Thursday, March 09, 2006

The shoe nazi

this week it seems it's my turn. Last month it was Steve's turn. Next month? Who knows?

The customer facility I'm working in this week is a 'clean' facility. Dust really can be a problem in semiconductor manufacture so they take steps to combat it. Most of the manufacturing floor is under positive air pressure; open a door from the corridor and a blast of wind blows out of the room into the corridor. Hopefully the dust gets blown away.

There's an elaborate protocol surrounding entering the building. It's understood that one can't wear ones street shoes inside the building. You enter the building and stop this side of that line taped down on the floor. Take off your shoes and walk, in socks, through no-shoes land to another line taped on the floor. That marks the boundary where you put on the 'special' shoes. Woe betide if you stick a toe over either line whilst not correctly shod.

That's just the building! Fortunately I never have to enter bunny suit territory!

Just getting the authority to enter the building entails passing an examination of your knowledge of anti-static and electrostatic theory. Not a terribly onerous exam as it turns out; I passed it first time after ten minutes of reading a backgrounder. I had been exposed to such theory before though; in the early 1980's Hewlett Packard trained us all in the 'new' handling of sensitive electronics. The change from TTL to CMOS involved a host of new handling techniques; the static electricity generated by walking across an office carpet can destroy much electronics.

As an aside, when I'm on the customer site I never ever touch anything I have no business touching. The last thing I need is for them to be able to blame me for the loss of half a days production.

That's the theory. Now for the reality. Once you've entered no-shoes land you're passing lockers provided for the workers. When they're on the premises their street shoes are in the locker; when they're not their 'special shoes' and smock are in the locker.

I, as a visitor, don't have a locker. I have an antistatic plastic bag to put my street shoes in. I do have access to a locker but I have to chase someone for the key; it's easier to not use one and just carry a bag.

As you well know, I'm a smoker. Going out for a smoke involves crossing 'no-shoes' land, changing shoes, taking off my smock, walking down a steep hill and lighting up in the car park. It's enough work that one doesn't just have the one smoke; going out for a smoke involves half an hour and at least three smokes!

So this week it's my turn to be the target of the Shoe Nazi. If Seinfeld could do the Soup Nazi I can certainly do the shoe one!

She first tackled me on Monday. My antistatic plastic bag aforesaid contains my 'special shoes' and my smock. Not good enough. I can't put them both in the same bag. But where do I get a second bag for the smock? Not her problem. I get to stand there waiting while my sponsor comes to rescue me. Since I'm only a small part of his problems I get to wait an hour or so. But he comes, okays me through and forgets about it. No antistatic plastic bag.

This may seem like a minor point but you really can't go to the local corner shop and buy one. Nor, it seems, are they easy to come by at the facility. By dint of much begging I secured a second one, large enough for my smock. So now I've got two bags. A big one and a smaller one.

Tuesday. The shoe nazi notices that I take my street shoes out of the big bag and put my 'special shoes' in. Not good enough! I now need a bag for my street shoes, and a bag for my smock. More begging.

Wednesday. The shoe nazi notices that even though my smock goes into it's own bag and my street shoes go into their own bag, my 'special shoes' just go into the large bag that holds the other two bags. Not good enough!

Thursday. I now have a big bag that holds three other bags. One of them holds my smock, the second my street shoes, the third my 'special shoes'.

As a vendor representative I have to just suck it up but it's galling to see how she revels in that tiny bit of power she has. More than once I've felt like dragging her to see how the lockers work. A colleague of mine pointed out once that we shove 'special shoes' that have trodden in urine into the locker beside the smocks we wear. Add to that the fact that we interchange our street shoes and 'special shoes' in the same locker and the whole isolation thing becomes somewhat moot.

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