impart knowledge to someone who is truly interested - especially if the knowledge is factual. It's another thing to insult someone's intelligence by telling them they're wrong and then proceeding to tell them that "I used to work as a heat treater", when clearly there is no way in hell that you did. Or, that you did, but you had no clue what you were doing as someone above you set you to various tasks.

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver, I love you. The blog-o-philes love you. Without you, we would have far fewer truly excellent stories.

(10/10/07 - 11:34 PM)
I went out into the shop this evening, and saw all of my employees standing in a circle in the back corner of the shop. Further, my 2nd shift Mazak operator was standing on a counter in the center of said circle. Was I curious as to whether they were re-enecting a scene from "The Dead Poets Society"? Sure, why not.

As I approached, I saw what all the fuss was about. A parakeet seemed to have found its way into the shop, and was being cautiously cornered by said operator.

Now, we've had loads of interesting things fly in the shop over the years - giant praying mantises', bats, finches, big-ass Mothra-size moths, lesser-known superheros, and on and on and on. But this was the first time that a parakeet had made an appearance. Alright, all was forgiven, but now it became my responsibility to handle this little problem. Yay! Lucky me!

The first question I asked myself was, "What in the hell do you do with a parakeet in a machine shop at seven o'clock at night that doesn't involve Richard Gere or a roasting fork?"

After consulting the internet, a magic eight-ball, and a guy walking around outside who smelled like pee and would answer only to "Big LeRoy", I realized that the literature on said subject was sorely lacking. It also turns out that even the less-reputable of the less-reputable restaurants in the area have some limits. Who knew?

So aloud I asked, "Okay. Before I call anyone, does anyone here want a parakeet?" This was met with a series of "No's", blank looks, nods to the contrary, and one giggle from my jovial 2nd shift mill operator who mildly resembles a lawn gnome (which makes his giggling friggin' adorable - we love ya, buddy.)

So, no one wanted a budgie. Well, I tried.

I made my way to the front of the shop to begin my consultation of the thin paper orcale that is the local phone book in search of someone who would answer that particular question in the affirmative. Enter, stage right, Mr. Phillip's Screwdriver.

Heeeeeee's baaaaaaack...

While I'm flipping through the phone book, he decides that he will do likewise - in the opposite direction of myself. I tolerated this, because he really leaves one no choice. In this, and many other ways, he is like Hepatitis B - once he's around, he can be controlled if you're lucky, but you'll never be rid of him and you wouldn't wish him upon anyone. Well, except maybe that skanky chick Laura who turned you down for the prom because you wore that "Wookie of the Year" Star Wars tee-shirt all the time, and she thought you were creepy.


Ahem... Anyway, he made numerous "suggestions", as it were, and to each I responded that I had already persued that avenue, thank you, but to no avail. So, as the usurpation of the phone book became complete, I changed tactics. I have a friend who knows everything about everything (for real - not in the Mr. Phillip's Screwdriver way where nothing amounts to anything more than a mumbled bunch of bullshit and everything from the Arc of the Covenant to the invention of Play-Dough manages to find a firm foothold in having come into being in a way revolving wholly around him - eat your heart out, Copernicus.)

Needless to say, I called and searched for nearly a quarter of an hour. All the while I was on the phone, Mr. Phillip's Screwdriver kept a running monologue as though I could - or cared to, for that matter - listen to both him and the person on the other end of the line with ease (I'd like to see him do that, actually.) I finally had to say to the other person on the line, "I'm sorry. Someone else is talking. Could you please say that again?", figuring this would hammer the point home.

Nope. His string still had some pull left in it, apparently.

But, I digress. So - quarter hour - fighting an unwanted monologue - no one wants bird. Got it? At this point, I finally get a message to the animal control officer in my region, letting him know that I have a bird that no one wants and that since Ozzy isn't in town, I can't bear to see it die and could he please be so good as to see his way to my place to pick the little fellow up, thanks so much?

The moment I hang up, Mr. Phillip's Screwdriver looks me dead in the eye and says - and I'm not making this up, people - "If no one else wants it, I'll take it home."

Dear, sweet, compassionate, loving Jesus please take me now.

(09/26/07 - 11:47 PM)
Mr. Phillips Screwdriver has yet another new bad habit! Let's review the others to get you back up to speed before we mention this one. Ready? He:
- Talks over you, whether you're talking or not. If you don't stop, he just keeps getting louder until you do.
- Farts while talking to you (he's standing, I'm seated, and he's leaning over me.)
- Clears his throat EXTREMELY loudly without warning, regardless of the situation.
- Tells you without reservation why everyone and everything else that is not him, or of him, is stupid.

And now: He coughs on me without covering his mouth! Yay!

