Volunteering to work for 28 days straight. Also, me on an assembly line (not a good result). And, 7 other things worth your time.

Welcome to day eleventy-quillion.

Seriously, I’ve lost count. Maybe you have, too.

But a some employees at a West Virginia factory are having a different experience.

There are 42 of them at Braskem America, makers of polypropylene—a raw material used in the creation of face masks, surgical gowns and other medical equipment.

To keep the factory going in a time of social distancing, they volunteered to literally live at the factory: working 7 days a week in 12-hour shifts, sleeping on air mattresses, separated from their families.

They’re at a facility in a town called Keonva, and they locked themselves in on March 31. They'll get to go home tomorrow, after 28 days.

Their colleagues at another Braskem America plant, in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, did a similar “live-in” that ended last week.

Your place in the supply chain

I spent a bit of time Sunday afternoon on a bit of a tangent — trying to understand how polypropylene production works. Let’s just say I was not successful enough in my quest to try to describe it all here.

If I have any readers who understand the process better than I do, send me a note and maybe I'll share your explanation tomorrow.

Last week, I wrote about the last mile of the supply chain, specifically what it's like to be a UPS driver in the middle of a global pandemic. These workers are much earlier in a similar chain.

The point for our purposes is just that it’s yet another example of people out there—kind of invisible to many of us in normal circumstances, I hate to admit—who, it turns out, are pretty darn essential.

No, these are not the only people ever to have to stay at work for 28-plus days. There are a few hundred thousand soldiers, sailors and marines for whom “only 28 days” would seem like a dream.

But in the civilian world, when we can walk away anytime, but volunteer to stick around? It’s different.

“We were just happy to be able to help,” Joe Boyce, an operations shift supervisor who worked in the Pennsylvania plant told The Washington Post. “We’ve been getting messages on social media from nurses, doctors, EMS workers, saying thank you ... But we want to thank them.”

My window in this world

A while back I got a bit of notoriety for writing about how I’d once quit a job after a single day—working as a lawyer for the Department of Veterans Affairs back in 2009.

It wasn’t a good fit. But I must admit it’s not the only time I lasted just one day on the job. In the early 1990s, I worked less than a single day one summer on an assembly line for Hasbro in Rhode Island, gluing the manes on My Little Ponies.

The pay was good on paper, but I just didn’t have it in me. Plus we got paid piecemeal, and my colleagues and I were slowing everyone down and affecting their take-home.

This is not a good way to make friends. I left at lunch.

Anyway, not that My Little Ponies are essential, per se, but it was my window into what repetitive factory work is like, at least for a few hours.

I couldn't do it. My hat is off to those guys. At least they got paid overtime.

7 other things worth your time

  • Meet the new boss (probably): Kim Yo Jong, who reports say is likely to take over as the leader of North Korea. (New York Post)

  • Spain let children go outside and play Sunday for the first time in six weeks (for up to one hour). (Associated Press)

  • Two dozen Dutch teens, along with 12 experienced sailors, arrived in Holland Sunday after being forced to sail home from Cuba rather than fly. The trip took five weeks. (Associated Press)

  • You'll remember that all this quarantining happened, but psychologists say you'll probably mess up most of the details. (Vice)

  • Zoom fatigue: It’s a thing. “There's a lot of research that shows we actually really struggle with this,” says Andrew Franklin, an assistant professor of cyberpsychology at Virginia’s Norfolk State University. (National Geographic)

  • The instruction manuals for the new Air Force One cost $84 million, on top of the price of the plane itself. (Defense One)

  • Facebook announced it's rolling out a Zoom competitor, and it looks pretty interesting. But it might actually be good news for Zoom, which doesn't want all these free users anyway. (Me, on Inc.)

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