That Gum You Like


Posted in Melbourne by Dave on October 20, 2009

Hey Hey Hey–

Nope, I haven’t been devoured by a rapid kangaroo or crushed by a mob of footy fanatics. Just lazy and unmotivated to blog, considering the relative lack of activity in these parts. I really frontloaded my activities for the trip– since I updated last, I’ve really just been working in the plant and getting used to life in Melbourne. Which really means a lotta movies, few books, and lotta x-files. I’ve been doing some exploring too, but this mostly means getting lost on my way to buy bread.

Easily the most bloggable thing in my life these days is my job working for Electroimpact Australia, in the Boeing plant in Melbourne. Boeing is working on a big new airplane, the 787 ‘Dreamliner’, utilizing carbon-fiber something or other, and have contracted Electroimpact (full disclosure: I have this job exclusively because my uncle is a bigwig in the company) to build assembly lines that will build the wings.

At least I think this is what I’m doing. Really, I could be building assembly lines that wrap Starbursts or stuff teddy bears, for all the comprehension I have of what’s going on around me. Really all I know is that I show up four days a week from 830-5 and do tasks that could be completed by an inbred Appalachian with a learning disability. The plant is enormous, and I walk through various Boeing activities everyday, and as far as I can tell, the most important requirements to work in this plant are the existence of thumbs and a willingness to heckle whoever happens to walk by. As well as the incredible amount of courage it takes to dodge seagull attacks on your way into work.

To delve a little further into specifics, here’s what I did today. I got to work very late, around 10 (really, nobody cares what I do, I have this job purely as a favor, and my co-workers could care less when I show up and when I leave), changed into my steel-toed boots and headed down to the little corner of a gargantuan warehouse where I’ve been working. I then got into a little trench that runs under a long row of floor panels (which I spent the vast majority of my first week assembling) in one of the assembly lines. The trench is maybe two feet deep and two and half feet wide, so my latent claustrophobia kicked in immediately, meaning my movements were frantic, uncoordinated, and destined for painful encounters with the walls of my narrow cave. I spent the two hours till lunch slowly schooching my way along the trench, bolting the floor panels to the wall. After my hour lunch break (so luxurious!), I spent a few hours leveling the floor panels (an extremely particular process that actually required a level, as opposed to the “eh, looks aight” technique I’ve been taught since arriving). Then, I finished off the day hammering a rubber tube onto a rail, so as to soften the impact of the moving parts of the floor.

I wish I could illustrate this fascinating process with a few pictures, but cameras are banned in my part of the factory. Trade secrets for the 787, I suppose, although I wouldn’t know what secrets to steal if someone asked. So, a brief list of other jobs I’ve done. Greasing the teeth of a long (long) rail with several cans of the stickiest, most penetrating green goop I’ve ever encountered, watching my more skilled coworkers play with an enormous crane, assembling 250 bolt and nut combos, looking for washers, sanding huge steal plates and then rubbing them with a deadly liquid known as prep-solve (I was told that if I didn’t wear a mask I’d be high as a kite in about five minutes, and as tempting as that proposition was, I was also told the high would be followed with a cripping headache caused by the death cries of the vast majority of my brain cells), and trying to figure out the espresso machine (fail).

All in all it’s diverting work, and I get to wear headphones most of the time, giving me a good opportunity to listen to Prince and giggle to myself (srsly, “Head” is a hilarious song), drawing stares from any number of super masculine bot-builders. I can’t say I’m really learning much except I don’t every want to work in a factory for real, but it’s more or less perfect, given the circumstances. I suppose, if I’m learning anything, it’s the kind of subconscious environment absorption that I could never get in any other way but spending two months at work. Like, I can definitely say that I have a very good feel for the way the company works, in a way that’s kind of inexplicable. It’s like in fourth grade, when your teacher asks you to explain what division is to a martian, and you can’t do it, because all the building blocks are so taken for granted that you forget to explain them. Was that everybody’s fourth grade teacher? Just mine? Okay, well, I think you get my point nonetheless. What I’m trying to say is that I’m glad I’m getting this kind of inexplicable experience.

But okay yeah, other than the factory, I’ve got nothin’ new for ya. My frequent wanderings throughout Melbourne are mostly without a strict goal in mind, so I haven’t seen any of the “sights” since I last updated. Or at least not on purpose or that stick out in my mind. I do think I have a much more defined view of Melbourne though. It’s is an alright city, but it’s seriously flawed in a few ways. It’s extremely spread out, where the suburbs have grown into miniature districts of the city. The effect this creates is a total lack of a real “downtown” and makes the goal of having a handle on the layout of the city as a whole nearly impossible. But my little corner of it grows more manageable by the day, and I’m starting to feel comfortable cruising around the neighborhood (I’m at least getting lost a lot less, only about 25% of the time I leave the apartment. Although probably more like 75% if I venture beyond 10 blocks in any direction.

I promise to get better about blogging, now that I’ve gotten over the hump of not having a whole lot to talk about, I’ll be more diligent about rambling. Hopefully soon, I’ll have accumulated enough pix and necessary songs to do a media post.

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