If you've ever had the wondrous experience of working in a factory, you would quickly replace "wondrous" with "tedious," and then "tedious" with "bang-head-on-wall boredom". Allow me to enlighten you on the subject.
Making vehicular sun roofs is one part automation, one part frustration. You place a metal, rectangular frame on a "nest" of suction cups right after signing it with your John Hancock and Julian date (ensuring that quality control can hunt you down). A robot that resembles a mechanized dragon neck takes a piece of glass off the conveyor belt with its suction cup head. The borders of the glass have been primed and slathered by two other robots with a smeary black goo called urethane (also known as "WHY WON'T THIS COME OFF?”). The robot then rotates the glass towards you, where it eases up to your nest and plops it on there, only to reel back and fetch another piece for the other two build-stations.
You then flip a lever to suck the glass down onto the frame, which creates a urethane sandwich. You are then tasked with centering the glass within the frame using wide metal chopsticks. Having completed that, you take a rubber seal and find the butt joint (commence obligatory snicker), which as the name implies, is where the seal has been joined together. You then center the seal upon the frame and secure the corners. Having accomplished that, you procure your airgun: something similar to an air-powered dildo-piston with an L-shaped head.
And thus begins the procedural frustration of getting the accursed rubber-floppy-thing on. Well, it was for me anyway.
While my more experienced colleagues were blazing through these parts like a sugar-addled fat kid in a taffy factory, I was gritting my teeth in a wide horse stance as I vied to combine seal and frame together, my brow furrowed as if I were conducting a volatile, alchemical experiment.
"C'mon! C'mon you stingy bastard!"
There was just a little bit of slack left. I pressed my shoulder into the air gun, my other hand delicately wriggling the seal in place. "Yes! Almost! Ha ha!"
The seal bunched into a nub right as I neared completion.
It was at that moment that the material handler rolled up in his forklift. He hadn't brought frames or glass or seals, however. Dick, as he called himself, had brought with him something else entirely. He stopped and brandished three boxes of gum.
"You've got to try this!" he declared with unnecessary urgency. Dick had been aptly named.
We all gathered around to behold this confectionery phenomenon. Judging from Dick's excitement, you would have thought that the man had just successfully extorted Willy Wonka. "They taste just like their flavors! It's like genetic engineering or witchcraft or some shit!" The flavors included strawberry shortcake, key lime pie, and chocolate mint. The latter seemed to please Dick the most.
"It's like Mr. Fantastic porked a York Peppermint Patty!"
My colleagues sampled the decadent gum and all conceded that it was, indeed, the best gum ever. Satisfied with his successful gum-touting, Dick mounted his industrial steed and was about to head off when he noticed that one of us had not sampled the wonder-gum. My colleague, John, had been loading glass upon the conveyor belt, and had been unaware of the sampling.
"Hey!" Dick shouted. "You want to try the chocolate flavor?"
John looked up from his work and replied, "Nah. I'm allergic to chocolate."
Dick's face took on an abhorrence that could only be paired with the recollection of a dead, unburied hooker. "What?"
"I'm allergic to chocolate,” John reiterated.
Dick was momentarily speechless before booming, "ALLERGIC TO CHOCOLATE?”
"Uh, yeah," John replied.
"YOU CAN'T BE ALLERGIC TO CHOCOLATE! IT'S NOT SCIENTIFICALLY POSSIBLE!"
"Well, yeah it–"
"THAT'S LIKE BEING ALLERGIC TO BLOWJOBS AND BOURBON! IT JUST DOESN'T HAPPEN!"
"I'D COMMIT HARAKIRI WITH A SPORK IF I COULDN'T HAVE CHOCOLATE!"
"Dude!" John asserted. "It's just chocolate!"
With a high-pitched whir, Dick whirled the forklift's blades directly in front of John's face, the metal glinting in the fluorescent light. "What did you just say?"
My colleague, understandably, was at a lack of words. Dick was not amused.
"RINSE AND REPEAT, SCHLONG MOP!"
The situation had escalated to lethally loony levels. I knew that there was no satisfactory answer that my colleague could provide. John said with some trepidation, "It's...just chocolate?"
Everyone was deathly still, as if the ground had suddenly been scattered with pressure-plate catapults. For a moment, I thought the situation would cool down.
And then the forklift was set on fire. My first instinct was to fetch the fire extinguisher, but then I noticed something very odd about Dick: he had transformed into a seven-foot demon, his Kelly Services T-shirt and jeans replaced by sinuous flesh that glowed like volcanic embers, his eyes ablaze like fire-kindled jacinth. Wisps of flame erupted from his ram horns as the lights above us darkened, his eyes illuminating the loading station with a pulsing, garish glow. "You dare diss the Cacao Lord?"
