Any family can visit an ice cream factory or swim with the dolphins on vacation. But not every family calls up an industrial manufacturer and asks if they can tour the facility — and ends up starring in a Discovery Channel series.
In August 2012, Dianna and Greg Pategas, and their sons Oliver, 6, and Simon, 4, were visiting Portland, Ore., when Ms Pategas decided on a whim to find out if they could tour the nearby Wilsonville SSI Shredding Systems company.
“It started about three years ago, when somebody told me about these YouTube videos, watchitshred.com,” said Ms Pategas. “Oliver was really into deconstruction at that time,” she recalled, and was mesmerized by the videos of giant industrial shredders gobbling up bicycles, shopping carts, bowling balls, and even fish, and then spitting out the pulverized remains. “When Simon got old enough, he started watching them, too.”
The Pategas family was under the impression that SSI did shredding regularly at its site, but when she called, Ms Pategas found out that the company actually is the fabricator for industrial shredders.
“They just make those videos onsite for promotion to their clients,” she said.
Still, when the receptionist responded to her call that it would be a great day to visit, the family jumped in the car and headed over.
Oliver was a little disappointed upon arrival to find that there was no actual shredding going on that day, but the tour given to them by SSI employee Rick Ellis, on how the powerful shredders are made, proved almost as interesting.
Coincidentally, on the day the Pategas family visited, a Canadian Discovery Channel crew happened to be there installing cameras for an upcoming 13-part series on shredding.
“We left, having had a pretty good time, and when we got home we e-mailed SSI a picture of our family taken that day, as a thank you note. We thought that was the end of it,” Ms Pategas said.
On December 15, the day following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, they received a message from Mr Ellis. “He remembered that Oliver was in the first grade, and that we lived in Sandy Hook. He wanted to make sure Oliver was okay,” Ms Pategas said. Fortunately, they were able to reassure him that they had not been directly affected. Oliver attends Middle Gate Elementary School.
Meanwhile the Discovery project was underway at SSI. Twelve episodes had been filmed and the contact person at SSI was noodling ideas with the film crew for a great final episode. Somewhere along the way, Ms Pategas was later told, the family from Connecticut that had visited SSI was brought up, and the boy who was so interested in shredding.
“They thought it would be a great way to end the series: SSI’s biggest fan directing the ultimate shred,” said Ms Pategas. Oliver could be the boss for the day, and say what would get shredded.
On March 13, Oliver and his mother found themselves returning to Oregon to film the episode. Oliver had made up a two-page list of items he might want to shred. On the list, he had suggested a bath tub, Barbie dolls, Hello Kitty items, a canoe, pots and pans — and guns.
It was his father’s suggestion, much to Oliver’s dismay, that was selected, though. Mr Pategas thought it would be mighty fun to see a bunch of toilets shredded.
The VIP Treatment
The Pategases received VIP attention, from the moment they were chauffeured to the SSI site from the airport, to the moment they left, exhausted and thrilled, at the end of the day.
Oliver was provided with a shirt printed with Director on the back, and Shred 524 on the front. Goggles, a hard hat, and ear plugs were also part of the Big Boss gear. The toilets, Oliver was told, would be ground up during the afternoon filming. In the meantime, they had a treat for him.
Tom Garnier, president of SSI, rounded up a shopping cart, and off the two of them went, Ms Pategas said. Mr Garnier told Oliver to pick up anything he saw that he wanted to shred.
A robot from someone’s desk (unanimously volunteered by co-workers), scrap items from a bin, broken toys, a clock, and one of Oliver’s favorites, a boom box, were piled into the cart. Then it was up and away in a scissor lift, hovering over the shredder.
“I felt a lot better,” Ms Pategas admitted, “when I saw that Rick had a old of Oliver every moment.”
Oliver ditched his prizes into the shredder, and with a clatter and a crunch, “and some unbelievable noises,” they disappeared down the shredder’s gullet, reappearing on the floor below in an unrecognizably miniscule form.
After lunch, it was time for the moment Oliver had waited for: the shredding of the toilets.
This time, Oliver’s job was at ground level. Huge bins filled with ceramic toilets were hoisted high above a massive industrial shredder.
“Oliver fired up the shredder,” said his mother, pushing a series of buttons in order. “Let me tell you,” Ms Pategas said, “the sound of toilets being shredded is something else. There was a lot of adrenaline pumping when those toilets were shredded, too. So then they dumped in a second bin!” she said.
The Big Boss was not yet finished, however. Earlier, Oliver had spotted a bath tub out back. It was a dream come true.
“Bring on the bath tub,” he ordered.
“He was in charge,” said Ms Pategas, “so…”
Then Oliver suggested that the shredder might be a good place for the shopping cart. “He’s the boss!” the crew declared, and Oliver made the shredder gobble it down.
“The film crew just kept filming,” Ms Pategas said. “They shredded everything in sight, it seemed.”
Then, the day was done, and it was time to return to the airport and head back to reality.
“For a company that does something so far removed from our usual lives, these people were the salt of the earth,” said Ms Pategas. Before she and Oliver left SSI, they presented Mr Garnier, Mr Ellis, and publicist Lee Sage each with a We Are Newtown T-shirt.
“It was a pretty emotional moment,” Ms Pategas said.
The series, which has not yet been named, will air this spring in Canada, Ms Pategas said, and then it is hoped that either National Geographic or Discovery in the US will pick it up and air it sometime this summer.
Oliver, meanwhile, is cherishing his memory of the shopping cart disappearing into the maw of the machine, until he can witness it again on film.