A return to the literary sorbet that cleanses the senses, after the weighty verbiage of Aristotle’s theories and postulations. I present the next in the series of Anecdotes.
The same location, the same business and the same period of time have provided a rich vein of anecdotal material. Not only characters from the shop floor, the senior management are worthy of a story or two, also.
Here’s a story of misunderstood kindness and altruism. First names have been changed in each case.
..Was the nickname given to Paul, one of the production operators in a site at the top end of the valleys of Wales, UK. Paul was an excellent operator and had an intense intellect, incongruous with his sometimes disorderly demeanour. He had a strange, febrile temperament; absolutely no one would upset Paul’s fragile disposition, hence the sobriquet.
20 years ago, smoking was allowed in designated areas inside the plant and it pains me to admit that I was a smoker back then. One thing it did afford me was valuable time with the majority of the factory floor staff, as both smokers and non-smokers took advantage of the liberal attitude to “fag breaks”, it was a meeting place for all.
One morning I was in the smoking area and I noticed Paul, alone and looking haunted, attacking his cigarette in one powerful, consuming drag. I ventured toward him and quietly asked,
“What’s up, Paul?” his response was somewhat of a shock.
“Really sorry I was late but I f**kin’ had to kill it”, he replied lamentably.
There’s nothing in any chapter, of any management book that tells one what to do next but I couldn’t leave it there. I continued,
“Killed what, Paul?”, I’m not sure if I winced before his reply. He furthered,
“The sheep, I couldn’t let the kids see it, I had to kill it but I think I made it worse”.
Paul elaborated. He was driving to work that morning for his 06:00 shift, it was Autumn so the mountain road over which he drove was both dark and wet with rain. The mountain roads of the Welsh valleys are populated with sheep, owned but free roaming. Paul had accidentally ran over and gravely injured one as he drove; a tragic, yet not uncommon occurrence.
What Paul did next separates him from most people. He knew that early every morning a minibus full of young children used this mountain road on the way to the local primary school; in his mind the sight of a wounded sheep, thrashing in mortal pain, would be a traumatic experience for the children. Without any sense of doubt, he felt an overwhelming responsibility to provide a solution to this problem.
What Paul soon discovered was that putting a wounded sheep out of its misery is quite a difficult feat; he did eventually manage to achieve his aim but unfortunately, not before the children had passed on their way to school.
Paul recounted to me his recollection of the school bus, lurching heavily as the children moved to one side to get a look through the misty, wet windows. They saw a man, shovel in hand and covered in blood, burying a sheep; no context.
Paul’s humanitarian motive to curtail the suffering of a fatally wounded animal and prevent traumatising a group of children, had achieved exactly what he had set out to avert.
Paul was not a “psycho”, that description couldn’t have been further from the truth. He was a man racked with self-consequence and a heightened sense of personal righteousness. His moral code was, to me, admirable, yet his actions were often perceived as too fiery and impulsive; actions which gained him his unwarranted label.
Not too long after this, Paul left packaging and the world of children’s education found an exceptionally caring practitioner.
© Andy Collinsson June 2020