My colleague, at this point, was sprinting to the nearest fire exit. Demon Dick flung a sphere of roiling flame at the metal door and melted its hinges into a solidified mass. "Aw. That's cute. The little chocolate-bigot tried to escape."
I was frozen in place, my brain a maelstrom of confusion. "My god," I said faintly. "This is like one of my stories." I had to be dreaming. Surely nothing this surreal could be happening. It was like Tool's "Rosetta Stoned", except less deep and exponentially more retarded.
There was only one way to find out. I would have to question the demon. "Demon!" I shouted as I marched up to the flaming forklift. "I denounce your presence! Surely you are but an intangible manifestation!"
Demon Dick raised an eyebrow. He rested an elbow on the forklift's chassis and asked, "Why are you talking like a larper after a bukkake convention?"
Dick had caught me off guard, and I inwardly cursed the observation's pun. “Good burn," I admitted. "How about you prove that you're a demon?"
Demon Dick snorted. "What? The fireball to your emergency exit wasn't proof enough for you?"
"Well," I challenged, "prove yourself more."
Dick Demon tapped his claws on the chassis. "Alright then. But you know I'm going to cauterize your log-pincher after this, right?"
The loudspeakers suddenly blared with static, and I pondered what hellish fanfare would seethe forth from their possessed circuitry.
"Heut' ist mein Tag, heut' ist mein Tag, heut' ist mein Tag..."
I blanched. "OH DEAR GOD IT'S GERMAN TECHNO!"
Ribbons of flames wound themselves around Demon Dick's form as he stepped off the forklift. The fire intensified to a glaring white, cast the factory floor into undulating bands of light and shadow.
Demon Dick spread his arms. "FEEL THE IRONY, BITCHES!"
I screamed effeminately as I dove away from an arc of hellfire: a Satan-powered sonic boom that reduced everything in its path to ashes. My three other colleagues managed to duck in time. Despite the lethality of the situation, one of my colleagues, Andrew, screamed, "WHAT IS THIS GAY SHIT?"
"GERMAN TECHNO!" I shouted as I rolled away from a gout of flame that Demon Dick had belched.
Andrew shouted back, “IT'S RAPING MY EARS!"
"I DUNNO!" I said as I sped towards the fire extinguisher. "IT'S KINDA CATCHY ACTUALLY!"
“FAGGOTRY!" he hollered as he ran for the other exit. A fireball arched over his head and landed in front of him, thoroughly melting the racks of finished sun roofs into glimmering puddles. He cursed and backpedaled, seeking cover near the robot. John saw me procure the fire extinguisher, to which he remarked, "Dude! No offense! But that's really dumb!"
"I've got to try!" I hollered. It wasn't that I was being brave. It was more along the lines that I still didn't quite believe that all this was happening. Then again, I was also a professor in absent-mindedness, so that wasn't all that surprising. "Maybe this is a really lucid dream," I said as I wrenched the pin from the extinguisher and charged at Demon Dick. "An astrally empirical source of inspiration!"
Demon Dick was flicking a lace of flame at my other colleague, Morris, when he saw me approaching. He looked down at the fire extinguisher and said incredulously, "Really? Are you serious?"
I had to think of something witty to say; a scathing retort that would end this could-be dream with an epic crescendo. "YOU JUST LOOK BIG!" I aimed the hose up at the demon, my brow creased as I epically glared. “I'LL SHOW YOU!” I let loose a bellowing cloud of fire-eating dust at the demon, smothered him from my sight. And then the dust settled. And he was still there.
He was scowling at me. "That...," he said, at a loss of words over my stupidity, "was beyond the human spectrum of idiocy. IQ tests everywhere are no longer relevant due to this act. Congratulations, Uber Retard: you have just fucked an entire field of science."
I stuttered, "W-well, uh-uh...I-"
Demon Dick waved his hand, and the German Techno came to a record-scratching halt. "You know what? No. You don't even deserve German Techno. You have a new theme song now." John Longmire's "Turkey Trot" pranced forth from the speakers.
"But–" I protested. Demon Dick cut me off.
"Nope. Nope. I don't want to hear it." He pointed at the loudspeaker and announced, "Everyone hear this? This is the Uber Retard Song, and it's dedicated to the dip-twit here that tried to banish me with an OSHA requirement. Let's all have a round of applause!"
