Thirty years I worked at that plant. Which one, you ask? Don’t worry about it. It’s not important.
What’s important is that for thirty years, I did an outstanding job of assembling quality American automobiles. I had a good crew, and we had a good rapport–we worked well together.
Anyway, one day we got new plant supervisors–cocky young know-it-alls who’d been sent by corporate to implement a “new and better” way of doing things. Fixing what wasn’t broken, in other words. Never a good idea.
Oh, sure, it all sounded good on paper, but like anyone with work-worn hands will tell you, sometimes the paper doesn’t quite line up with what’s feasible in reality.
They eliminated several key line positions, forcing others to take up the slack. They also forced us to take lots of shortcuts just to meet quota. They didn’t know we were taking shortcuts, of course–they just saw the finished product and patted themselves on the back for their ingenuity.
All of that was stressful, but manageable. Then one morning they called a big meeting to tell us all about D.U.S.T., or “Dynamically Upgraded Standard Technique.”
Tbey gave us these little bags of silver powder that we were supposed to sprinkle on the assembly lines. It was expected to increase our output dramatically, somehow, even though we weren’t permitted to assemble cars. Yeah, that’s right. They wanted to see more cars rolling off the assembly line than already were, but they wouldn’t let us assemble them. We couldn’t even touch the equipment anymore, except to sprinkle the dust on it. The dust would take care of everything, they said.
It was so demoralizing, knowing that the work we were doing was so utterly stupid and meaningless.
“Sprinkle the dust!” They’d tell us.
We’d spend all day sprinkling this dust on everything. They laid off ten people and hired twenty new and inexperienced ones. They stood over my shoulder all day long, writing things on clipboards and forcing me to tell these new hires what great stuff this dust was.
The newbies were confused, and rightfully so–none of it made any sense. Many of them quit within hours, and I didn’t fault them for it. Imagine, then, my frustration as I watched a job I once took pride in be sabotaged by soulless corporate drones who blamed our failure to produce any cars on me.
I figured out that there were days when the bigwigs were consistently away from the plant, and on those days, we made cars. Lots of them.
They’d come in the next day, see all the cars and chatter amongst themselves about these amazing results they’d achieved with the new D.U.S.T. system.
The jig was up, though, after one of them decided to watch surveillance footage and caught us working instead of sprinkling. Boy, were they mad.
“If you’d just trust the dust!” one of them actually shouted at me. “The dust works!”
“Clearly it doesn’t,” I told them. “We have to sneak real work in when you’re not looking because you’re too stupid to understand that cars don’t get built by twirling around sprinkling magic fairy dust on everything!”
They let me go after that, of course. Well, that and a whole bunch of other choice words, but you get the idea. Oh, and I may have punched someone. That’s not important, though.
Pretty soon after my departure the plant was forced to shut down, because it was never able to manufacture another car. The cars we’d made during D.U.S.T. were all on recall, because the dust itself had made its way into the lubrication systems. They were all junk.
The entire company went under soon after that, because when cars were brought in to dealerships to be fixed, mechanics were told to “just sprinkle more dust on ’em.”
None of those cars were ever replaced or repaired, of course. And no one ever admitted that it was all because of D.U.S.T.
I knew, though. I know what D.U.S.T. really means: Don’t Underestimate Satan’s Tricks.