Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Sick of politics so here's a pic
There I am in Tremley Point, New Jersey in December 1987. I had just started my new job as a field engineer with BP. In winter, I was always getting sent to the coldest goddamn places to figure out shit like where to run the wires for tank lighting. In summer, I was always getting sent to the hottest goddamn places (like Mobile, Alabama) to do specifications and inspections for shit like industrial tank painting.
The Mobile plant was right next to a paper mill. The air was so acrid with chemicals that, on top of a sunburn, I would get this weird tingling rash on my arms and face. It would take me DAYS to wash the smell of paper chemicals and jet fuel from my hair.
Later in my career, I worked for retail. One of my biggest projects was refitting all the station pumps with those credit card readers. We installed some of the very first ones in the country on the coldest goddamn night you ever saw in Lima, OH. My fingers froze solid as I programed the damn things and ran diagnostics. I was always the one they sent to eff around with new or broken electronics because I had such a knack for it. The site technicians loved me or hated me.
There was one guy whose field office/shop was wallpapered from floor to ceiling in photos of naked women. And I'm not talking Rigid Tool calendar pix, I'm talking glossy Penthouse-type photos. Every square inch of wall space was covered with that shit. I hated going in there but didn't dare say a word to anyone because a) no one cared about that stuff in the '80s and b) I didn't want to rock the boat and make my life harder than it already was around the techs.
I once got sent to a meter training seminar (I am not kidding) with a bunch of the techs including that naked picture guy. It lasted A WEEK. I think it was in Erie, PA. Anyway, we were all drinking beer at some shit hunting bar in the middle of nowhere one night and that guy asked me to dance. There were a few other people dancing, so I said okay. I still remember how he kept trying to wrap his arms around me and pull me into him.
I have a lot of stories like that. But there was plenty of good, too--like eating steamed crabs at a picnic table in Gunnings after freezing my ass off all day programming Acculoaders at the toploading deck in the Baltimore terminal. I also met the Goat at BP. He was a tanker truck dispatcher. Now he works at a pipeline terminal full of tanks like the one in the pic, swinging valves and keeping track of all the gas. I pack his lunch every day (ham and cheese sandwiches, hoagies, homemade pepperoni rolls, fresh apples, celery sticks, potato chips, soup, sometimes a nice chocolate). The Goat is so cute in his fireproof uniform with the name patch!
One last note about the massive storage tanks. I've been on top of them (the Goat is on top of them all the time), I've been inside of them when they are empty (very, very weird). And there was always one thing in the back of my mind when I was around the tanks. Since the human body is essentially all water, if you ever fell into a storage tank full gas or oil, it is impossible to swim. You immediately sink to the bottom. This is all but impossible now due to safety measures, but years ago, I'm sure there were guys who died that way.
I can't imagine a more terrifying death than drowning in millions of gallons of gasoline, falling through it, sucking it into your lungs.