Once upon a time, there was a mysterious woman, named Wanda Wonka.
This name, “Wonka,” might seem familiar to you. You may be thinking, “Hey, this Wanda Wonka must be married to Willy Wonka– the guy with the chocolate factory!”
If you had paid attention to Roald Dahl’s tale of Willy Wonka, you’d know he was not married. But, Wanda was Willy’s sister and she had the same entrepreneurial upbringing and background as her brother.
Except, she was a little more… grounded.
Wanda always obeyed her parents and did exactly as they said. This makes for a very productive, very safe, very uninteresting childhood. And, everyone knows, uninteresting children can never grow up to own chocolate factories.
So, while Willy successfully built his chocolate business, on the other side of the world– all the way in China (to cut down on manufacturing and production costs)– Wanda built her sprocket factory.
It was a magical place. But there was one problem with Wanda’s business model: No one in the world knew what in the heck a sprocket was. The most pathetic thing about it was that everyone could’ve just Googled it or whatever, but they were just too dang lazy.
So, Wanda did what every Wonka would do and had done in the past: She held a contest! A contest for a tour through the sprocket factory!
Ok, so it wasn’t as exciting as a chocolate factory tour, but what is?!
What was exciting is that, at the end of the tour, she was going to give the most promising prospect some shares of stock in her sprocket factory as well as a lifetime supply of sprocket chocolate (That is, chocolates shaped like sprockets). Listen, she wasn’t above asking her brother for favors. And, because she had and entrepreneurial spirit, she knew that the best bribes of all involve chocolate.
The way the contest worked is that Wanda placed a golden sprocket on five bicycles around the world (because, after all, a sprocket is really just one of those gears that moves a chain on a bicycle or another piece of machinery– but you already knew that). And, even though Wanda stated that the bicycles on which she placed the sprockets were very specifically red Huffy bikes, she forgot that people are stupid and don’t listen to rules.
People around the world began to haphazardly vandalize arbitrary bikes of all models and colors with no regard as to their mechanics, and still no idea what the heck a sprocket even was.
Wanda also neglected to realize that only bike mechanics know to safely remove sprockets– so, it wasn’t long before four mechanics from around the globe found the four sprockets:
- Augustine Stoop: A mechanic from Germany named for her poor posture from working on way too many bikes. She had no self-control around bicycles and would work tirelessly until she fixed any mechanical issue, and then overcharge her patrons because she just wasn’t a very nice person. In fact, she found the golden sprocket while working on someone’s bike that was just sitting in a parking lot somewhere– and then, when the bike’s owner returned, she charged them for her work.
- Veronica Waltz: A mechanic from London who wasn’t really a mechanic at all because she made her butler work on bikes for her while she collected the profits. She owned every type of bicycle ever made, so naturally, that included one of the bikes containing the golden sprocket.
- Scarlett Disregard: A car mechanic (because cars have sprockets too, I guess) from Georgia who had a terrible habit of wearing car air freshener around wherever she went. In fact, she set the record for wearing car air freshener around for the longest amount of time– 3 years. The previous record was 4 hours. She found the golden sprocket on a bicycle she thought smelled particularly like chocolate. In the process of trying to find where this odor was coming from (perhaps for the purpose of creating a freshener scent of her own), she found the golden sprocket.
- Mark RV: A particularly scuzzy bike mechanic from Arkansas who owned an RV business. Mark RV actually changed his last name to “RV” because he liked RVs that much, which, in part, is what makes him so scuzzy. However, once every year, Mark RV decided to take a break from driving RVs exclusively to ride around on a bike in the fresh air. On this particular day, Mark RV rented the bike with the golden sprocket and, when he examined the bike to find out if he could steal any parts for his RV business, he found the prized sprocket.
Of course, millions of others scrambled to vandalize bikes for the purpose of finding the final golden sprocket. However, there was one boy, Harley, who really really really wanted to find it.
Sadly, the odds weren’t really in Harley’s favor. You see, Harley lived with his mother and four grandparents who were all part of a motorcycle gang and they loved motorcycles and bicycles so much that they didn’t believe in taking them apart. Which was ridiculous, but that’s besides the point.
It’s not that Harley liked bicycles– but he DID like sprockets. He knew what a sprocket was because he went to a STEM school. For weeks, he hung around at bicycle shops around his hometown in hopes that he’d find the golden sprocket, just lying on the ground.
His grandpa, Moe, even brought home an engine he found in a nearby junkyard in hopes that one of the sprockets within would be the golden sprocket, but Harley knew this was impossible. Especially because the engine belonged to a car and the golden sprocket was hidden in a bicycle. But alas, Grandpa Moe did not know the difference between a bicycle and a car because he didn’t go to a STEM school.
