“This job is easy compared to a lot of others up here,” the man said to the trainee. “All you have to do is sit here and count to one hundred hour after hour, day after day –”
“This job sounds dull and mind-numbingly boring,” the trainee said, wrinkling up his nose. “Maybe I’m not the right person for the job.”
“Sure you are. Just need to know how to slip in a little fun here and there.”
“What do you mean?”
The whistle blew and hundreds of workers sat at their stations pushing buttons and pulling levers. The trainee knew what all the functions of the machine were after having three weeks of training, but now that he was out on the production floor, everything seemed so different…so final…so important. He didn’t want to screw up. Someone’s life may depend on him doing his job right.
“There are quality control standards we must adhere to, and you do want to ensure things are done right, of course,” the trainer said, “but, on the one hundredth one we all like to have a little fun.”
“What kind of fun?”
The production machine displayed the first order of the day for station 782. The trainer pushed buttons and pulled levers setting the machine to the proper specifications for the order and hit the produce button. When the second order arrived, he turned the machine over to the trainee and watched as he set the specifications and performed his task as he was trained to do.
“Keep that up for hour after hour and the job can get a little boring,” the trainer began again as the trainee submitted the specifications for order number sixty-two. “As long as you don’t have too much fun, it will always get through quality control in the end. And as long as you only do it on every one hundredth. It’s an unwritten rule we have here on the production line.”
The one hundredth order finally arrived and the trainer took the helm again with great delight. “Let’s see what we have here…tall, dark wavy brown hair, intellectual, easy-going, and musical talent and interest,” he said, reading the specifications.
The trainee watched as the man entered those specifications into the production machine, then crack his knuckles and start laughing. “How shall we shake up the illusion with this one?”
“Illusion?” The trainee looked confused.
“I’ll explain in a minute.” The man pushed a few more buttons and two previous orders appeared on the screen in front of him. He quickly read their specifications and started laughing. “I’ve got it. Let’s add a large dose of introversion, over-active imagination, and an extra helping of sloth.”
With those additional options added to the order, the man hit the produce button and turned to his trainee wearing a large grin.
“Everyone thinks that they have everything figured out down there. Life to them is nothing more than a set of carefully chosen attributes. It used to be that the orders only read healthy, then they added happy. Do you know how simple things were back then?”
The trainee sat and thought about it for a moment. “Don’t they still want their products to be happy and healthy?”
“Well, yes, they do, but it has become a standard feature now that people have forgotten to even ask for it.”
Their order machine pinged and a new order appeared before them.
“Take this one for example,” the trainer said, “no where on the form does it say happy or healthy. This one wants their product to be a major league baseball star, Heisman trophy winner, and strong. What kind of order request is that?”
The trainer pushed a few buttons and pulled a lever, then sent it on its way.
“I think I understand,” the trainee said. “The illusion you spoke of earlier, is a lie?”
“What!” The trainer was shocked. “Never! We never lie. No, what we like to do is to sprinkle just enough individuality into the order to shake things up down there.”
The trainee watched as the trainer filled more orders and thought about what the job really was and how the hundredth orders could really change things…for the better, or for the worse.
“What if your fun makes things worse?”
“Well, every order has the capability to do great things, or horrible things, or nothing at all. In the end, the order only produces a base model. It is up to them to decide how they are going to customize it.”
The next hundredth order arrived and the trainer turned the machine over to the trainee to let him have his fun this time. The trainee read the order and was taken back. This one requested an Oscar winner, a Tony winner, and long legs to dance with.
The trainer laughed. “Now do you understand why we say that we need to have fun with the hundredth orders?”
“Yes, I think I do.” The trainee shook his head and pushed a few buttons, then looked at the trainer.
The trainer couldn’t hold back his laughter as the trainee hit the produce button. They both laughed as they imagined the customer’s shock when they realize years later that their order does in fact meet their specifications but has chosen a path of lighting and sound design than dancing and singing.
“I think I really understand now,” the trainee said. “The illusion is that no matter what the customer ordered, it is still just a base model.”
“Right. The hundredth order breaks the mold and adds just enough individuality that maybe, just maybe, we can get back to having orders for happy and healthy babies.”
This short was inspired by FOWC with Fandango — Illusion