It was Rolo who pointed me towards this story and its author:
We jobbers assembled wires and spirals, put small plastic discs into oval red-painted metal pieces – and at the opposite end of the assembly line sat Mehdi. He drilled a hole through the eggs with his machine, then the thing was finished.
During the first few weeks, I still tried to find out what it was I made. After all, you wanted to find something that made sense in what you did – or at least that was the idea. Well, said one of the jobbers, a politics student from Sierra Leone, the piece is obviously for car motors. It plays an important role in the carburator. The Polish student of religions said it is for export to Japan, where it will be part of a shintoistic sect cult and highly venerated.
The only thing we knew for certain was that the finished pieces were rather expensive. Behind closed doors, it was said that they cost 300.- Deutsch Marks per piece. But nobody knew for certain. The eggs had different sizes. They varied weekly. Our foreman adjusted the machines to fit and we had to do everything exactly as he ordered it.
He enjoyed being in charge and ordering people around. Soon, these students would leave the university and then play boss with their bizarre theories, but here, in the practical world, it was still he who was boss.
His favourite sentence was: »We do not pay you for thinking, but for working.« He was really one of the old types. For him, the phrase “co-operative leadership” belonged in the same category as homosexual swinishness.
One morning, shortly after seven o’clock, Mehdi, the exiled Iranian, called to the foreman: »The machine is not correctly adjusted.« The foreman’s reply was: »How would you know that, you stupid Turk. Shut up and do your work.«
Around eight, Mehdi again called the foreman: »Can’t you see! The machine is not properly adjusted. The angle for drilling is too steep. I think if you…«
The foreman said: »We do not pay you for thinking, but for working.«
Mehdi drilled. He drilled and drilled. 120 eggs per hour. The smile on his face got broader and broader. Occasionally, he shook his head with an air of incredulity: »Rejects«, he said. »Friends, do not waste hard labour on this«, were his words to us, »I am turning all your work into rejects, anyway. These are all rejects.« He chuckled softly. We started wondering when they would discover it.
They found out half an hour before the day’s end. The department head yelled, sounding like he had fallen into the skip. Mehdi was already cleaning his machine when the hierarchy approached him: the department head, the master, the foreman. Well, said Mehdi, hadn’t he told them that the machine was not properly adjusted? The foreman asked how Mehdi assumed he would know this kind of thing.
Mehdi said: »Well, I study machine engineering in the eighth semester.« With tears in his eyes, the department head asked Mehdi if he was aware of the fact that he had produced rejects to the tune of a quarter million Deutsch Marks. »Is that how much it was?«, said Mehdi. The rest of us who were standing around quickly did the arithmetic. Well, it meant that the 300 Deutsch Mark per piece were true.
I think this is a truly beautiful story!
The author is BOV BJERG
Bov Bjerg, born 1965. The former truck driver is now editor for the magazine »Salbader« and columnist of the Berlin city paper »Scheinschlag«. He reads at the »Reformbühne Heim & Welt« and at the »Mittwochsfazit«.
(On the internet: www.bjerg.de)
(Translated by EG)
Rolo is Rolo Zollner, a cherished friend and excellent photographer. Occasionally, he permits me to publish pictures he took in the IF blog.