Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Being ignorant of all things science, I've never understood why it is that potato chip bags are always only half-full, or why fizzy drinks in plastic bottles inevitably have that little gap near the top that leaves you with less liquid than you thought had to begin with, and I realize that the explanation has something to do with air pressure, and volume, and things settling near the opening, and I've never completely bought that scenario, truth be told, figuring, instead, that it was all a carefully prepared ploy by the potato chip companies and soft-drink manufacturers to rob us, the 'valued' consumer, out of our rightful junk-food due, and now I have proof, visible, sustained, observable proof, that such does not have to be the case, that there are companies with the guts and the dignity to fill it all the way to the top, corporate bigwigs and bosses be damned.

Of course, it might not be entire companies that are paving the way. It may, in fact, reside in the hands of one determined, dedicated individual.

Recently I've been buying Magnolia Orange Juice drink, in a bottle, from various convenience stores in the Baguio area. The first time I twisted the lid, I spilled a little bit of orange drink all over my pants. As this is not exactly a rare occurrence in my life, complete klutz that I am, at first I blamed it on myself, but then I noticed: the bottle was full. I mean, filled to the top, full. There was no gap between the lid and the liquid; there was no space; there was 'room for settling'.

I thought this was an isolated incidence.

I was wrong.

For I've now bought half a dozen of these 335ml bottles, and in every case the same thing happens. I twist the lid, and I see, smell, taste that the liquid is filled up to the neck and over the top.

How could this be so? How come I've never encountered such a surprising, satisfying phenomena with any other drink I've bought in the last twenty years?

I soon realized: This is no accident.

Most likely, it's the work of one man. A dedicated worker, yes, but one who serves a higher calling. He knows that it's a crock of shit, this 'leaving-room-for-settling' in the container that the companies keep proclaiming is the reason why they rob us of one sip of liquid in each and every drink we buy from the bottle. It may be only one sip, but one sip added up over millions and millions of bottles shipped world-wide amounts to millions and millions of dollars saved at corporate head-office, money that is undoubtedly being used, even as I write these words, to fund fox-coats for slinky mistresses and posh private schools for bratty kids. There is a worker on some assembly line, in Mumbai or Manila, Tokyo or Toledo, who understands this injustice. He is a good man, a family man, not prone to breaking the law. Not looking to risk his life and livelihood for a better social order. And yet he recognizes that all this waste need not be the case. I'm not sure exactly how drinks are put into plastic bottles at the factory level, but somehow this anonymous man, who wants nothing more from life than the roof over his head and the food on his table and the sun up above which all too rarely shines on his face, given that he has the night shift, has always had the shift, ever since the age of eighteen, and this man, he decides, on a daily basis, to buck the system. To put that extra sip of orange juice into each and every bottle. I don't think he has been caught, this man. And I don't think he craves glory, so I hope I'm not violating his privacy. And yet I cannot let this brave and noble and selfless act of his go unnoticed. Each day he risks dismissal, and jeopardizes the lives of himself and his family, and yet he will not beaten. His pay is meager. He needs the money. His family is relying on him and him alone to keep the wolves at bay. He persists, nevertheless. Always looking over his shoulder. Always keeping one eye on the assembly line, the other looking out for his boss. I don't know if he fills these bottles by hand, and I 'm not able to ascertain whether or not he has reprogrammed the automated machine that does the dirty work. All I know for certain is that he is there, in some darkly-lit factory, sweating, doing what he can to make our juice-drinking lives a little better. When his shift his over the sun is already emerging moment by moment, up, up and away, red and full in an ash-grey sky shifting from dull black to brilliant blue, and he will miss most of the day and most of this sky, asleep on his cot in his hot, cramped apartment. His children are at school. His wife is at work. He smokes a well-deserved cigarette before plumping his pillow and collapsing on his make-shift couch. The day is just beginning but his is already ending. But while the rest of the world chases ever more shallow dreams, vain and empty wisps of pride, he has carved out of life a small crest of dignity that is his and his alone, that he hides, almost hordes. When the moon begins to rise, so will he, and the half-mile walk to his work will seem all the more sweeter because he knows that there is something waiting for him a few minutes away. Something pure that he protects. A bottle, a splash of juice, a space. Endlessly repeated. He will stand all night and imagine the surprise on the faces of those who open his bottles, the shock followed by joy that only comes when something sweet and unexpected lands right in your lap.