One day, while Harley was walking home from school because he was too embarrassed to ride home on a motorcycle with his mom, he took a detour past the junkyard. He admired all of the rusty old bikes there and collected only the coolest looking sprockets he could find. As he was about to leave, he found in the lot a newer bike that almost looked planted there. It was a Huffy.
Could this be?…
Ok, you don’t have to act like you don’t know that Harley found the golden sprocket on that bike. Seriously? You should know by now that the cute kid with a good education and a pure heart always finds the metaphorical golden sprocket.
And Harley did.
He ran home and told his family, hardly able to contain his excitement. And, because Grandpa Moe was the most talkative of all the grandparents, Harley decided to take him to the sprocket factory on the tour.
The day of the tour arrived and the mechanics, Harley, and Grandpa Moe were excited to finally see the inside of the factory. The rest of the world was just waiting in anticipation to finally find out what the heck a sprocket was (for the record, when the world found out, everyone was pretty disappointed. They had assumed Wanda was as exciting as her brother. They were wrong.)
Wanda Wonka came out of her factory, dressed head to toe in probably the most drab outfit. She was literally wearing jeans and a t-shirt. She also didn’t share any of her brother’s fashion genes.
Wanda took her guests into the factory.
The group traveled down a long hallway, filled with pictures of strange and unusual gears hanging on the walls– spur gears, hypoid gears, helical gears, herringbone gears, planetary gears, Richard Gere…
At the end of this hallway was a large door, made entirely of types of gears which all fit together in one giant rectangular mass. The door was odd because it was missing a few pieces, and it also had no doorknob.
Wanda Wonka looked sharply at her guests and said, “Please, hand me your golden sprockets.”
She held out her hand and the guests gave her their prized sprockets. They watched in amazement as Wanda placed the sprockets in the empty places on the door of gears. As she finished, every gear on the door began to turn and the door opened to reveal–
An entire room of bicycles and motorcycles and cars.
“This,” Wanda said, “Is the transportation room! While this factory does not focus exclusively on modes of transportation, we are constantly testing the best sprocket arrangements to accommodate travelers. You will notice, there is a river of motor oil running through this room. That is to make it smell like cars in here. It adds ambiance.”
She was right. There was a river of motor oil running through the room.
“Hey!” Mike RV yelled, “What are they?!”
He was pointing to a large pile of loofahs on the ground next to one of the cleanest vehicles in the room.
“Those are the poofiest loofahs money can buy– we use those to polish every sprocket in this factory,” Wanda replied.
“Really?” asked Harley,
“Yes,” answered Wanda, “I call them Poofah Loofahs.”
Just as Wanda looked like she was about to break out in song or something, everyone heard a cry for help coming from the motor oil river.
It was Augustine Stoop!
Augustine had stooped so far over the motor oil river to check the consistency of the oil that she fell into it! Wanda frantically explained that the motor oil from the river was pumped from the factory to AutoZones all over the world to be bottled and sold in stores. As she was explaining this, Augustine got sucked into the piping which transported the oil out of the factory and there was nothing Wanda could do.
No matter. Wanda Wonka hated Augustine anyway. You see, Wanda liked to make snap judgments about people she barely knew and rarely felt guilty about it.
Wanda then led the group to get on a boat which would take them down the motor oil river to their next destination on the tour.
This boat was especially haunting, as it was actually a canoe and riders were forced to paddle downstream. You see, canoes DON’T.REQUIRE.SPROCKETS.
It was, perhaps, the most harrowing experience of Harley’s life both because of the lack of sprockets and because Wanda Wonka kept saying super weird stuff like,
“There’s no earthly way of knowing which direction we are going!”
“The danger must be growing for the rowers keep on rowing!”
Among other things.
Actually, Wanda got pretty hysterical for a hot second and Harley didn’t quite get it because if Wanda wanted them to stop rowing, all she really had to do was ask. She was in charge after all.
But the boat ride was soon over and they arrived at a room filled with shining sprockets which were being cleaned in various ways and using various methods.
“This is our testing division,” Wanda explained, “We test methods for cleaning sprockets: Different soaps, scrubs, scents…”
“Scents?” Scarlett Disregard asked.
“Yes, scents,” Wanda replied. She held up a spray bottle and showed those on the tour, “We are working on sprocket scents so that people who drive bicycles and cars will not have to worry about investing in air freshener. New car smell will soon just be part of the mechanics of cars around the globe! The scent in my hand is one we are also working on: A fresh-cut grass smell for lawn mowers–”
“Let me try that!” Scarlett yelled as she snatched the bottle from Wanda’s hand.
