A JAPANESE dignitary was
visiting the factory where I was a consulting physician in the first-aid room. Just before
he arrived, a tour guide explained to us the importance of a low bow as a sign of respect.
So when the dignitary entered the room and bowed, I bowed lower. He smiled, bent again and
pointed to the floor. I bowed even lower, where upon he smiled, bowed and pointed downward
again. Wondering what I was doing wrong, I stooped as low as my back would allow. Then the
tour guide said to me in a whisper, "You can stop now. He wants you to check his
MY HUSBAND was once employed in the printing division of a large manufacturing firm.
One morning, word came from the top that some visiting VIPs would be touring the plant in
just a few minutes. All production was immediately shut down as employees scrambled to
tidy up the workplace. When the appointed look out yelled, "Here they come!" 50
fingers that were poised over 50 machine start-up buttons pressed down in unison
and blew every fuse in the building.
MY COMPANY, founded in 1932, still has some of its original equipment. The
manufacturers of these machines have long since gone out of business, and the maintenance
procedures have been passed on by word of mouth. Two of our managers were trying one day
to decide how to modify one of our old engines. When neither had any ideas, one said,
"I think I'll go and ask one of the old codgers what to do." A little later he
returned and slumped into a chair. "I found out," he said "that we are the
AT THE plant where I work, the coffee machine also serves as a message board. One
morning, a note taped to the machine warned: "License XYZ 123 your truck is losing
coolant at a fast drip." Later I noticed that someone had added: "Fortunately
this coffee machine is recycling it."
MY SON-IN-LAW is an employee of a major appliance manufacturer and, with some
co-workers, was required to attend a quality improvement course. During a lesson on brain
storming techniques, the class was given a problem, then instructed to generate as many
solutions as possible, no matter how far fetched they seemed. The first problem was:
"How do we improve our quality image with customers?" The discussion started
slowly with such predictable ideas as "better advertising." But things picked up
when a recent college grad yelled out, "Disguise our service trucks!"
THE Canadian National Railways car shops in London, Ont., closed down over 20 years ago
but the quality materials, exotic woods and fine workmanship involved in the building and
refurbishing of dining and sleeping cars are fondly remembered by all who worked there.
One day, while I was carrying a beautiful, full-length plate glass mirror from the Stores
Department to the sleeper I was trimming, someone shouted "Jerry!" Startled, I
wheeled around, and as I did, one end of the mirror struck a steel scaffold post and broke
into a hundred pieces. It was my supervisor who had shouted my name. There was a 30-second
pause before he continued, "I just wanted to tell you to be extra careful with that
mirror as it was the last one in stock."
WHILE supervising the production line of the bottling plant where I was foreman, I
noticed that the capping machine was out of caps. Unfortunately, in attempting to rectify
the problem, I was careless, and the machine cut off part of one of my fingers. The senior
operator, seeing what had happened, fainted. A second operator rushed to the scene. She
fainted. A third operator found a bottle of aspirin and followed me as I headed toward the
first-aid station. A fourth operator took a cup of water from the cooler and she, too
followed. The rear was brought up by the first-aid man, with a bandage. A police car
arrived and took me to hospital. The operation was minor and in less than two hours I was
being driven home by my wife. She dropped me off at work so I could assure my friends all
was well. But I need not have bothered. The others had all gone home sick.
I WAS reporting for the graveyard shift as a supply clerk in
a factory when the clerk from the previous shift pointed out a small box that had been
left on the loading dock. Printed on all sides of the box was the warning: DANGER!
DO NOT TOUCH! The clerk had already called the plant supervisor for advice and been
told to stay clear of the box until management could analyze the situation the next
day. I didn't even breathe on the ominous looking package until the supply foreman
arrived in the morning. After donning gloves and safety glasses, he carefully opened
the box. Inside were 25 signs that read: DANGER! DO NOT TOUCH!
AN EFFICIENCY expert was visiting a factory. During the lunch
hour he asked an executive how the workers knew when to return to work. He was told that a
man on the roof fired a gun at one o'clock. The inspector then went up to ask the man how
he knew when it was one. He replied that he checked the time on the clock outside the
drugstore in the street below. When the inspector left the factory, he called at the
drugstore. "How often is the clock outside your shop checked?" he asked the
druggist. "Never," came the reply. "It's always dead right by the
A women desperately looking for work goes into
Erwin. The Personnel Manager goes over her resume and explains to her that he regrets
he has nothing worthy of her. The woman answers that she really needs work and will
take almost anything. The Personnel Manager hums and haws and finally says he does
have a low skill job on the "Tickle Me Elmo" line and nothing else. The
woman happily excepts. He takes her down to the line and explains her duties and
that she should be in for 8:00 AM the next day.
