Monday, July 19, 2010

Adhesive Episode 1

Thanks to my three-year packaging stint, I have sincere respect for adhesives. No species can be as fickle-minded and highly misunderstood as the adhesives.

I inherited an entire empire of training materials on all sorts of packaging. Flexibles, rigids/bottles, caps, labels, printing technology, CMYK, inks and pigments – but the common denominator of most packaging when assembled together is the adhesive. Without it, there will be delamination. Cartons will have open flaps and bottles will have peeling labels (or worse, no labels). Being the most obscure and less popular, there is little training material on adhesives. Most are only the basic stuff.

While we were working on a supposedly big project, we encountered a packaging problem that was linked to adhesives. It could be the equipment; it could the bottle; and it could be the atmospheric condition as labels are temperature-sensitive. But the root-cause pointed to the adhesive.

Adhesives are temperature-sensitive. In my thirteen-year career so far, I have worked on at least two products and four raw/pack mats that are temperature-sensitive. By temperature-sensitive, we mean it cannot be stored below 30-35C or more (depending on the degree of testing done by its manufacturers researchers, or the lack of it come to think about that). Which means air-conditioned shipping and storage or else, blah blah blah blah will happen. I recall our Ops team sharing an office space with such a raw material, during those early days when insisting on AC-storage meant shutting down a project, and not sharing the office space with the raw material in tow would mean a violation of the RMS.

I, a human being survived working in a 32C/88%RH warehouse, spending one shift or more for several months collecting samples and doing my weekly testing in the same area, survived. But apparently these materials can’t. We have a material now for whom we cleared a hefty amount of warehouse space (while others slumber on floor space, which gave rise to the On-Floor Location to make it technically correct and acceptable), just so it can sit under 26C temperature. Air-conditioned, of-course. We even joked that it is so comfy we can probably put a work pod next to it, or hold meetings in the same space during diabolical seasons. Assuming HS&E will allow, of course. And assuming humans won't contaminate the atmosphere.

Back to the adhesives…

I was victim of lousy shoe adhesives at least twice. The first one can be ruled out as unfortunate but the second one was downright embarrassing and shot up my BP to dangerous levels.

Both circumstances involve travelling at high altitude and low temperature. And both involved shoes that come with soles that are held together by adhesives. Which formed my hypothesis that shoe adhesives fail when exposed to sudden low temp and high altitude. Which means you end up with broken shoes. Note that it is plural because in my experience, it happens not only to one but to both!

The first incident involved a pair of sneakers. A new pair bought by my husband in his futile attempt to get me to do some exercise. I decided to wear it to this teambuilding event somewhere in foggy Tagaytay where sports attire is a must. Few minutes after landing to our venue, the soles gave way. Given that it is new and that it is a reputable brand, I found it weird. I probably look ridiculous with my sneakers’ wayward sole flapping noisily everytime I had to walk but there was nothing I can do. But to add to the horror, the other pair started to give way too! Pair of soleless sneakers flapping about makes me want to laugh hysterically for looking like an idiot without even trying! I won't be caught looking like one so I had to think fast.

And then in a perfect Mentos-moment, I summoned enough force to tear-off the blasted soles from the sneakers and in a jiffy, I was walking back normally and you can’t tell the difference. I was 0.5 inch shorter but the sneaker looked just fine.

Talk about Adhesive Episode Two, it requires a separate column space altogether so I'll end it here for now.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Stormy Days Are Here Again

This time I meant literally. It's about time we get some rain, but storms are entirely a different matter.

We received news about tropical storm Basyang around late Tuesday afternoon. Google says its gonna be Signal #2 in Laguna where we live (and work). In our country, being visited by Storm Signal #2 is like having mid-morning coffee. We were so used to it we even have Storm Preparation Checklist.

But never underestimate storms. Even those that come with the same signal/strength, storms are not created equal.

I was determined to sleep early that night, having been up in the plant by 4:30 am that day(!). I kept the transistor radio on beside me for some latebreaking news about Basyang. I noticed it was quite calm outside and there was no mention in the late night news.

I was roused around 12 midnight and I heard the wind howling eerily and mercilessly gnashing against the windows. Didn't seem like a #2. More of #3.

Despite the neurotic nature of sliding windows during rainy seasons (ask my officemate Pong, et al), our windows were cooperating and my next worry is the DLP High Rise. True enough, power was out and water intrusions were everywhere. I managed to send a few SMS despite being drowsy and realized that power in our household was also out. Which means water is dead. The kids were too sleepy to make a fuss out of a stuffy AC-less sleep. Alvin was also up by then, managed to find the flashlight, brought in a few lighted candles and checked the window panes from time to time. Later he would joke about how I slept the entire episode while everyone else was up and about.

By sunrise, it was calm and quiet but traces of Basyang's wrath is evident. The streets were paved with branches and leaves, our Palm trees were a out of axis and electricity and water are still a no-show. I had to go to the Plant a little early than usual to get a decent bath :-) My phone also kept on getting SMS here and there about various road conditions in the south and folks who were either stuck in heavy traffic, stuck at home or stuck clearing off water.

And so, I thought while ruminating all these, the Stormy Days had just begun.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010



It was a Friday afternoon and there I was with my teary-eyed friend, standing in front of the mirror by the ladies room. I gave her a consoling arm-over-her-shoulder hug. It was the most I can do knowing that I was part of her jigsaw-puzzle-of-grief that day. While I listen to her run down of week long frustrations, the well of tears started to fall all over again. In that moment I can feel like her chest is going to explode. I feel the weight of her burden. Like all is lost and no amount of consoling can make it better.
I was actually reading a paperback (of a feel good story) that night and for some eerie reason not connected to the book, the memories of that afternoon came back to me. I tried (while still focused on my reading) to think back what triggered it.

And then, in a perfect “eureka moment” I knew. It was the well of tears.

It jogged my subconscious. It made me look back.

So I asked myself (while still reading…), when was the last time I cried a tear over work-related frustrations anyway? Maybe next time I can tell my friend about it and exchange stories with her of how I survived it. Maybe it does not make your angst go away but it lessens the pain. Maybe it does not really make everything better at that point when your cauldron of emotions is boiling over but at least we’ll have an interesting topic to talk about over coffee.

And so my mind made a mental rewind as I approached chapter three of my book.

Well? It’s been quite a long, long while.

How so?

It is inevitable that we sometimes find ourselves in an emotionally gripping situation at work. As mature people, we have to face the music but there will also be unsolicited, unwanted spots of verbal-torture that can leave you feeling drained and useless.

When I am about to be overcome by such difficult, gripping moments, I realized that I can always go to this place somewhere inside me where no one can reach you. Where no words can hurt or has a power to tear you into shreds. Where I am invincible to pain, grief, sadness or disappointment. Somewhere. Where I can retreat so that I can come out whole and unscathed. And go on with life (in this case, work) as we know it.

I am glad there is Somewhere.

Postscript: And at this juncture, I closed the book and got up to find my laptop. My next blog entry was born. Thanks to you my friend, for the inspiration.