“You really shouldn’t–” Wanda protested mildly.
But it was too late.
Scarlett doused her entire body in the smell. And no sooner than she began to smell like the first week of summer, did she swell up to a truly enormous size. Scarlett had forgotten:
She had hay fever and a terrible allergy to grass.
And Wanda only used the most natural ingredients available for her formulas– so the grassy scent was derived from actual grass.
Employees at the factory literally had to roll Scarlett out of the factory to the nearest hospital. You see, Scarlett really should’ve brought an EpiPen along with her on the tour, but didn’t have an EpiPen because they’re like $600.
The tour moved on, to a room full of machines which manufactured sprockets.
At the end of each sprocket production line was a scale, which determined whether each sprocket manufactured was fit for use, or if it needed to be disposed of and instead used for some hipster steampunk jewelry or something. All of the rejected sprockets were dumped down a chute and into to a dumpster.
While Veronica couldn’t have cared less about sprockets, she did like things that were shiny. This room– with so many sprockets being manufactured in one place– was perhaps the shiniest she had ever seen. And, because she was unaware of the existence of safety protocols since her butler did everything for her, she ran up to the manufacturing equipment and began taking sprockets off of the conveyor belts which led to the scales at the end of the line.
Little did Veronica realize that she, herself, was heading toward a scale.
And, before she could say, “I’m a grown brat,” she was being dumped down the scale’s chute and into a dumpster where hundreds of steampunk obsessed jewelry makers were waiting to judge her outfit choice.
The group went on.
The final stop on the tour was the room of projects: In which one model of every thing that had ever needed a sprocket was stored.
That’s when Mark RV saw it: The largest RV he had ever laid his eyes on.
“Hey, lady!” he said to Wanda in the scuzziest tone of voice possible, “I didn’t know you had an RV here!”
“Of course!” Wanda replied, “That RV uses the biggest sprocket we’ve ever manufactured! Would you like to give it a spin?”
Harley thought this was a funny joke because sprockets spin, but Wanda was also speaking figuratively regarding the RV.
“Sure!” Mark said excitedly (but not without mild scuzziness).
Mark actually got into the RV and never came out again.
He didn’t die or anything, he just never stepped out of the RV. He literally lived there for the rest of his life.
Soon, the tour was over and Harley, Grandpa Moe, and Wanda went to Wanda’s office. Once there, Wanda was noticeably cranky as she sat at her desk and began to say goodbye to the two.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” Grandpa Moe began, “When does my grandson receive his lifetime supply of sprocket chocolate and his shares of stock?” he asked.
“First of all, I prefer ‘Miss,'” Wanda replied, “When you call me, ‘Ma’am,’ it makes me sound old. Second of all, NEVER. He receives them NEVER because he is a child. What child sincerely loves sprockets?! You clearly put him up to this, old man!”
“Miss Wonka,” Harley replied, “You don’t understand– I love sprockets!”
“Impossible!” Wanda cried, “I will give you the chocolate because children enjoy chocolate and I already get all the chocolate I want from my brother. But you and your lying grandpa need to leave.”
Harley did not know what to do. He decided the best thing was to respect Wanda Wonka’s wishes.
Harley looked at Wanda and said, “I only wish that you had given me a chance. I have a promising future.”
As he and his grandpa began to leave, Harley, with tears in his eyes, placed his report card on Wanda’s desk next to her– For he always carried around his report card and it was the only thing he could give Wanda Wonka for her to remember him by.
Harley and Grandpa Moe walked to the door.
“Wait!” Wanda yelled.
“Yes?” Harley replied.
“Perhaps, I was wrong about you, Harley,” Wanda said.
“But, what made you change your mind?” Harley asked.
Wanda stood, turned toward Harley and Grandpa Moe, and took a long and hard look at Harley before whispering in a dramatic tone:
“I too went to a STEM school.”
Harley ran and hugged Wanda Wonka and the two knew that this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
And so, although Wanda Wonka had no intention of doing so before, and although she probably had about 50 years of life ahead of her, she gave Harley the sprocket factory.
Perhaps it was a rash decision on her part to do this– to give a perfectly successful factory to a young boy with little business experience. But her brother had done it. And her brother truly was clever, inspirational, and revolutionary.
If it was good enough for her brother, it was good enough for her.
And Wanda saw the excitement Harley had for all she had done– all the appreciation he had for this thing that so many others thought inconsequential– and Wanda thought to herself the same thing her brother must have thought the day he gave Charlie his factory:
“That’s all I wanted: for someone to look at me and listen to me, but in some beautiful and artistic way.”