Mercifully, my co-workers had kept their hands silent, thus sparing me a shred of dignity. Except one.
“ANDREW!” I shrieked, “STOP IT WITH THE CLAP!”
"NO TAG BACKS!"
I gawked at the demon. "No tag...HOLY CRAP!"
I barely evaded the fire wave that nearly immolated my nether regions. Demon Dick, however, was not about to relent. I thought he was going to when he stepped back into his forklift.
And then it came roaring towards me in a blaze of crimson and yellow. There was no way I could avoid it. It was like a blue-collar chariot of damnation that would char my insides instantly. I put my hands up and shielded my eyes. It was at this point that the song on the loudspeaker was cut off, and I was a little annoyed that the last words I would hear would be:
"Materials to line five: changeover to Nissan."
The flaming forklift stopped an inch away from my face. Demon Dick's glowing right eye twitched.
"THAT'S NOT MY GODDAMN DEPARTMENT!" he growled, the sound like an earthquake copulating with an avalanche. He huffed and said, "Hold on. Kill you all in a sec..." The forklift jettisoned in the other direction and veered left with cartoonish agility.
My colleagues and I stood there for a moment. We couldn't make it to exit, as it was the same direction that Demon Dick had gone, and he'd no doubt charbroil us if we tried to escape. "Uh," I said as workers from the other assembly areas made a panicked run to the exit. "I have no idea as to what to do."
John said, "I think we should r–" A brilliant, burning flare poured out from the massive walkway that connected the departments, the sight eerily similar to the nuke scene from Terminator 2. Their blackened remains crumpled to the floor, formed an orgy of scorched bones and nidor.
"My god," I said, my voice choked. "All those people...Guys, I think we should have a moment of silence." My colleagues nodded in assent.
"Heut' ist mein Tag, heut' ist mein Tag, heut' ist mein Tag..."
"OH GODDAMNIT!" Andrew shrieked at the loudspeakers.
A chirpy tenor came from behind us. "I kinda like this song."
All my colleagues abruptly slapped me. "Hey!" I snarled. "I didn't say it!"
"I said it," came the voice again. We spun around. The suction cup robot was mechanically bobbing its head to the music. "You know that means 'Today is my day' in German? Kinda ironic when you think about it. You know, what with all the death and flames and what have you."
Andrew blinked. "My brain just shat itself.”
Morris nodded. "Mine too." Flabbergasted as we were, a talking robot didn't seem that farfetched anymore. We walked over to it, mouths agape.
The robot was still bobbing its head. "Ya kinda need to listen to something like this every once in awhile, you know? Boosts the morale."
"Andrew," I asked, "what program causes it to do that?"
"The fucked up one," Andrew retorted.
The robot reared its head back, as if offended. "Well that's not very nice. You know, you all are awfully crude. It doesn't help with refuting the blue-collar stereotype."
I shook my head, my hands flailing as I tried to make sense of this outlandish situation. "What are you...doing in a...What are you exactly? I mean–"
"It's alright," the robot assured as it leaned its head back in. "Kind of confusing, I know. To sum it up, I've been put in timeout."
"That still doesn't answer the 'what' part," I said.
"Oh, that," the robot said, its head lowering. "Well, I'm normally a splendid creature of lore, but like I said, I'm in timeout."
Andrew shook his head in disbelief. "In a fag-bot?"
"Hey!" the robot snapped as it jerked its head towards Andrew. "Curse words are just filler ya know!"
I made a repressive gesture. "Okay, okay, fine. We get that. Why were you put in time-out?"
The robot sunk its head again. "I ate too many hobos..."
"You know what? Never mind," I said in frustration. "You think you can help us with Dick?" I was getting sick of that accidental pun.
"Dick?" the robot said, raising its head and turning in the direction Dick had gone. "Oh! You mean Kobal?" The robot sighed. "Kobal's been kinda grumpy here lately."
"Why?" I asked.
"Well," the robot said, "the last time we talked he said something about his old lady cheating on him with an incubus...es."
"Wow," Morris said. "That kind of sucks."
"Yeah," the robot sympathized. "I tried telling him that those incubi are a lascivious lot, but he kept on inviting them over for poker." The robot shook its head. "No one listens to me though."
"So what's with the chocolate craze?" I asked.
"He's trying to fill that hole in his heart with a creamy cocoa center," the robot replied. "I'm amazed he keeps the physique he has. I wonder how he does it. Is it high or low reps?"
"Um, robot–" I began.
"I mean I've never had to worry about weight, though I eat a diet rich in protein and do a lot of calisthenics."
