The young man and his Supervisor sat patiently in the waiting room of the Director of the Wuhan Laboratory. It had been a long day for both of them and they were anxious to return to their homes for the long weekend ahead. Bingwen had only worked at the Lab for a month since his graduation from the local technical college and he had never met the Director. So, he was slightly anxious, especially when he was told to report to the Director’s office that afternoon and all of his fellow employees looked at him with some concern. What had he done? they whispered among themselves. Nobody is ever called to the Director’s office, ever!
The Director’s door opened and his assistant waved them both into the office. The Supervisor allowed Bingwen to go in first, and he followed close behind. The Director looked up from his desk, smiled, and rose slowly. “Welcome, please, sit down, both of you,” he said in a pleasant tone. Bingwen immediately began to feel better and when he glanced over at his Supervisor, he saw a sly smile on his face.
“Now,” the Director began, “You are probably wondering why I have asked you here so late in the afternoon, hmmm?” Bingwen nodded obediently as he continued, “Well, it’s because I have been hearing good things about you, young man, very good things.” He looked over at the Supervisor and added, “Mr. Zhang, your Supervisor, has forwarded glowing reports on your progress. Let me see here, ah yes, here’s just one section from his most recent report . . . ‘Bingwen is undoubtedly the most proficient technician in the Level 4 Laboratory, even though he has only just completed his training and has only been on the job for a month! His competency exceeds even those of our most senior technicians!’” He put down the report and looked at him and merely said, “Congratulations, Bingwen. We could use a dozen more like you! By the way, what is your background? Where did you acquire your technical skills? Were you an engineering graduate in college?”
The young worker looked down a bit sheepishly and replied, “I studied Art History before I entered the technical school, Director. I never handled a tool until then, sir.”
“All the more impressive, Bingwen, all the more impressive. Your Supervisor tells me that he has so much confidence in your abilities that he allowed you to secure the lab alone in preparation for the long weekend ahead. He tells me that he has never allowed anyone with less than ten years of experience to do that. You should be congratulated to have achieved such a depth and breadth of skill in such a short time.”
As he prepared to answer, his Supervisor proudly jumped in, “And Director, he did it without reference to the Manual. He has memorized the Manual completely. I made sure of that before he proceeded. Here, let me show you how extraordinary his memory is!” With that, his Supervisor started to ask Bingwen questions about specific shut-down procedures for the Lab Manual and had him repeat the Manual from memory, word for word.
As he spoke, the Director followed along with his copy of the Manual. Bingwen recited sections of the Manual for several minutes with no errors until the Director held up his hand and announced, “I’m convinced, thank you!”
Thoroughly excited now and wanting to further impress the Director, his Supervisor asked just one last question, “And Bingwen, your final act in securing the Lab. What was it?”
He turned to look at him and answered, “Why, I closed the condensate drain from the Autoclave, the last and final possible connection to the outside world.”
His Supervisor couldn’t contain himself as he asked, “And that condensate drain valve, you closed it all the way, until it stopped, correct?”
“Of course, all the way to the left until it stopped,” he answered confidently.
The look on the Director’s face was one of horror as he immediately reached across his desk and slammed the red button on his desk. The red light on the wall started to glow and rotate and the alarms began to sound.
Bingwen was stunned as he turned to his Supervisor for guidance. The Supervisor's face had lost all color and tears were rolling down his cheeks and it was clear from the smell that something else had happened, too.