Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Economies of Scale (Freight & Taxes Extra)

There's not a whole lot that I like about coming to work. Given the choice and the financial freedom to make it, I'd probably be doing something else. Carving out my niche as a film maker or following some amateur golf tour or maybe just following the sun through tropical climes.

One good thing about work though is my window.

There was a time when this spot in the cubicle farm was highly coveted by rival workers. Back then I was more than content just to stay in my spot in the middle of the floor - it had my own personal internet connection. This was when our workstations played the intranet but not the world wide web, you see. Anyway, it was I who presided over and conducted the fateful coin flip to see which of the two finalists would win this window space. After a couple of years the winner moved on and the space again came free. Again I decline to contest it.

But I was not to deny it a third time, when once more the incumbent moved to a different branch on the career path. First refusal was offered to me and I didn't.

It was still no great shakes until I moved. For the first time became truly appreciative of the view it offers. I am now deeply possessive of my space.

MY space. My view.

From six floors up (the top of our modest building) I look down the throat of the harbour, past the ship yards and the power plant to one of the bridges that span the twin community. The blue of sky is reflected in the water. Sea birds whirl and float under puffy clouds drifting overhead. Occasionally helicopters drone by (one passes even as I write this) and distant planes reflect the sun as they make their final approach to the city's airport. Ships, boats, submarines and watercraft of all sizes run up and down the harbour in their traffic lanes.

Container ships arrive and depart daily.

These are big ships.

They easily catch my eye. I pause from what I'm doing to swivel in my chair and take a moment to watch them pass. They seem so close I could touch them. I know from experience that as large as the seem from my 6th floor window, they look behemoth from the waterline. On these ships are thousands of containers. They will be taken to the docks and the containers will be loaded onto trains and 18-wheel freight trucks to take the next step in their journey. We're mostly an interim port of call for the goods that come in.

I think about all those containers and the ship that carries them. Millions of dollars to build a cargo ship. How much to crew it, I wonder. How much to sail it up the seaboard or even from across the ocean. How much for the tugboats that pilot it through the Narrows and the stevedores to unload it at the dock where a line of a great many trains and trucks wait to piggyback her cargo the rest of the way down the rail and road.

What's in them all, I wonder. It would be fun to open them up and see.

There are so many of us to consume all this stuff.

Which is a good thing, I guess, because who could afford the price of shipping if the whole ship was full of a single pair of jeans.

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