Chicken Soup for your Transnational Ass

Silam Paley was a successful entrepreneur who lived in Cincinnati and conducted businesses in many countries. At the age of 29, he bought an old hospital in a depressed neighborhood in Seoul, Korea, and converted it into a factory for the production of board games to be sold in the United States.

A mutual army buddy, Darren Jakobsen, put him in touch with Ward Callahan, an executive at Parker Brothers. Darren had invited both men, along with his close friend Robert Sullivan, over to his home in Airy heights to have dinner prepared by his wife Janine and then to relax by the pool with martinis. The evening had been a very pleasant one. Silam and Ward greatly enjoyed meeting one another—they were both enthusiasts of Tom Clancy, Nazi memorabilia, and vintage automobiles. Later that month, Ward arranged for Parker Brothers to close a small factory in Midland, Michigan, and outsource the work to the Korean plant, ensuring greater profits. The Michigan factory had been extremely profitable, but in Korea it would be possible to pay workers one tenth the wages, with none of the benefits, that the workers in Michigan had received.

The Michigan factory manufactured Scrabble, a very popular board game whose sales had remained steady for many years, and it appeared as though Silam would be very successful in his new undertaking.

The operation seemed to be going very well for the first month. Then Silam began to get reports from the factory's overseer that there was trouble with the Korean workers. There had been the necessity to fire many of the workers who were attempting to organize and demand an increase in pay that would have cut significantly, Silam felt, into the venture's profit. It might be permissible to raise the workers wages, but not to such a large degree, and certainly not so soon after the factory had opened. New workers were hired, and a significant amount had been spent hiring consultants, additional floor managers, and a security system with cameras and microphones. Workers were not allowed to talk to one another, and it was eventually discovered that in the imposed silence they had been communicating by secretly leaving certain scrabble letters in significant places in the factory.

Then it turned out that the factory had turned out a number of games—a very large number—that weren't up to quality. Some thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of scrabble sets were all missing the letter E. The difficulties in recalling all the games, and the expense, were daunting, and Silam hoped that the problem would go unnoticed by American consumers. He devised a system whereby consumers could mail in a form and they would be mailed the proper number of Es. The customers' addresses and other contact information, he reasoned, could then be sold to marketing firms, and the defective products might then end up boosting profits.

Meanwhile, Silam began to have health problems. At first he seemed to lose interest in making money. Then, he felt tired all the time and had become very forgetful. He even forgot, one night, that he had been invited to dinner by Darren. Darren called him to see where he was, and, when Silam, who even had trouble placing Darren's voice at first, confessed that he had forgotten. Darren was rather upset and made a comment.

Silam decided to see a doctor, and penciled himself a note to arrange for a doctor's appointment the following morning. He took his notepad and a pencil and wrote "tomorrow—gat doctor appointmant."

Then he stared at the piece of paper and tried to figure out what was wrong with it.

Chicken Soup for the Vegetarian Soul.