Oops, I’ve run out of zongs.

A significant part of my job is the visual inspection of a part, usually one that is classified as a critical part or a critical rotating part. Those are usually rotors, impellers and shafts that form the heart of any aircraft engine.

If you stroll into my work area, you’ll find me and my buddies hunched over, peering intently at a rotor or an impeller, millimeter by millimeter, a bright yellow glare-free lamp above forming a blob of brightness in the otherwise deliberately dimly lit area. One part takes around an hour of intent staring. If it is a small first stage rotor, you can hold it in your hand and turn it this way and that as your eyes scour its surface for minute imperfections such as scratches, dents or fingerprints. If the rotor is large and heavy, you have to mount it on a rotating table and inspect it.

The room is a very silent one. Visual inspection needs some degree of concentration. Any distraction and I can lose track of exactly where my eyes were and I’ll have to start over. As you enter the room, your eyes adjust themselves to the dimness which surrounds the little islands of light and you begin to discern the silhouettes of the men hunched over, immobile, intently staring at the parts in front of them.

It is an ideal setup for making the mind wander. After some years doing the same thing, you get ta know every surface feature of a part and the process becomes mechanical. Your mind begins to stray. Into all sorts of things. How you got to where you are. Your parents. You try to remember the last words they said to you before you got in the taxi. Then comes the bout of self-flagellation. You wish you could have been a better Dad, a better husband. And finally the erotica. Scarlett Johanssen. Scarlett Johanssen? What’s there ta think, about Scarlett Johanssen?

You steal a glance at your buddies, each sitting inside his own pool of light, his own cocoon. They are doing the same thing. They are staring at their individual parts and you wonder if they’re really looking. Sometimes you spot a pair of eyes that are a bit more moist or reddened than usual, an adam’s apple bobbing here and a sigh there. You know not to butt in. If you see someone grinning, you can be sure he is thinking of sex.

Usually Kenny or Lazslo break the spell. One or both take out their zongs (rubber bands) and start zinging. Zinging is when you stretch a rubber band on your thumb and let go. It zings to the guy you aimed it at and strikes him with a painful sting. If he is concentrating on something he could get mighty mad. Lazslo has the best aim. If you are confused about the grammar of the verb ‘zing’, just remember, the rules are the same as in ‘sing’.

Stefan and Penny met over a zong. Here’s what happened. Stefan zang and the zong flew over five cubicles and landed in Penny’s coffee cup. Stefan went over to reclaim his zong and when he noticed how pretty Penny was, he offered ta get her another coffee. One thing led to another and they have three kids now.

Last Christmas, on the last day before the break when everyone was exchanging gifts, I gave Marianne in HR a box of paper clips. “Pink! My fav color! Thanks, Arch!” said she and she kissed me. On the cheek. Everyone kisses me on the cheek these days. If I register my lips at Emploi-Quebec, I could collect unemployment benefits. Marianne gave me a box of zongs in return. Nice tough ones that we use to hold folders together. You zing one of these mothers and you can hit a guy in China and make it sting, I swear.

I didn’t ask Marianne where she got the box of zongs. Zongs are in great demand and no one knows exactly where they originate from, except that everyone finds his zong box replenished once a week by some unseen hand. Grapevine has it that that unseen hand belongs to Mitch McPuck and that Mitch replenishes stocks from his workshop at the Ross Ice Shelf in the Antarctic. He is making a patchwork quilt cover from panties, down there and his foreman is a large sullen cigar chomping emperor penguin.

Mitch doesn’t buy the panties wholesale. He sneaks into our department at night and steals them from the women’s drawers. I have no idea why but women like ta leave panties in their drawers after work. I have stopped wondering about why women are the way they are. If you are replacing a female colleague, fumigate the drawers please, if you don’t want ta catch something.

Right now, I have to find a place ta hide my new stash of zongs. From Genghiz and Kublai. I mean Kenny and Lazslo.

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