From a fly on the wall.
Overheard in a meeting at West n’ Yessum HQ:
‘But their fingers aren’t long enough. That’s the problem. You need to make it smaller but not so small that adults can’t use them. That way we create a divergent market: for kids and adults.’ The presentation stayed on the screen with a 3-D graph of projected market and profits in third world areas: the ‘Emerging Markets’.
There were ten people at the long wooden table, CEO at the head. All suited in the exact same designer as the CEO, because you know, it’s sure to lead to success. Mr. G. M. Brindle was his name. Nobody knew what the ‘G’ or ‘M’ stood for. He sat playing with a doll and replica gun as everyone else watched intensely. ‘Well this doll hand isn’t realistic enough. I need real children. But then, are their fingers bigger than ours or smaller over there?’ A Mexican wave of raised eyebrows followed. ‘Do you know? I don’t know,’ he said quietly as if to himself.
‘Well, I really don’t see any issues with the projected revenues,’ said Mr. Brindle, smiling, putting the life-size doll down and focusing on his executive notebook. ‘They look good – really good. My only concern – is the logistics – how are we getting the guns to Africa? Are there risks we need to be aware of? Lloyd, look into it.’
Lloyd sat upright in his seat, nodding vigorously, clicking his silver Parker pen.
Brindle sat back for a minute and stared out of the huge glass panel window. At least five minutes passed. His wide face didn’t change expression, blinking liked a reptile – seldom. Then he raised his hands up in the position someone with an invisible gun would.
All the suits leaned in expectantly, intrigued and respectful. Their boss always surprised them.
‘Butts. Our normal rifles have big butts. Let’s make them adjustable.’
Without instruction Richard ‘the creative’ began sketching roughly on his notepad.
‘Let’s think pressure. What pressure are triggers normally set at in order to fire a shot? It should be easy, but safe!’
‘Adjustable pressure?’ chimed in Dennis.
‘Yes!’ exclaimed the boss becoming animated. ‘Exactly! I want a baby to be able to use one…well you know what I mean. I believe with the figures presented today and with a reasonable test phase we can have these guns on the market within three months.’ His face radiated pride. ‘So, who has children?’
Six people motioned that they did.
‘Great! Bring them in for a ‘work day’ and we’ll use them for testing.’
‘Boss, my kids are teenagers,’ said Dennis. ‘Nearly finished high school.’
‘My twins are six months..,’ added someone else.
‘Ok scrap that. Let’s offer some sort of Sunday Fun Day to a local school. There’ll be food, bouncy castles, all that kid stuff. And we’ll get them all to test out the prototypes and see how they fair. We could use ergonomics tables, 95th percentiles and all that but I want raw data – real feedback.’ His blue eyes shifted side to side, looking for feelers.
‘Err, there might be an issue with ethics and getting permission,’ fired Ivan curtly, the company’s lawyer.
‘Nonsense!’ Brindle looked incredulous. ‘We’ll wrap it all up like it’s a game. We test trigger pressure by adjusting guns for some fair game. We wrap it all up with a big family friendly bow, totally clandestine. No one needs to know. It’s beautiful.’ He picked up a full tumbler and drained the water before standing up. ‘Meeting adjourned, you know what to do. Plans by email on Monday.’
The rest of the suits remained seated as their boss left the office buttoning up his jacket.
‘Well I have a question,’ said Dennis. ‘How do we get these to African warlords? Or to conflict zones in general? It’s not exactly well researched. And what percentage of their army are teenagers or younger?’
‘Yeah, exactly. I think my main concern is that children are potentially using guns not suitable for them …’ piped up Vanessa, the sole female of the pack.
‘Potentially,’ murmured Richard.
‘…The safety of the new guns, if they are being used by kids, they need to be child-friendly. Instructions need to be really clear and simple. We need pictures; diagrams that break through any language barriers.’
Nodding and murmurs.
‘And let’s not forget, they should be comfortable to use without performance reductions. I’m thinking the brief should be that they… ‘handle like a dream’ ,’ added Richard, looking smug.
‘What do kids dream of?’ mumbled someone thinking aloud.
Suddenly, Dennis got out of his seat with a Financial Times rolled up, and walked up to the wall opposite me. Only then did I see one of my relatives on the wall, cleaning himself.
Just like that he was dead. These people were ruthless…All I could do was wait patiently on the ceiling for the door to open.