To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sometimes people try to tell me that I am mistaken in thinking that X is stupid and wrong. If I only had enough information, I would see X their way. I listen more or less politely to the other side, but frequently I end up even more convinced.

Example 1: I used to work for a lab that was owned by a chemical plant. For about 18 months the lab was actually located at the plant, and we had to undergo special safety training. I watched the videos about chlorine gas (!!!!) and learned that if there was a release, I should look at the windsock and go cross-ways from it. OK, made sense. Then they decided to have a drill, and told those of us that were in the lab building (outside the actual plant) that we should walk to the gate to be counted. Because if the chlorine gas release were bad enough, the phone lines would be down. I argued against this. The windsock was clearly visible to us from the lab building. We had just sat through scary videos that they showed us, telling us to flee in a direction cross-ways from the windsock. Walking toward the gate pretty much meant walking toward the plant, which I couldn't see as an advisable strategy, no matter which way the wind was blowing. Well, we need to be able to count you, I was told. There was no radio in the lab building. There was one in the administration building next to the lab building, but they would be sealing the doors and windows so we would not be able to get in.

So I thought that for their drill I would walk to the gate, but if there was an actual release I would go cross-ways from the windsock. Then we had the actual drill, and we lab folks walked like a bunch of sheep over to the gate; from which the guard came out and said, "Y'all are dead." OK, I said, this is stupid and I'M NOT GOING TO DO IT, not even for a drill. No. No sir. The entire group let me take point on this and I was willing to do it. The guard should not have said that, I was told. Why not, he was RIGHT, I said. It was again argued that the administration building would be locked down. Can we not knock on the door? I asked. It finally became too much to continue to suggest that we should be left outside for the chlorine cloud to strip our flesh from our bones, and it was agreed that the administration people would open to our knock.

But I still thought that I would go to the administration building for any drills, but if there were an actual chlorine release I would go cross-ways from the windsock.

Example 2: Wrenches and hex keys. WHY do they have to be made in 1/32" increments, and why do there have to be both English and metric versions? I have to change a fan in a GC. The set screw needs a hex key. I have most of a set at work, which I was able to line up from small to large; this was convenient for figuring out which two the set screw is between. Naturally there is no way for me to determine the sizes of these two because they're not marked - they can't be, they're too small; and the pouches they go in aren't marked either.

This kind of thing has bugged me all my professional life. Tekmar purge-and-trap valves have tiny little handles that fit onto D-shaped shafts. Are the holes in the handles D-shaped? No, they are round, with extremely small set screws. You have to identify the exact hex key that fits that screw, line the screw up with the flat side of the shaft, and then turn it enough to grip the shaft, but not so much that you strip the screw (depressingly easy to do.) Why, why do these things have set screws instead of D-shaped holes? I asked their instrument tech once. Probably because somebody's brother-in-law owns the set screw factory, I was told.

Wrenches are just as bad. They and hex keys ought to come in three sizes: small, medium, and large. I see no reason for anything else. R tries to tell me that if I were an engineer I would understand the need for there to be these tiny increments in size, having to do with the amount of torque needed to do the job, efficient use of materials, etc. Just this evening he explained all of this to me. When he was through, I told him, "I understand what you are saying. I reject it." Fortunately he does not feel the need to police my opinions.


CreoleInDC said...

"I understand what you are saying. I reject it."

That made me burst out laughing! ROFL!

Laura(southernxyl) said...

I guess it's nicer than "that's a bunch of crap" which is what I was thinking, and what I might say to people who do not have the privilege of being my immediate family member.