Felix the Mouse

8 07 2017

My employer leases the entire second floor of our building. According to the building management’s janitorial staff, our downstairs neighbors are slobs who have so much food lying around the office it looks like the aftermath of a dormitory food fight. So, it was just a matter of time before we began to see signs of mice infestation.


Way back on March 29th, while working at my desk, I had a sudden hankering for something sweet-a piece of chocolate would be perfect. So, I walked to the kitchen at my office to see what was in the community snack basket. Only the day before, it had been filled with miniature Kit Kats, miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Tootsie Rolls. To my dismay, I looked inside and saw all the way to the bottom. But, I was in luck-there were two miniature peanut butter cups left. But then, I noticed the peanut butter cups weren’t the only prizes inside the basket. Whoa! There were more mouse droppings than peanut butter cups down there. I suddenly lost my craving for sugar and decided to take a pass on the peanut butter cups.


The very next day, I came into the office, opened my desk drawer and saw the unmistakable evidence of a mouse. I had a pack of Toasty crackers with peanut butter in my desk and the little varmint had chewed into the package and eaten half a cracker. He had also pulled about half the tissues out of a new box of Kleenex. There was also about a half-pound of mouse poop inside my desk drawer-he must have been eating someone else’s crackers, too. And he hadn’t been in only the one drawer; he had been in every drawer-he left a trail of black “rice” in every drawer. There was enough poop to fertilize a corn field. How on earth can something so small put out so much crap?


So, they called the exterminator, who came in and left several traps scattered around the building-6 in my office alone. But in spite of all the traps, he continued to frequent my office. He would come in, crap on top of the traps and make the rounds. And although mine isn’t the only office he would visit, it did seem to be his favorite.


This cat and mouse game-no pun intended-went on for several weeks so I finally decided to give him a name.

Such a neat-nik

At first, I named him Jerome (Jerry for short), but after considerable thought and studying one of the pictures, I decided Felix (of Odd Couple fame) would be more appropriate. In one picture, he had opened and eaten half a chocolate chip cookie. I noticed he moved all the wrappings to one side, away from where he was chowing down.


Well, I got tired of coming into the office only to find empty traps. I especially got tired of having to dump my desk drawers so I could wipe everything down with Clorox wipes. I decided to take matters in my own hands.


I took one of the traps set out by the exterminator, baited it with crackers and Chips Ahoy cookies and then placed it in his favorite drawer. The first morning after setting the trap- nothing. But the cookies were too much for him to resist. On day three, I came into my office, opened the drawer and tally ho! I got the little critter!


So, they called the exterminator to come and get their trap along with its contents. Thank goodness for the long holiday weekend. It’s given me time to adjust to life without Felix. The adventure ends.

Got ’em!!


He’s much larger when I tell the story


With Authority Comes Responsibility

12 01 2017

We’ve all seen the pictures of some poor schmuck in some third world country standing at the top of a pole, 77b597ff2e64070f7b16877a0e4fc36auntethered, while trying to do his job and avoid electrocution. Well, there was a day when working in this country was just as dangerous (and still is in some corners of the country). I see it all the time.

Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

I am a safety consultant. I enjoy what I do. In my job, which I have been doing since 1988, I go around the country training workers to be safe, training managers to manage safety programs, identifying hazards by conducting mock OSHA inspections and program audits. To sum it up, I’m only trying to help management fulfill not just a regulatory but a moral obligation, as well as to provide safeguards for their workers. If you hire someone to work for you, you are responsible, by law, to provide those workers with a workplace that is safe and healthful. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) puts it this way: “Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”


This is known as the General Duty Clause and is found in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.


In the years preceding the passage of the OSHAct, there were a reported 15,000 work-related fatalities each year in this country alone. But the sad truth is, it should not have taken legislation to force employers to make the workplace safer. Even before there was a regulatory requirement, there has always been, or at least for the past 3400 years, when Moses wrote the book of Deuteronomy, that moral obligation.


So, who was the first safety consultant? God. Through Moses, in the Book of Deuteronomy, God told the Jewish nation to safeguard those for whom they were responsible. Deuteronomy 22:8 says, “When you build a new house, then you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring guilt of bloodshed on your household if anyone falls from it.”


It was God’s position that if one should place himself/herself in a position of responsibility for another, he/she should take precautions to safeguard those under their charge.


I will say that in my 39-year career as a safety professional, I have seen vast improvement in management attitudes and recognition of their moral responsibilities; but, once in a while I go into a workplace that takes me back to the pre-OSHA days when there were no national workplace safety laws and employers put the lives of their workers at risk for the sake of the bottom line. Unfortunately, when I go into a workplace, I can only preach OSHA and not the Bible.

