"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Human Resources

(This was the result of an online writing assignment, in which we students selected four numbers from one to ten, referenced a chart for the corresponding words, then wrote a story including those four words. I'll tell you my words later. Right now I'm posting this to get that spider off the front page.)

Gizmo was well aware that he replaced three men after he was hired by the Empress Cruise Lines. The other guys in the engine room made sure he knew, and that they weren’t at all happy about it.

They called him names behind his back, not realizing how keen his sense of hearing was. Even over the loud twin diesel engines he could hear things they didn’t want him to hear. They called him “Gizmo” to his face, though, and that wasn’t even his real name. That was fine with him. He’d been called Gizmo ever since he could remember because his real name was almost unpronounceable in English.

He was a little sorry about putting three men out of work, but he had to work too, didn’t he? Maybe if they worked out the way he did they would have the physical strength to do the things he did. Every time there was a lull in engine room repairs the other guys started a poker game while Gizmo practiced chin-ups on the overhead rigid hydraulic lines that ran from the bow thrusters to the hydraulic reservoir tank. Over and over and over, hundreds of times. Sometimes he’d swing back and forth, trying to keep the rough calluses built up on the palms and fingers of his hands so he could work on the hot engines without those clumsy gloves.

But mostly Gizmo kept his head down and his rear end up, in the manner of employees everywhere who just want to do their job and not cause trouble. His knowledge and strong body and work ethic were tailor-made for his success. He’d been taught that at the diesel mechanics vocational school he’d attended.

He was happy to have the job, even if he was lonely aboard the ship. The other guys in the engine room made attempts to talk to him in the beginning, but after a while they said they couldn’t understand him. Gizmo figured his accent was still too thick, so he’d been practicing and working on it. He’d try to mimic the words the others said, but they’d just laugh at him.

The food was great. He had no complaints about that. Gizmo was a vegetarian and the ship served lots of fresh fruit and vegetables to the crew. He could eat all the salad he wanted, too. The steward had given Gizmo an extra large salad bowl.

He had no interest in the casinos or in the poker games that sprang up in the crew’s dining room after hours, so he was able to save all his paychecks. He gave them to the ship’s purser, who put them in the ship’s safe.

The ship sailed Alaska’s Inside Passage every week, and Gizmo appreciated the spectacular scenery. Sometimes when they reached the northern port of Haines the weather would be cold and rainy. He didn’t care for that at all, because Gizmo was from the south and preferred hot weather. He wished he could transfer to a ship that sailed the Caribbean. Maybe even Hawaii. First, though, he had to prove himself on this ship before he could put in for a transfer. The cruise line had taken a big risk in hiring him and it had received lots of complaints from the Seamen’s Union about the loss of three jobs.

Gizmo fondly remembered his biggest achievement. The main propulsion engine had started leaking oil quite rapidly from the rear main seal while out in the middle of Queen Charlotte Sound. This was the only open water on the voyage and more than half the passengers and crew became seasick after the ship’s Captain shut down the engines so the men could replace the seal. Such was their hurry that the foreman told Gizmo to hold the main shaft while the men removed and replaced the seal. They had an overhead crane for such tasks, but having Gizmo hold it with his brute strength was ten times faster. Not OSHA approved, but faster.

Even the Captain and the First Mate sent their thanks down to the engine room after that feat. That made Gizmo feel warm and fuzzy, even though he knew they, too, resented him. Those unions were a problem.

What made Gizmo drop a letter in the mail was the loneliness. He longed to engage others in conversation as he had at vocational school. He wanted to discuss philosophy and technology (he’d minored in computer engineering at school) and—most of all—females. The letter was addressed to the Human Resources Department at Hewlitt-Packard, the big computer company. It was a job application.

An answer finally arrived in the mail near the end of the cruise ship’s season. Gizmo ripped open the envelope, read the message and jumped and jumped for joy. He’d been hired and was to report to HP as soon as he was laid off from his present job.

“Finally!” yelled Gizmo in his native language. “Finally I will get to talk to people.”

But even Gizmo knew the true reason why he was being hired. He also knew he’d be able to handle the work of at least three people there. He wasn’t a stupid ape like the other mechanics called him. He was a strong, proud mountain gorilla, and he knew HP wanted him because consumers who called tech support wouldn’t be able to understand him at all.


(Words: gorilla, fixing a machine, cruise ship, career change)

1 comment:

  1. Talk about a "twist" at the end. I liked this when I read it in class and again now.