January 30st, 2k7

January 30st, 2k7
Current mood: chipper

Brian’s Saga continues:


Brian’s day began like every other day, a hellish commute to a job he didn’t really care about so he could pay for an apartment he didn’t like. There wasn’t REALLY anything wrong with the apartment. As far as “box” housing goes, it was pretty average. He was more attached to the memories he had in the place than the place itself. That and he had a really good parking spot if he beat Mrs. Grabowski home after work. In the logical part of his head, he knew that he really needed to find a place closer to work. Or a work closer to his place.

After the break up last year (don’t ask) he just didn’t really give a shit. He knew that it was really stupid to live in Gig Harbor and commute to Kent. He knew he was wasting a fortune in gas every week, not to mention car repairs and all the crap that goes with it. He just didn’t have the heart to leave the place that had been “their place.” The sad part is that it would actually be cheaper to go to a shrink! Gas at three fifty a gallon and the toll on that stupid new bridge were going to bankrupt him.

He left home at 6am, and barely clocked in on time. Two hours to go less than 40 miles. Another start to another mind-numbing day. Thank the gods for the home-brew espresso maker. If he didn’t work at a roasting plant, he’d be broke from supporting his caffeine habit. At least he’d been able to give up the nicotine before the breakup. One bad habit was more than enough, thank you very much.

Pulling in to the parking lot, Brian tried to clear his head, and forget about last month. It was a daily ritual for him: Shake off the breakup, shake off the commute, and prepare his head for the day. When he told most people what he did for a living, they either laughed at him, or made some comment along the lines of “must be nice have such an easy job.” Arrogant assholes had no clue that roasting coffee beans was an art.

Buzzing in through the employee entrance, and made his way to the lab, wondering for the millionth time why coffee beans smelled like popcorn during their first roast. He always walked the length of the plant on his way in, to get a feel for the temperature and the humidity inside the old brick building. About half way to the office, his pager started going off.

He didn’t even need to look at it. Only two people had his pager number, and she was on her honeymoon. Brian ducked into the nearest office, some regional veep of distribution or some such crap. Without bothering to ask, he grabbed the phone, and punched in the extension. The VP gave him a dirty look, which Brian ignored. MBA’s were a dime a dozen around here; he never even bothered to learn their names. After a few rings, Deborah picked up.

“hey Deb. Yeah, it’s me. Yeah, I got the page. Calm down, I’m already here. The QC lab? Yeah, I’ll be there in a minute.” Figures. Leave it to Deborah to overreact.

Deborah, known as ‘the duck’ was the token on-site HR person. As there wasn’t much “HR” work to do, she spent most of her time migrating around the plant, leaving little droppings of wisdom with the employees: “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little ‘extra'” “It’s time to think outside the box!” and the perennial favorite “E-mail is not to be used to pass on information or data. It should be used only for company business.”

She was known as ‘the duck’ for several reasons, not the least of which was her penchant for wearing dark (mallard?) green sweaters and a horrible orange-ish lipstick that you could swear was color matched to a duck’s lips. She also had beady eyes, and a tendency to sort of waddle when she walked. ‘Ducking the duck’ was common practice in the old building, and you could occasionally find a whole group of workers on a scaffold behind the storage silo, talking quietly, all avoiding the latest middle-management catchphrase.

Doubling back he headed for the QC lab, which was on the other side of the plant, closer to the shipping docks. His normal “office,” if you could call it that, was on the receiving end of the plant, where the green coffee beans came in. As the master-roaster, he was directly responsible for the quality of every batch, and monitored every step from sorting, resting, first and second roasts, right up until the batch was handed over for packaging.

The biggest part of his job was closely monitoring each batch of beans as they roasted, and controlling every facet of the roast: temperature, drum speed, humidity, and most importantly, time. The real art was in killing the burners before the second “pop” of the beans, and letting the residual heat finish the job. The result was a perfect second pop without over-roasting the beans.

There was a visible bustle of activity surrounding and inside the QC lab. White coats scurrying hither and thither, looking like so many albino ants. As he got closer, he saw a flash of gray wool in the midst of the lab coats, and felt a twinge of uneasiness. Nobody in this plant wore a suit. He was the senior staff member, and the closest he ever got to a suit is when he had to walk past them on his way to electronics at Sears. Something pretty serious must be going on to warrant a suit. It was only a few miles up the road to the headquarters building in Seattle, but that commute was worse than his.

He could see through the window as he got closer that Deborah was holding a clipboard, having a very animated discussion with the suit. Presumably she was talking to the occupant, but for all the response she was getting, she would have done just as well to converse with the fabric. Steeling himself for some unknown unpleasantness, Brian walked in to the QC lab, and seemed to bring a blanket of silence in with him. Even Deborah seemed to sense that he was there, and rushed to him, waving her clipboard around. Her green sweater conjured the most absurd image of a mallard duck trying to take off with only one wing.

“Mr. Griffin, it’s about time! There’s a problem with yesterday’s roasts
! It’s all decaf.” she said, jabbing her finger into the clipboard.

Brian took the clipboard, and started looking over the figures. He wasn’t about to talk to the suit unarmed. The figures on the clipboard was the results of caffeine content testing from the liquid chromatography machine; all the numbers were flat zeros. It couldn’t be right. It was impossible for coffee to have 0mg of caffeine. Even decaf wasn’t completely caffeine free.

He had never trusted the “magic box” method. There had to be something wrong, and the obvious suspect was the chromatography machine itself. They had tested for years with the standard lead acetate and methylene chloride process. It was the way he had been taught, and this “magic box” robbed the process of its romance.

In a move that would probably get him a rebuke later on, he turned heel and made for his lab, where he kept all his own equipment and chemicals. He would do his own tests, and prove that everything was okay. And he needed a cup of coffee.


So a couple quick notes. At least for now, I’m going to re-post the beginning every time I write more. At least until I get a good portion finished, and I’m not going to re-write it. For now. I’ve run across some interesting sites trying to find information on caffeine and whatnot. I’ve posted some links below.

The Coffee and Caffeine FAQ

Caffeine Analysis (at the department of energy, no shit)

Starbucks Case Study

And a note for wuff… Wow. To hate myspace so vehemently is admirable. I felt the same until I started making contact with some old friends. It is pretty bogus that you have to sign up to even view profiles, but I feel that the pain-in-the-ass of the registration is depreciated with every new/old friend I make contact with. Plus, it gives me a place to cross-post my blog, and feel important 😀

All I can really say with any authority on the subject is this: If I had lost contact with you over the years, it would be worth signing up for 1000 myspace accounts to find you. Even if it violated their TOS.

Thanks for Reading….

This is, as always, cross-posted with http://360.yahoo.com/nxtplato