They Always Blame the Dog

23 02 2014

The list is long-celebrities parading around with their little dogs tucked under their arms. Do they really love these miniature mutts, or do they only carry them to keep their arm warm? I used to think it was simply a fashion statement and that the Hollywoodistas considered toting Toto around was chic. Well, I have learned the real reason why you won’t catch Paris Hilton out in public without Peanut or Chi-Chi or, whatever his name is.untitled

One recent morning, I got in the elevator to go to my office, and as soon as the doors closed behind me, I realized I had a problem. Someone in the elevator just before me had…well, let’s see, how can I say this without appearing unrefined because, after all, I do have a reputation to uphold? Someone had cut the cheese. And this was no ordinary popcorn poot. This thing was nasty. Oh this was bad! The air in the elevator was heavy. I could almost see stink-vapors sliding down the walls and permeating my clothes. I wasn’t sure if I should be angry at the individual for leaving the stink bomb,or if I should kneel down and pray for him because clearly this person had a problem. His day had really gotten off to a bad start. Now, I’m only assuming it was a guy because a guy will eat anything while most women are more particular about what they put in their stomachs. This guy had something really nasty churning around in his belly.

It suddenly occurred to me that I had a real problem, actually two problems. The first was the problem of survival. The elevator was moving so slowly, I wasn’t sure I would be able to hold my breath all the way to the second floor. I nearly panicked when I considered the elevator could get stuck between floors and I would have to sit down and write my wife a goodbye note. My goodness! I’ve ridden elevators to the top of the Empire State Building that took less time. As I was about to run out of air, I buried my face into my jacket and got a quick breath which enabled me to make it the rest of the way. But then I was facing the second problem-what if the doors open on the second floor and one of my co-workers gets into the elevator? I was all alone in that elevator and there was no way I would ever convince anyone that I didn’t do it. I didn’t even have a dog to blame it on. That’s when it hit me. Paris, Britney and Miley don’t give a rat’s butt about those pampered pooches. They were no more than four-legged scapegoats. And that’s why you’ll never see Paris get into an elevator without her dog.

Wasn't me!

Wasn’t me!


25 01 2014

I was flying from Fort Smith, Arkansas to Atlanta recently. It looked like I was going to be fortunate enough to have an empty seat beside me which suited me just fine because I was sick, didn’t feel good and had laryngitis. I was looking forward to just sitting in my private world listening to my music while reading O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus-a recent Christmas present. As soon as they closed the door, a young, forty-something, blonde moved from her seat across the aisle into the empty seat to my right.

It didn’t take her long. She saw what I was reading and said, “Let me know if you run across any evidence that he existed.”

Did She Really Say That? I couldn’t believe she was asking me to do that, so to confirm my understanding, I squeaked out, “Evidence that who existed?”

“Jesus,” she replied.

Again, with great effort to be heard above the din of the engines, I spoke, “I don’t need evidence because I know He exists.”

She made some sound that seemed to quietly acknowledge-Oh, so you’re one of those, huh?

She said something about not ever believing what she hears people tell her but, instead, has to see for herself in order to believe. I could have said something clever like asking if she believes there is a planet Pluto but it didn’t occur to me at the time because I was trying to think of a way to get out of the conversation. Instead, I told her you have to have faith. I then put my headphones on.

I think she was mildly…okay, somewhat insulted, but she got the message. Trouble is, it was not the message I should be sending and I knew it.

Okay, let’s get it out on the table. God had just opened a door big enough to drive a church activity bus through. He couldn’t have made it any clearer if He had put the message, BILL, WITNESS TO HER! on the television screen in the back of the seat in front of me. Here was as clear an opportunity to witness as I had ever faced and it shames me to say, I didn’t want to talk. I just wanted to be left alone.

As we flew along, I tried to sleep but all I could think about was blowing this opportunity.

When the pilot announced we were about twenty minutes out of Atlanta, I pulled off my headphones to rekindle the conversation. I asked her what was taking her out of town and she said she was on her way to work. She told me she was an airline pilot. Turns out she flies Boeing 777s for one of the freight carriers. Impressive. She spent the next twenty minutes talking about flying and all the places she has been and the sights she’s seen.

We landed in Atlanta and I was thinking I had blown it. Then, just as we were about to get off the plane, she said, “Faith, huh?” as if that was a revelation which had never occurred to her.
I couldn’t read anything into the way she said that but at least that told me she was still thinking about what I had said. I was encouraged as she stood up and wished me a safe trip.

Since God didn’t divinely provide me with a voice early in our conversation, maybe that was all He expected me to do-plant a seed. He can cultivate that seed into something really great. And that’s my point. We’re not all Billy Graham, and God doesn’t expect us to be. As disciples (followers) of Christ, we have been charged with spreading the gospel and sometimes that can be accomplished in the simplest of ways. We are tools in His hands. No tool is simpler than a wood chisel-a piece of steel with a sharp edge. Yet in the hands of a master carver, a rough piece of wood can be transformed into a thing of beauty. Plant the seed and stand back and let the Master do the work.

The hands of the Master

The hands of the Master


I’m All Thumbs!

28 09 2013
Flash Thumbs!

Flash Thumbs!

I stood in line at Dunkin-Donuts at Lambert Airport in St. Louis watching a thirty-something young lady in front of me texting. As she composed her message, her thumbs moved so quickly they were a blur. It looked like she had six thumbs. Remember that scene from The Big Bang Theory in which Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj all dressed up as the Flash, and Raj suggested they walk in single file so they would appear to be one person moving really fast? I mean letters were appearing on her phone screen faster than the rising numbers on the national debt tote board. I have seen young people text before, and I emphasize young people because, although my generation does text, few can text with the speed of a Smith Corona. That’s not a beer, young people-it’s a typewriter. It seems that most of my generation, myself included, uses the single digit technique or SDT. I prefer the right index finger. My wife, I have noticed, is a pinky texter.