"High-intensity flying intervals are great cardio..."
Andrew was fed up. "GODDAMN ROBOT WILL YOU SHUT UP AND TELL US WHAT WE NEED TO DO?"
The robot swiveled its head towards Andrew. "I bet you could buy a third-world country with your curse jar."
I intervened before the diatribe could continue. "Look, we really need your help. Kobal is going to be back at any moment–"
"I'm back," the demon announced as he rolled up in his flaming forklift. His brow knitted as he eyed us.
The robot raised its head up and greeted him. "Hi Kobal!"
Kobal did a double-take. "The hell are you doing? You're not supposed to be yapping with mortals!"
"Well," the robot replied, "I don't think slaughtering factory workers is a part of your probation either."
Kobal sputtered his lips and leaned forward on his forklift. "And what's to stop me from blowing your metal ass to smithereens if you blab it around?"
"You'd do that for me?" the robot said merrily. "That would be great! It'd nullify my time-out!"
Kobal's lower lip stiffened. "Never mind. That would devalue my status as a dickhead."
The conversation seemed to have strayed from us. We decided to skulk off and let the two talk. The robot said, "I know you're upset about Lillian. But you gotta understand that those incubi are like Lay's potato chips for women."
Kobal's lip curled. "Mind the pun, dill-wipe, I'm still smarting from that. One sec..."
He snapped his fingers, and a wall of flame erupted around us. Andrew shouted to Kobal, "Could you at least turn off the techno?"
With a pensive wave of his hand, the song on the loudspeaker switched to Edvard Grieg's "Anitra's Dance."
"Well," Andrew said in defeat, "that's it. Just hold me down while I burn my head off."
"This isn't that terrible," I mused. I instantly regretted saying that the moment I was barraged by slaps.
Kobal and the robot continued their conversation. "Look, I'm sure Lillian wasn't in her right mind," the robot said.
Kobal scoffed. "Yeah, okay. That cheating whore gave new definition to the term 'double-stuffed'."
"Oh dear," the robot said. "Well, have you tried talking it out with her?"
"Oh don't be like that."
"No. Seriously. She won't listen ever since I cut her head off and used it as a coffee mug."
"Oh," the robot said. "I'm sure she wasn't very receptive to that."
"Nope, and the stupid whoreasaurus still won't shut up. She keeps telling me to stop buying the bargain brand coffee. I tell her it's the same thing but 'Noooooooooooo. I need to get the Foldger's Black Silk!'"
"Wait!" I interjected. "She could still talk after you cut her head off?"
Kobal flicked his hand at me and cast a ribbon of fire at my groin. "No tag backs.” The pain was like a demonic combination of testicular contortion and misapplied Icy Hot. Despite my wailing agony, the conversation continued.
"Tell you what," the robot offered. "How about I talk to her?"
Kobal snorted. "She might try and rape you."
The robot laughed at that. "Nah, don't worry about that. The physical mechanics would be impossible."
"Huh," Kobal said skeptically. "You'd think differently if you'd seen her. Swear to god it was like watching a chicken on a cock-rotisserie."
"Mm," the robot said absently. "Chicken."
Morris decided to take stage. He said hesitantly, "Uh, hey Kobal."
"Yes, meat-sack?" Kobal said drearily, his chin on a clenched fist.
Morris chose his words carefully. "Why don't you both just call it an open marriage?"
Kobal looked as if he'd just been sucker punched by a eureka. The loudspeaker music switched to Sam Fonteyn's "Happy Families." “Pickled dicks in deviled eggs! The meat-sack is onto something!"
Morris shrugged. "I mean, I'm sure you all are pretty liberal down there anyway, right?"
"Yeah," Kobal said as he scratched his chin. "I've always wanted to have a thirteensome with a fresco blue-taco and a Samoan Special."
"No homo," Kobal said before vanishing in a plume of flame, the fire around the forklift receding as it reverted to its mundane form. Our fiery prison disappeared, and the music on the loudspeaker faded out.
"Holy crap, Morris!" I said as I gradually recovered from the pain. "You saved us!"
"What the hell is a Samoan Special?" Morris pondered.
"Don't care," Andrew said as he panned his gaze around at the nuked inventory and charred bodies. "This is beyond 5S.” All of us sighed dejectedly.
"Hey!" the robot said. "Cheer up guys! It ain't so bad!"
"How's that?" I asked.
"You have me to talk to!"
Andrew stormed off towards the gate where the robot was kept.
"Hey!" I called after him. "What are you doing?"
He turned to me and said gravely, "Lock Out Tag Out."