(08/10/07 - 10:13 PM)
If you haven't already read yesterday's and August 2nd's entries, read them before this one.

All caught up now? Good! Let's begin, shall we?

Same guy, different day. A little over a week ago, we had to let a fellow go at work for doing something stupid (too bad - he was a nice guy.) Since then, his "That's no toolbox - that's a space station!" toolbox has been haunting his area. Yes, it is large. But no one thus far is occupying his area, either.

So, Mr. Phillips screwdriver pops into my office, leans right into my face and says, "When is so-and-so coming to get his toolbox?" This, ladies and gentlemen and smyzmars is why he came into my office - for this, and this only.

I advised our curious friend that I believed that it was to be this week, as the owner of the company was gone last week and it is customary to go through a toolbox with the individual departing for various reasons.

But he was not finished - oh no, no no no.

"Well," he says, clearly undaunted, "Maybe you ought to call him to see about his coming in to get it."

My state of disbelief could not be more complete. "It's all been arranged already," I said. Here's a guy who JUST had his 90-day review; who has endeared himself to no one and villified himself to everyone; who listens to nought a single breath that I utter and interrupts me as though it were a contractual obligation; who breaks wind whenever he feels the need and clears his throat as though my eardrums had no business being intact. Here stood this adonis of a man, clearly ready to take on the burdens that are my job without thought to self-preservation. Truly, I was in the presence of a saint.

He went on once more, thwarted not in the least bit, "Well, it takes up alot of space, you know?"

What I wanted to say was: "Sweet merciful Lord! It does? I had no idea because I'm a retarded playtpus with ADD who is also half blind. Alot of space, you say? No fooling!"

What I said instead was, "Yes, I am aware of its size. I am certain that the owner of the company is taking care of it, and I believe that it will be removed some time this week."

Could I get a drink here, someone? Oh, anything with the word "proof" on the bottle will be fine for this, thanks. Ah. There we are. On to the thing-de-resistance. He said:

"Well, I guess I'll let him handle it then, if he's got it all arranged."

Oh, truly you are of noble blood sir. To turn the other cheek and allow your patron and benefactor the ability to do as he - rather than you - see fit. A God among men stands amongst us. Bask - bask in his sumptuous glory so that you may know the awe-inspiring goodness that stands before you.

Can I get a refill? No - no ice this time. Just... you know what? Just give me the bottle...

(08/09/07 - 11:37 PM)
Mr. Phillips Screwdriver (see August 2nd's post) strikes again. Imagine if you will that you are a mild-mannered, wildly talented dude working second shift in your area and minding your own business and being extremely productive as usual. You would be one of my favorite employees.

Suddenly, a pall is cast upon you; a shiver traverses your spine; a dog looks at a cat somewhere with lust in its eyes. And there - THERE - he is. Sprung from nothing into full form next to you. And he is brandishing a time card. A time card not his own. A time card ripped from the confines of the rack at the front of this place of business, and toted back to this former place of productivity for one purpose - and one purpose only. That purpose being for him to ask:

"Who's time card is this?"

The time card, dear friends, was mine. Why? Why did this individual feel compelled to remove it from its place, and take it to a co-worker to find out who it belonged to during what should have been working hours? Why did he feel the need to leave his station at the farthest possible point in the shop from the time clock, to go on this mission of mercy; this errand of interrogation?

The world, dear reader, may never know.

(08/02/07 - 11:21 PM)
Before I begin, I would like the make it clear that this conversation occured exactly as outlined. I have not embellished, and I cannot make this stuff up. Ready?

It was late. I was at work. I wanted to go home. I was fixing the passage set on my office door. I had a huge Phillips screwdriver hanging out of my pocket in plain sight.

So, I went to look for a flathead with half of the doorknob in my hand. One of my employees shuffles over to me and says:

"What are you doing?"

I said that I was fixing my doorknob, as the Phillips screwdriver practically poked him in the stomach.

"Oh." He said. "I know what you're looking for. You're looking for a Phillips screwdriver, aren't you?"

I said no. That that would be silly, since I already had a huge one right there in my pocket. Yet he was undeterred.

"Oh." He said once more. "Well," he paused and then, "Do you need any advice?"

I once more said no to this guy who should be working and had no business divining what I was doing. No - on the subject of doorknob advice, I figured I was pretty well set.

Amazingly, he seemed both crestfallen and bewildered that a young Turk such as myself would take no sagacious doorknob advice from the likes of his wizened fifty-something self. He then shuffled away in clear disbelief of the gall that I had displayed in rebuking his offer of what was sure to be profound and prudent advice that I simply could not live without.

Yeah - what the hell is wrong with my generation?

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