Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Unblemished

In a previous entry, I mentioned the Law of Moses.  We know a little about it.  I mentioned its fulfillment in Jesus Christ (no, this isn’t going to be a religious entry—really, I promise).  I can’t say I was really planning on writing any more about, at least not so soon, but a project my “team” took on at my current temp work (I’m intentionally not mentioning the name—copyright infringements and whatnot) reminded me of both.

You’ve likely guessed from the title where this is going.  I will reinforce your assumption:

It’s a cosmetics plant.  High end cosmetics.  Stupidly high end.  Enough so that I throw up a little—you know, that little bile-y burp at the back of your throat—when I think about what people are paying and for what they’re getting and why they’re getting it!

(Someone, please prepare my soapbox!)

saffron, the spice
So we finished one order and prepared it for shipment.  In came the next order, one thousand, three hundred, and whatever kits of this fancy crap designed to prevent your skin from aging and actually undo years of time’s destructive forces.  Supposedly this goop actually works, the company knows it (or is at least confident in their ruse), and is charging upwards of $300 for a total four ounces of product.  (Okay, I’m not well-versed in cosmetics retail; I’m sure there is stuff a lot more expensive than this, but come on!)  Now think about this for a second.  Take saffron.  To harvest a pound--1 POUND--of saffron, you've got to plant a whole football field's worth of saffron crocuses, then meticulously remove the stamen from each, gather them up carefully, package them, and finally sell them.  Saffron sells for around $1000/pound, which is, of course, $62.50/ounce.  Now consider all the work that went into this--the man hours, horticulture expertise, the skill and labor--and it almost sounds like a bargain.  This makeup--which, I'm sorry, let's be real, won't even work--costs an additional $12.50/ounce.  And it doesn't even taste good!  (Saffron's delicious.)  (Okay, I'm just guessing the makeup doesn't taste nice, and maybe, just maybe, it actually DOES work, but I don't know.  And I'm sure there are plenty of man hours and tremendous expertise and research that went into it, but the kit only lasts a couple weeks!  And then you have to keep using it over and over again, buying more and more....  They could at least sell it in bulk.  You know, like those five gallon jugs of mayonnaise you can pick up at Sam's Club.)

But it doesn't end there.  I could go into all the stuff about vanity and consumerism and blatant waste, but I won't.  Not about the actual stuff, because, like I just parenthetically stated, it might actually work!  What do I know?  And who am I to say?  Maybe there's someone out there who really NEEDS to look younger, if only for a few hours or days, and maybe this is the only solution, and then maybe it's actually worth all that cash.

Here's where it gets worse:  So I'm standing at the table, and a box of un-constructed makeup kit cartons is placed before me.  I receive instructions on the folding of the carton and set to work.  And it's pretty--the carton is.  Beautiful stock paper--matte and somehow mother-of-pearl at the same time, with subtle silver text.  Very chic, very.  And I'm an art lover.  I recognize commercial art and design as a legitimate art form.  I'm all for it.  And this, again, is beautiful stuff.  And when you compile that against uniform columns of hundreds and hundreds of these things, all neatly stacked and heavy with crystal and stainless steel vials, it's almost breathtaking.  So none of this really bothered me.  Not yet, anyway.  So after a while, I get the hang of it and can afford to glance away a moment from my work (there's significant pressure to move fast--production line and all).  I look down the line where the assembly of the actual kit is happening and it's all inserted into the carton, folded shut, and run through the shrink-wrapper (or whatever it's called).  Behind the three or four people sticking stuff in the carton liners there's a pile--I kid you not--FIVE FEET TALL and easily seven or eight feet wide of cartons I'd folded.

"Hey," I called down (not angry; just curious), "what happened to the cartons?"  By now I've been here a few days, and I understand--and it makes sense--that faulty packaging and product can't be passed on to the consumers, but I'd been careful.  Meticulous!  I figured someone was screwing up my cartons while placing placing into them.  Or had I don't something wrong?  No.  No one had come to show me the right way....

"Oh," someone called back.  "There're marks on the paper."

Marks on the paper.


So over the next hour, I watched each and every carton--examined every single one I handled and folded--for blemishes.  "Marks." 


Finally, at break, I went over to the mountain--now bigger--and picked up a discarded carton.  I couldn't see anything.  I picked up another.  Still nothing.  I took up a third and held it toward one of those who'd been pitching them.  "What's wrong with it?" I asked.

He held it.  Turned it.  Flipped it over.  "Ah!  There," he said, and pointed.  "A spot."

I looked. 

I took my glasses off.

I moved the thing right up to the tip of my very round nose.

There, right where he was pointing, was a black dot smaller than a pore on the face of a Chinese porcelain doll. 

Holy crap.  "And they're all like that?"


"It's a natural flaw in the paper," I argued.



"So some marks are bigger.  And there were a few scuffs from sliding the box on the table."


"So, customers want them perfect.  This is expensive stuff were sending out."

"It's a paper flaw!"  I could feel my blood pressure rising.  "What, will they send it back?"

"Yep," he said again.  "And it's a reputation thing, besides."

Okay, I got it:  So, in order to appease the consumers, we were chucking hundreds and hundreds of cartons.  ("Yeah, and they each cost two dollars a piece," the same guy told me later.)  I was having a hard time swallowing that, and I could feel, opening up within my mind and soul, a millions tangents of justified, tirading rebuttals.  But I couldn't close my mouth enough to begin articulation.  Instead I took my break.

The ancient Israelites took the first born of their flocks for sacrifice, but only--if I understand it right--if that particular lamb or bullock or whatever was without blemish (then they ran it through a shrink-wrapper!  Ha! (sorry)).  Jesus Christ was the final sacrifice, and he was both the first born as he was also without blemish.  Both the animals and the Savior were given up to God the Father.  Right? 

I am having the hardest time reconciling these two match ups:

Jesus Christ or the flawless lamb against this silly--albeit pretty--box, and God the Almighty Father of All against these affluent, vain, critical consumers.

Maybe I'm missing something.

But I shouldn't judge.  What utter frivolity would I be wasting my money on if money I had to waste?

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