Monday meant my first flight since the Icelandic Volcano fiasco, not sure whether the removal of the restrictions on flying were due to a shift in the wind, reduction in tectonic activity or simply Willie Walsh convincing the faceless authorities that if they didn’t lift the ban soon – there wouldn’t be any airlines left to fly any as they would have all gone out of business. The flight itself was the normal encasement in aluminum, steel, fuel and flammable seats, sitting next to someone who believed they have paid for the whole row and saved showering until they landed, today’s destination Venice. The company I work for has some fairly prosaic plant locations around Europe, one that isn’t, is located just an hours drive from Venice in a small town called Bassano del Grappa, famous for its covered bridge the Ponte degli Alpini, its cathedral and of course its proximity to the Grappa mountains which the Italian national drink Grappa gets its name.
Grappa seems to be brewed from the residue of diesel refinerarys, mixed with turpentine and caustic soda. Like most national drinks; Irelands - Potcheen, Greeces – Ouzo, Chinas – BeiJiu and Scotland’s – Irn Bru. They all taste similar to licking the inside of a petrol tank – whilst it’s on fire. Not sure why they become national drinks, perhaps its similar to why the Beetle or the Mini became national cars – they were cheap, easy to make, readily available and would probably cause blindness, rotten livers and ultimately death – a great way of controlling population growth. Whatever it is they are forced onto weary travelers until they empty their wallets and the insides of their stomachs.
I had visited our Bassano plant several times before, but had started to think that it was located deep in a valley or even in a cave. Having only ever visited in the winter months, I would arrive at night to a hotel 50 yards from the entrance to the factory, and leave via Taxi to the airport the following night. Such is the glamour and delight of international travel, you rarely get an opportunity to enjoy the places you visit, and the only local culture you savour is normally the inside of a Taxi cab, hotel room or works canteen.
I was there for a conference in which I would give a presentation on a topic, that if you had asked me to give say 10, 5 or maybe even 1 year ago I would have laughed at you, shot another peasant and moved on.
The subject has become something that I find myself feeling more and more interested and passionate about, at first I thought it was a virus or I had been subject to some kind of subliminal experiment, my mind seems to have been warped, my beliefs torn and shattered. Everything I held dear to me has been turned upside down and inside out.
At heart I am a result of, and a rabid follower of consumerism, I collect cars, computers, watches, homes and air miles like most people collect socks. I had no interest in how many 4 year olds it took to skin kittens, so that I could have my favorite trim on the seats in my 14-litre Gas Guzzler. The sweat shops of Vietnam, where one armed lepers pick the individual hairs from warty toads, to provide warty toad flavored drinks to westerners never kept me awake, nor did the fact that they slept on razors, whilst being whipped with the tails from those pussycats made me donate to charities set up to look after their orphaned children. However, here I was preparing to give a speech on a Corporate Ethics and Social Responsibility. Had I gone mad? Had I caught some kind of disease? Had all my indiscretions come back to haunt me? The times I had thrown good food away, left the TV on whilst asleep, and buried my right foot firmly into the car mats whilst watching the MPG meter go into single figures, had they started to prey on my conscience? Or had I turned into the world’s greatest hypocrite?
Well I am not sure which it is but I genuinely feel that I (we) have an obligation to ‘do our bit’, and whilst profit, EBITDA and shareholder value keeps Warty Toad flavored drinks on my kids table, it shouldn’t be at the detriment of those one arm lepers. Not only do I find myself at the recycling plant each Saturday, I am now writing about ethics and even addressing a bunch of what could be considered as the most ecologically inept, 'rip-the-shirt-off-your-back' purchasing buyers, that would shanghai their own mothers to a Nigerian pirate if it meant cutting the price of a part by 0.00001 grouts. I wont write too much more at this point as revealing my tree hugging, sandal wearing, Mother Teresa worshiping ‘outage’ has made me feel light headed and need of a lie down – or could that have been the Grappa?