Yesterday Tyler had to work late unexpectedly. He called me and asked if I would bring him and his partner some food.
They had to re-do a project board for upper management. That sounds like fun…
The Toyota factory is huge. I mean really, really huge. It’s like a self sufficient compound. They have a day care, a large gym, a pharmacy, a general store, gardens that grow produce for the cafeteria, and a train station. They even compost all compostable waste from the trash and use it on the gardens.
Apparently they also have something called an FTZ.
What, might you say, is an FTZ?
Who knows? Not me.
When taking Tyler his food he told me to turn in at Gate 5 and he would meet me in the parking lot. The gates are directly off of the main road. I got to Gate 6 and wondered where Gate 5 had gone. The kids were yelling, crying, and talking, which interferes with my intelligence level just a teeny bit.
Next up came Gate 1. Well that made absolutely no sense. I turned in at Gate 1 thinking maybe I could just drive through the parking lot around the building and hit Gate 6, then Gate 5.
Please tell me that sounds logical. It does, right??
I pulled in to Gate 1 and there was a big four lane road that had a glass security building dividing the inbound and outbound lanes. I slowed down and looked in the tinted windows of the glass building to see what I should do. I was going to ask them the best way to get to Gate 5 so I didn’t waste time looking. There was no one there. No signs, no arms that raised and lowered, nothing.
What would you do in this case?
Screaming baby and non-stop talking four year old pretty much dictate the logic here–keep driving slowly past, right? I wasn’t going to just stop in the middle of this road for no reason.
You also have to know that the security arms at the other gates are all raised up at this time of day because it’s shift change. This is why I assumed there was no one at the guard shack window. Shift change, people go in and out in a steady stream, normal. They aren’t in the middle of production during shift change.
So I drove past this little guard building and quickly realized the access road didn’t lead to the other gates like I’d hoped. I called Tyler and he told me to just go back to the main road and keep driving until I saw Gate 5 because he’d forgotten to mention that the gate numbers are out of order. (Why!?)
Just as I was looking for an easy place to turn around, these two blue SUV’s with orange police style lights flashing on top came zooming towards me.
Doing nothing wrong that I was aware of, I assumed they were going to stay in their oncoming lane and go past me in the opposite direction.
Suddenly one of them got in my lane. Why can’t he just keep driving in his own lane?I said to Rosie.
As I stopped quickly to avoid hitting him head on, the second SUV went past me and whipped a u-turn in the middle of the road then pulled up right behind me so that I was blocked in by both of them.
Very funny. Blocked in by security SUV’s on an access road through parking lots?!
These two men got out, one from each car. They were such stereotypical overweight puffed up security officers. I almost laughed, except that I was moderately concerned at this point.
Of course this wasn’t enough to make Ada cease her non-stop talking or for Henry to stop screaming in pure indignation at being strapped in the car seat.
Puffy Officer #1 came up and motioned for me to roll down my window.
With a bit of apprehension I obliged.
Ma’am we had to stop you because you violated an FTZ he said, very serious-like.
Because I so know what in the heck an FTZ is. Everyone knows what an FTZ is!
I smiled my sweetest, most scary smile. You know the one that shows all my teeth and requires the batting of eyelashes?
What is an FTZ? I asked him.
He sighed, again as if the whole world knows immediately what in the ever loving f*ck an FTZ is.
Foreign Trade Zone
I wondered if he carried a gun and if he knew how to use it, or if he just cruised around in his security SUV and ate snacks all day. And then I wondered what kind of security threat mysterious FTZ’s even faced in the first place that would require a gun or flashing lights.
I’m going to need to take down all of your information now.
Oh, great. I briefly considered asking him if he had a right to this information, but decided not to make trouble even though I was beyond annoyed at this point.
Henry was still screaming. Ada was STILL talking. Only Rosie was stunned into silence.
Puffy Officer #1 then proceeded grill me on my reasons for being here, wrote down my answers on a piece of scrap paper he dug out of his car (seriously!!!!), and took down my dear husband’s full name and employment info.
It seems I appeared like a valid threat to this mysterious FTZ.
So, I asked him. Why are there no signs designating this as a special zone?
He looked insulted. There is a security building back there at the entrance to this gate ma’am. The one you blew past.
You mean the one where I slowed down and looked inside and saw no one there to ask for directions?
Yet another sigh from him. I thought about asking him if he was having trouble breathing due to his four chins and tried not to giggle.
If this is such a regulated zone I would consider adding a gate with arms that go up and down to let people pass. And maybe a big sign telling people to stop if they are unauthorized. Because if you had those I would have gladly stopped before driving 100 feet in here to turn my car around. I informed him of this ever so politely.
Again I flashed him my scariest smile.
I’m going to need to escort you out now, he told me.
Fun! Escorted out by security with flashing lights in front of a crowded parking lot at shift change! This is like the most exciting thing that has happened to me in a year! Maybe longer than a year!!
I considered waving to people who were staring as we passed, but then decide that might be overkill. Instead I settled for waving goodbye violently to Puffy Officer as we drove away.
I didn’t tell Tyler I had to give all of his information to the security people. Hopefully they just ran it through the computer system to be sure it was valid and didn’t ever mention it to him…he would KILL me and probably make fun of me.
I still don’t exactly understand what an FTZ is. I googled it and this is pretty much all I found in relation to our plant here.
“Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc., (“TMMK”), imports foreign parts into a U.S. foreign trade zone (“FTZ”) to manufacture motor vehicles. The vehicles are then withdrawn from the FTZ for export to Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”) duty deferral program.”
Why is that such high security? I feel too dumb (read: overwhelmed with insane small children) to understand this.
But you know what? Those idiots need to invest in some big signs. What the heck? They can afford a special security force, but not use the same up and down arms at the entrance that EVERY OTHER LOT IN THE PLANT has?
I should write them a letter. Except I have no idea who to send it to, and knowing my luck I would get Tyler in trouble somehow.
Lesson of the day: Be aware of random inconspicuous FTZ’s. You could just get chased down and blocked in by overweight security guards and escorted off of the grounds.