Thursday, February 07, 2008

Characters at the Factory #2 - Didier

I've just finished another shift cycle. - Six days of 2 morning shifts, 2 day shifts and 2 night shifts. The night shifts run from 8:00 at night till 4:00 in the morning. Which means I've just got out of bed, my eyes are like piss-holes in snow, and my head is thick and confused like I'm hungover. But now I'm off till the next morning shift - 4:00am on Monday.

But I must tell you about Didier.

Didier drives the Transbordeur. Transbo for short. This is a huge beast on rails that runs up and down the factory taking the tiles we've just made into one of the 28drying chambers and then delivering a stack of dry tiles so that they can be sent to the kiln and their chassis re-used for the tiles we're currently making. See?
Anyway, how the transbo works isn't important, but since, while driving it Didier delivers dry tiles to the press and takes away fresh tiles, it means he visits the press over 60 times during the shift.

And each time he comes there is some sort of weird interaction between us, that's become like a ritual.

He's fifty-something, small, a little chubby and shaves every 3-4 days, so most times he's stubbly. He's a kind man, and friendly. He normally wears two or three t-shirts or sweatshirts and only in the hottest summer wiill he get down to a single shirt. This is only amazing because when he drives his transbo into a drying chamber, hot air is pumped in there (diverted from the kiln) and the room can be over 50 degrees centigrade. You can't stay in there too long. He talks with his mouth full, smacks his lips while eating and never brushes his teeth, so the plaque on his teeth is of Guinness record book quality. He also never washes the armoured bassball cap we all have to wear. Sweat and clay dust has turned the band of his cap into bands of rainbow hue. When he's in a hurry, he doesn't run, he scuttles. As he drives his tansbo he thinks of things that have amused him and will then let out very loud laughter, which causes everyone to look at ech other and shake their heads and say things like "sacré Didier" or "completement cinglé"

So, I'll be at the press, catching tiles. See this post for a vid I took of our press in action. It will help explain why Didier's antics are so exasperating. Didier will come by on his transbo and call me. He's behind me so I have to turn around to see him. But I have to catch a tile and put it on a chassis every 4 seconds so that only leaves me about a second to see what he wants and have some kind of dialog. Shouted conversations conducted in 1 second bursts like a strobe effect in a disco is very difficult. So Didier does most of his side via gesture, and I do most of mine by smiling and nodding or shaking my head since my hands are full.

I'll hear a shouted "Hê!" It's like "Hey!" but different!) I turn around and there's Didier doing a gesture that imitates a cyclist pouring his water bidon over his head to cool down. (Because I sometimes cycle to work and I'm keen on cycle sport - the Spring classics, TdF, Giro Italia, Vuelto Espana etc) Didier has taken it on himself to be my personal cycling coach, giving me advice on diet, trainiing and abstinence from sex before racing. I don't race.
Also included in his cycling collection of gestures is the gear change gesture, since modified after I pointed out that my bike has the gear levers on the handle bars, not the frame, and so it's a subtle finger-thumb thing, not the hand wobble of the old style he has. There is also a two-hand circular hand crank thing to imitate pedals turning.
With these cycling gestures he is usually giving an indication of how hot it is and how hard he, or I, or both of us are working.
The valid response is a nod of the head, and, if he persists, repeat the gesture back to him. Then he can bugger off.

Five minutes later he's back.
I ignore him, I might be a second out of synch with the press because of a problem and will need to catch the next 4 tiles super quick to get back into an easy rythmn again.
Shit! I'll turn around and there he is, this time maybe holding up three fingers and pointing to himself.
It's an indication of how many times he shagged his wife between shifts. I nod.
I turn around. I know what's coming because it's a ritual that's been done over and over again. I can't ignore him because he'll just sit there going "Hê!".
I turn around. He does an exhausted forehead wipe to show how much hard work it is to shag your wife three times. I nod.
I turn around. He does a trembly hand gesture, acompanied by a wobbly leg mime to show how shagging his wife three times is killing him. I nod.
With one of his insane laughs he drives away on his transbo.

Nine times out of ten this little charade has me cackling in the same way that you laugh at the Little Britain sketches or the Fast Show even tho you know what the gag is going to be. "This week I have been mostly eating acorns" "Only meee!" "I'm the only gay in this village" etc.

One time out of ten I just wish he'd fuck off.

Sacré Didier

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At 8:13 pm, Blogger aims said...

I laughed - I had to! I went to the vid...very good - very informative. My brother is a potter - he'll be interested in that.

That is a very interesting accent - I'm trying to place it.

At 8:01 pm, Blogger Lola said...

Hi Stew, thanks for coming over - nice blog! I'll be back. And aims, you're here too! Small world.

At 11:00 pm, Blogger Adam Cope said...


bonne courage...the benny hill 'french' bums&tits humour can get a tad hevy sometimes... but hey, the hours pass/

didier the film is funny too - the one about the man who thought he was a dog


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