Mr. Wake

Are you understand?

Location: Kamakura, Kanagawa, Japan

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Wresting with the nutter

This is the second week of factory work. Smashing metal leaves the mind with plenty of excess capacity with which to plan what I'm going to write. But at the end of the day every day last week was pretty much the same. Smash that metal. For some reason almost all the other smashers are Peruvian.

Today was my second day away from the press section and in the assembly section where two or more smashed parts are burned together. There are robots in the assembly section, but I didn't get to work with them. For some reason almost all the robot minders are Chinese. The robots make frames for dashboards. They are long tubes with all manner of metal parts sticking out from them. The robot minder puts the tube and some doodads into special little slots and grabbers. When the robots sense that the grabbers are full a black plastic curtain descents that the robots may work unseen. If you were to watch the dance of the robots your eyes would be burned from their very sockets. Actually, this is not far from the truth. Each hand of the robots has a single finger, and each finder is an arc welder. So if you spend all day watching the robots, you'll fry an orb, hence the black screen. If you only spend a few mintues you can look through the yellow plastic around back. There are 5 robots, each one is a pair of arms the size of an elephant trunk. It's impossible to watch them and not imagine that they really know what they are doing. They move quickly to the welding point, and then with care as their flame burns the metal. They stay out of each other's way. And while the next part is being loaded they rectract into a kind of resting position. But like I said, I didn't get to work with them.

I had a bin of doodads, each with plenty of holes, but all with a complete lack of nuts. And so I stood before the nutter. The nutter is a violent beast about as big as an upright piano turned on one side. There's a pair of large vertal pinchers in front, the lower one has a spike about as big as a pencil point. Every ounce of this contraption is dedicated to plopping a nut on the spike and heating it to a million degrees. I get nervous around machines that are described with words like "spike", "pincers", "million degrees", and "high voltage" (it uses a lot of electricity). You have to HOLD the doodad on the spike and hit a foot pedal. A probe flys out and deposits a single nut around the spike, then the pinchers close and the nut is fused to the doodad with a shower of sparks. The nut comes out of this experience a slightly different color. Remember, I'm holding this thing with my hands.

Sometimes, just often enough to make me nervous EVERY time, the nut would bounce off the spike and the pincher would close on the naked, nutless, steel. And nothing would happen. Somehow the nutter knows when there is no nut, and it shuts off the juice. But then it sulks and won't work again. The first time I called the boss over, and he ducked around to the back of the machine and did something. Worked again. About thirty minutes later I lost another nut, and had to go find him. Same deal. On the fouth time I watched what he did. He ducked around and reached through some cables and pressed a button, but I think he told me not to mess with this on my own. When it happened again, I couldn't find my boss, but another guy of equal rank was there. He played around in back, showed me the button and said, "Just hit this two times." Still made me nervous. Next time I blew a nut I looked for the boss but couldn't find him again. The Chinese guy next to me pointed to the magic button and said, "You hit that three times." So I did. And the nutter shook off its funk and once again began to nut. I did that about 10 times. But I was still nervous messing with this stuff, and I didn't want my boss to catch me. Next time my nut bounced I called the boss over. He realized I was having trouble so he said, "I'll show you what to do. See this button? Press it four times." I was having to press it every 15 minutes, which was really annoying because I had to duck under some cables, squat on the floor, take off my gloves, reach in under some stuff to get to it. The boss realized what a pain this was, and got a guy over to fix it. Took about 3 minutes. The nut probe was too far from the spike, leaving a space big enough to allow nut-slippage. With that fixed, I was able to nut merrily till lunchtime.


Anonymous Lover of All Things Pants said...

"Sometimes you feel like using a highly electrified industrial nut smashing spiker ... sometimes you don't."

Your job is sort of like coding if every few keystrokes a huge metal spike came down into the middle of the keyboard.

Thank God for those metal shoes, eh?

4:26 PM, March 31, 2005  

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