Monday, September 26, 2011

I know this ship like the back o' me hand.

Saturday morning was spent at a chemical plant - as you do.

An expat (bookgroup & quiz nite) friend of ours works for Evonik and he let us know about an open day that was taking place, lots of tours around bits of a huge chemical plant near here. I can think of better things to do on a Saturday (lie in, brunch, shopping, walk the dog...) but I did think that it might be something interesting for Ben to see, even if only to rule it out as a possible future career.

We were warned that the last open house Evonik hosted had been crazy busy, with 10,000 people turning up, consequently we were there before the first tours kicked off, ready to book ourselves onto my friend's tour, wanting to get that one done first of all before thinking about what other (of the 24 available) tours to go on.

Tour 15 was a control room and then the highest distillation columns in the plant. Our tour leaders were a Herr J Chan and a Herr Doktor Scotti. I didn't think twice about the J preceding the Chan, I know it stands for Jason. Others on our tour were childishly delighted about 'Jackie' Chan and Scotty - you'd have thought James Doohan himself had been there (although he's been dead a while) I think this was the highlight for them, forget seeing the highest distillation column (tall and industrial grey) no, the Evonik tour for them was all about Scotty and Jackie!

We were bussed to tour 15 and then bussed back to the registration tent. When we'd left, 45 minutes earlier, the tent was calm, we'd walked straight up to the relevant desk and booked ourselves onto the tour. We returned to find the tent heaving, queues at every desk stretching across the width of the tent. Fortunately I'd had the forethought to ask Jackie and Scotty what other parts of the plant might be interesting (pointless to ask two teens what they'd like to see as they can no more express a preference for something than they can talk to girls without being rude or sarcastic) and so we ended up on the logistics centre tour - robotic packaging, and a chance to play 'spot the orange ifm electronic sensor' - a game we play whenever we're out and about (that's what happens when your husband appears to be married to his job) Si hadn't been amused up to this point as he'd seen lots of competitor switches (blue and not orange) complaining at one point it was like a showcase of 'whatever' firm's sensor range. But in the logistics centre there was a shiny orange robot lifting and stacking and it had ifm sensors (probably just chosen by the robot manufacturer because they matched the colour of the automaton!) Simon was a happy boy.

Security was supposed to be tight, as you'd expect at a huge chemical plant, we had to take i.d. - but although it was asked for, no-one actually looked to check, we couldn't take photographs and had to turn off phones, consequently the only reminder I have from Saturday is a photo of the restaurant menu, where our attention was caught by the possibility of Bum Bum flavoured ice cream.
We had thought to get lunch there before heading home but the chemical smell in the air was so all pervasive and so evocative of 6th form chemistry that I said we should eat where the air tasted cleaner! Imagine having to work there every day and breath in that chemical smell, can't be good for you!

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