Friday, February 12, 2010

A Sign?

I am an engineer. Specifically, I am a control systems engineer. I design machinery to make parts for cars. I also maintain, and improve the machinery that makes fuel and emissions systems for cars and trucks. I have been at it for close to thirty years in the automotive business. Previous to that I worked in chemical plants, engineering firms, an energy company, and machine builder. It's been a long winding road, starting when I was nineteen on a drafting board in Niagara Falls, NY.
Recently, at work, we started dismantling an old machine, that made vapor canisters for cars. It's actually a set of machines that produced the parts from start to finish. Plastic parts went in, whole assemblies came out. They came out every nine seconds, about 6,600 parts every day over three shifts, for twenty years. She was the best, the fastest, and the most durable, cutting edge technology. I designed the electrical and computer systems for this machine. Put my heart and soul into it, back in 1991. It was the best running line we had, and I was damn proud every day to hear it humming along.
Now, after all these years,  I stand next to it, watching as a millwright lights a torch to cut her in half. "Outlived her usefulness eh", he said with the welders mask perched on his head. "Kind of like the engineer who brought her in", I said. He smiled,  "Better leave, before they take a torch to you!". He pulled the mask down, and proceeded to cut up the crown jewel of my career.
I very seldom have moments of reflection. I seem to always be thinking about what's next, whether it be the next hour, or the next year. I may talk about past moments, events, but usually for a laugh, or to remember someone past. But on this day, at this moment, I just stood there thinking back on all the work, the long hours, the STRESS, and most important, the time. It's gone by so fast, and there was a touch of sadness at seeing your creation being dismantled for scrap.
As I stood there, a co-worker came up to me and asked if I was happy to see the machine getting scrapped. "I designed her", I said. "Wow, really?. How many years you been here?" I just smiled. Too many I thought. "So, you're probably sad to see the line go then", she said. After an long pause..."No, time to move on."