austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

To everything, turn, turn, turn

Sometimes reading the news leads to the suspicion the world is becoming alarming. A headline could read ``Leapfrogging mayor injures woman dressed as tomato'', which may fairly describe the event, but it's still bizarre. Or you might come across a three-column headline ``World Denies Sneaking Up On You'', subhead, ``UN Rep: `That's No Blindfold And Gag Either'.'' It's certainly not a gag, as you'll find out if you don't retreat to your bedroom and lock the door, but you have to admit it's sporting of them to warn you.

What's got me worried is a Reuters piece saying a German factory worker stole over a million screws from his employer. Allegedly he smuggled home between two thousand and seven thousand screws each night, which is hard to imagine. I could see fitting dozens in each pocket, and maybe in his shirt pocket if he expected people wouldn't notice he seemed to be standing at a funny angle, but that leaves, some nights, over six thousand screws to fit somewhere.

If he had a huge stomach he could fit four or five screws in his belly button, but that's barely getting started in the problem of hiding them. He could probably get a strip of tape and tape hundreds of screws to his skin under his clothes, but then there would be a lot of little pinchy hurts as he took them off back home. And the whole time leaving the plant he'd be in danger of detection whenever anybody hugged him. Maybe he didn't work at a very huggy assembly plant, though.

But he made it out of work each day for a couple years, apparently, without being hugged, and would have gone undetected except he was auctioning his stolen screws on the Internet, and police in the southern German city of Wuerzburg concluded that ``it became obvious that screws were being sold for much less than they usually cost'', which I guess is what lead them to the screw-stealing racket.

Am I the only person disturbed to know there's a substantial online auction market in screws? They're screws. You find them laying loose in the kitchen drawer you always open last because it's filled with things like loose screws, or you get them out of the garage where they're inside thick punctured-open plastic baggies containing mostly screws of the same size with a few that don't match at all which you pick out invariably whenever you wanted the labelled size instead. I suppose these must come somehow from screw manufacturers, but the easiest way to find a screw is to walk barefoot at night and step on one. Were his buyers not aware of this?

And it's not said that he worked for a screw manufacturer. Maybe that was an oversight, but would they have described his workplace as an ``assembly plant'' if they were making screws, which are picked from the ripe fruit of the screw-berry plant? What were they assembling that he could take seven thousand screws in a night from it and not see the product come through as a pile of components lightly brushed against one another? Was he taking them from already completed products? And nevertheless unless he was pretending online to be a screw manufacturer or wholesaler this means his customers had to be expecting that they were bidding online for second-hand screws.

I know you can buy anything online if you look enough, and you can find an auction for anything from half-filled-out warranty cards to air conditioners bought in 1983 through to videotape of an ineptly performed example of ``The Wave'' from a high school football game in Watchung, New Jersey. But this is an online auction market in second-hand screws big enough to make a noticeable dent in world-wide screw finances.

And then south German municipal police are familiar enough with the commercial details of screw manufacture to detect a person selling them at an economically unsustainable price. There must be a logical historical path that's got us to this point, but I suspect it's because we're all sneaking up on someone. I'll go hide in my bedroom.

Trivia: n 1800 British screws cost less than tuppence a dozen. Source: One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw, Witold Rybczynski.

Currently Reading: The C-5A Scandal, Berkeley Rice.


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