Cylindyne make crankshaft pulleys for car engines. A factory devoted to moulding high tensile steel into saucer-sized chunks of metal that drive the fans and alternators of Peugeots. But that doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that I’m wandering through one of the most desolate parts of Lyon trying to find the wretched place. The regular teacher suddenly had to fly to Bolivia. But not before he told me: ‘You’ll probably want to kill yourself after a day teaching at Cylindyne.’
It’s 10.36. My class started at 10.30 and I’m lost. Hopelessly lost in fact. I better phone the boss. Blame it on the map. Blame it on the dog urinating against my leg. Anything. Just not me. And then I see it.
* * C Y L I N D Y N E * *
In giant dark blue letters rising above the street like a giant banner hoisted up by some demonic force. The two ‘Y’s in the lettering are like eyes. Somewhere deep in the factory someone is looking at me on a monitor.
‘It’s him. Le prof anglais. He’s late.’
The great gates swing open and I’m pulled in by a tractor beam.
‘Monsieur Pontaff will see you now.’ I hear from a tannoy as I approach the entrance to the giant building.
I walk up some stairs and into a dark room where I’m fitted out in a white jacket and safety goggles and led into another room where a tall grey Frenchman is standing with a clipboard and a pencil-thin moustache above his lip.
‘The tour will begin now, Monsieur Oggers.’
The first part of the tour isn’t too bad. Feeling raw natural rubber from Venezuela is like putting your hand through jelly and warm liver. The room where it’s stored is refrigerated because if the rubber reaches 20 degrees or more the whole factory becomes a giant fondue. I want to argue the point that I once worked in Venezuela where temperatures regularly exceeded 35 degrees and I never once saw any rubber trees melt. But I’m whisked away to another room before I have time to set out my case.
Here the rubber is cast into rings that slot inside the metal crankshaft pulleys. This is where the tour gets intensely boring and I lose consciousness, except for the ability to nod my head at two minute intervals and murmur the syllable ‘Mmm’.
I later regain consciousness in a room in which brightly coloured robots are automatically packing the finished crankshaft pulleys into boxes. Monsieur Pontaff is droning on in the background about calibration increments and torsion ratios. I leg it.
I find myself running along the road I’d come along hours before. My phone starts ringing. It’s my boss.
‘Allo. Oui. Yes. Yes. Yes. Great news.’
They found the regular teacher in Peru. He’s coming back next week. I won’t have to teach at Cylindyne again. I punch the air. And again. And again. I then see a truck steaming towards me. There appears to be no driver at the wheel. There are some words on the front, but I can’t quite make them out. It begins with a C. Then a Y. Oh No! It’s Monsieur Pontaff! I couldn’t see him at first because he’s so grey. I try to run but I can’t. I’m stuck to the road by melted rubber. I’m going to be flattened like a cartoon character. It’s all over. Aghhhhh…
…my phone is ringing. It’s my boss. (Again?).
‘Allo. Oui. Yes. Yes. Yes. Great News.’ I finish and replace the receiver and lie back on my pillow. It’s 9 o’clock in the morning. Cylindyne has cancelled. I can have the morning off. I’m so happy. I fall back to sleep…
…I’m awoken by a knock at the door. ‘Monsieur?…’