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I MADE IT UP: I don’t like naked toothpicks

I don’t like naked toothpicks. I like the kind that have a cellophane wrapper on them. With the cellophane wrapper, you figure that 10 people haven’t fingered them as they came out of the toothpick dispenser.

That’s why I got a part-time home job putting toothpicks in wrappers. Each week, the company sends me a thousand toothpicks and a thousand wrappers. My job is to stuff the toothpicks in the wrappers and seal them with a special heat clamp. They pay $20 per thousand. If you waste some wrappers or break some toothpicks in the process, they don’t pay as much.

You also have to wear rubber gloves like a dentist. The trick is to bubble open one end of the wrapper, insert the toothpick, and then clamp the open end with the specially designed hot pliers.

Don’t pick up the wrong end of the pliers. I did and burned my hand. I had to replace the gloves as well. The company charges for any gloves you ruin.

My goal was to insert 143 toothpicks a day. If I worked seven days a week, I would make an easy $20.

It took me three weeks to get the moves right and make my first $18 (because of breakage). It was clear I needed to “systematize” the work.

My first “system” was for me to do the inserting and for my wife Sweetness to handle the hot pliers. This lasted for almost three minutes until she burned herself.

I considered hiring little children to insert, and I would do the heat sealing. But insurance and OSHA regulations squelched that idea.

Then I decided to mechanize. I rigged up a piston device on a wheel to push the toothpick into the wrapper, which I would hold at the ready. When I stepped on the foot pedal, the piston drove a toothpick under my fingernail. I lost a week’s worth of work because of that. I also had to pay for another pair of rubber gloves.

While my finger was healing, I got our old Seal-A-Meal out of the back of the cupboard. I figured that I could line up 20 toothpicks and seal all 20 wrappers at the same time. But the Seal-A-Meal was too hot. It melted all 20 wrappers. And it stank up the kitchen. Sweetness was not pleased.

I moved the whole operation to the garage. All the great start-up companies began in a garage. I’m working on a conveyor system that delivers the inserted toothpicks to a hot stamping machine. I know I can figure this business out. If you want to throw in with me, I’ll share the profits with you.

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