The next day at 8:45 there's a knock at the Personal Manager's door. The
"Tickle Me Elmo" line manager comes in and starts ranting about the woman just
hired. After screaming for 15 minutes about how badly backed up the assembly line is
the Personal Manager suggested he show him the problem. Together they head down to
the line and sure enough Elmo's are backed up from here to kingdom come. Right at the
end of the line is the woman just hired, she has pulled over a roll of the material used
for the Elmo's and has a big bag of marbles. They both watch as she cuts a little piece of
fabric and takes 2 marbles and starts sewing them between Elmo's legs.
The personal managers starts to kill himself laughing and finally after 20 minutes
of rolling around he pulls himself together and walks over to the new employee and says:
"I'm sorry I guess you misunderstood me yesterday. What I wanted you to do was
give Elmo two test tickles."
THE explosive tempered president of a garment manufacturing
corporation was given to such office athletics as kicking over wastebaskets and winging
ledger books against the wall. His secretary maintained an almost sleepy eyed
tranquility. As a young auditor hired for a temporary job, I had a desk near their
offices. Each day I was amazed at the two extremes in temperament and could not understand
how they worked together, or could even bear each other personally. One afternoon a
screaming tirade from inside was climaxed by the slam of the telephone, then the roaring
crash of a man who'd tipped too far back in his chair and hit the floor hard. I sprang at
once to rush in, but was halted by the secretary's uplifted palm. Without looking up from
her work, she said, "If he's hurt, he will call me in. If he isn't, he won't forgive
you for finding him on the floor, and you'll be replaced. If he's dead, what's your
hurry?" And I began to understand how they worked together.
A U.S. fruit-growers' association was sponsoring an
advertising campaign to promote the sale of prunes. A million recipe folders were to be
printed in San Francisco and then shipped to Seattle, Wash. There they would be imprinted
with the individual grocery outlet names before distribution to consumers. As the
executive in charge of this operation, I arrived at the Seattle plant just as the truckers
were delivering the folders. To my dismay, I found that instead of packing the folders in
small boxes, the shippers had used two piano-size crates. To complicate matters further, a
forklift was not available. I looked on as the two truckers struggled in vain with one of
the crates. Finally one of them kicked the box in disgust and bellowed at me accusingly,
"What in blazes have you got in these things, anyway? Scrap iron?" "They're
prune folders," I said. He glared at me. "Are you telling me they're putting
those wrinkles in with machines now?
AFTER working at a subsidiary of a Japanese import firm for
two years, I felt I had the language barrier licked. One day while discussing a problem
with the Japanese accounting manager, I remarked, "It looks as if we're thinking
along parallel lines." He slowly nodded in agreement. I was surprised two weeks
later, therefore, when the same problem surfaced again. "Didn't we agree we were
thinking along parallel lines?" I asked. The manager looked puzzled. "Yes,"
he said. "Parallel lines means we'll never meet."
I WORK for a company that does a large volume of exporting.
After shipping a fluid to the Netherlands, we received a letter from the buyer. He was
annoyed that the fluid had leaked out of the jar it was shipped in, and he was certain the
jar was defective. Our engineers checked into the complaint and gave me six jars of fluid
to ship to the customer as a test. I included the gag memo: "The manufacturer of
these jars says we are not putting the lids on tight enough. They are to be torque sealed
to 95-134 centimeters per kilogram. So we used a gorilla to tighten the lids. Please
inspect upon arrival. If no leakage occurs, we will hire the gorilla." Shortly there
after I received this wire from the Netherlands: HIRE YOUR GORILLA IMMEDIATELY. WE HAVE
ALREADY HIRED ONE TO OPEN THE JARS.
MY FATHER-IN-LAW worked his way up from a lowly position to
management level with an international oil company. Over the years, he never forgot the
time his boss told him to gather some information about another company, prior to the
bidding for a drilling contract. "Yes, sir," my father-in-law said, "I'll
have it done immediately." "You do it, Earl," his boss told him. "I'm
having it done!"