Each morning a motorized wheelchair rolls past the idle manufacturing equipment, past the empty desks that used to be occupied by mechanical engineers, a bookkeeper, a receptionist. The factory owner adjusts his wheelchair, moving closer to a long folding table that serves as his desk. He responds to email inquiries about part availability for machines that he hasn’t manufactured in over twenty years. He phones old clients. They exchange greetings. He hopes they might be ready to purchase a new machine. The conversations end with talk about the economy. No sale.
He was the pioneer in his field. He is known by all the old-timers in the industry. They value his expertise, but they don’t need his machines anymore. If they do, they get it cheaper overseas because nowadays low cost trumps quality.
He hopes the economy will change. He hopes that fifty-plus years of engineering experience will be needed again.
The phone rings. It’s not a customer. It’s his wife. “I’ll be there shortly,” he says. Then he rolls past the empty desks, across the empty factory, gets into his car, and goes home for lunch. An hour later he’s back, rolling along the empty shop floor into the empty office and right up to his desk. He responds to emails. He makes phone calls, and he hopes someone will order a new machine.
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