Then, I asked myself, why not me? I have two thumbs which are just as nimble and mobile as hers, so why can’t I text with both thumbs? Oh wait, I don’t text. But, I could compose my emails faster by using both thumbs and kicking them into passing gear.

So, after I bought and ate my breakfast, I checked my email and had one I wanted to respond to. With my Droid firmly seated in both hands, thumbs at the ready, I began.

“Thsrxb, ///donht gaaspr?/.” I looked at what I had typed and quickly decided I could type faster, or at least with some semblance of accuracy, if I use my SDT. Even my autocorrect was confused. If autocorrect was human, I have no doubt that old adage- didn’t know whether to scratch his watch or wind his butt- would be appropriate here. I tried again and this time dropped my Droid. I looked around to make sure no one was watching as I picked it up. That’s it. I gave it the old college try. Back to reality.

I guess my brain can’t keep up with two thumbs working in total disharmony. I’ll be happy peck, peck, pecking along with my right index finger, ya’ll.

My, my, my, my, my Corona! Forgive me, I couldn't resist.

My, my, my, my, my Corona! Forgive me, I couldn’t resist.

Chief Cox

18 08 2013

Not long ago, I got word that a friend of mine had passed away. Chief Ron Cox was not just a friend, he was also, for a while at least, my supervisor while serving in the Coast Guard and stationed at the USCG Air Station in Elizabeth City. Chief Cox was, or at least he cast the appearance of being, a very serious person who defined stoicism, but one who did not take the world too seriously. He was also a very fair-minded boss who was fun to work for. He had the rare ability to give you an unpleasant assignment and make you not mind doing it. I was recently thinking about Chief Cox when I remembered this story which I think is not only an apt description, but, also, one which you might enjoy.


My good friend and fellow former Coastie , Richie Boyd, and I had spent the afternoon flying. In order to maintain your flight status and continue to qualify for monthly flight pay, we were required to fly a minimum number of hours each month. So, one day, realizing we were both in need of a little flight time, we jumped on whatever mission was available. I don’t recall what the trip was-probably some mundane training flight practicing touch-and-goes at some obscure airport in eastern North Carolina. Regardless, together, Richie and I were a recipe for trouble because alone, I submit with at least a modicum of pride, we were each a mere notch below world-class pranksters. The world was our target and like a shark cruising the surf, we were always on the lookout for a next target. It was our way of telling the world to lay back and enjoy the moment.ECity

It was about 5:30 PM by the time we returned to the hangar where we worked when we weren’t flying. Everyone had left for the day so the hangar was ours. We were free to do whatever we could conjure up in our twisted minds.


There was a sink in the office with a can of hand soap on a shelf directly above. The soap had the same consistency and color as the grease we used to grease the flap tracks on the C-130s we maintained.


Now, I’m foggy on the details of who actually did what, but it was a definitely a joint effort. We emptied the soap can and filled it with flap grease. Our thinking was the rest of the crew would come in to work the following day and fall victim to our brainstorm. What we didn’t know was, Chief Cox had also been out flying that afternoon and as we were walking toward the door to go home, he came in. Neither of us said a word as we watched Chief Cox go to the sink in the office and begin to wash up. The last thing I recall seeing was Chief Cox reaching deep into the soap can. It was at that point, Richie and I began to run from the hangar. Neither of us wanted to be left alone with Chief Cox when he realized he was the latest victim of the Boyd-Taylor torture tandem.


Chief Cox was well aware of our reputations and always turned a blind eye with a hidden grin. I believe he enjoyed watching as we pulled one over on the crew nearly each day. But how would he react to being the victim?


Well, the next day when I came in to work, I walked by Chief Cox while sitting at his desk. At first his look was stern but then one corner of his mouth came up into a slight grin with a look as if to say, “Well played.” 

You Wanna Do What?!

10 05 2013

proctologistWhat do you do for a living and how did you come to do it? What was your career path and how did you decide in the beginning that was the path you wanted to take? For a fortunate few, there is never a question in their minds, from an early age, what they want to do as a career. For most, however, the path is not clear because they don’t have a clue how they want to spend their lives. That’s understandable. It is hard to know, at 20 years old, what you’ll want to be doing at 40. When trying to decide on a college major, one is making, quite literally, a career decision; that is assuming they will be able to find a job in their chosen field following graduation.

For many people, their careers grew from their love and fascination with something. A snake handler probably had a life-long fascination with snakes and has the scars to prove it. An astronomer has probably been enamored with all things spacey for her entire life.

So, what does that say about the proctologist? What is it that clicks in the mind of a medical student that leads him (or her) to one day say, “I think I’d like to give that proctology thing a go?” My goodness, who in his (or her) right mind aspires to be a proctologist? I always thought you had to be smart to get into medical school. This kind of thinking defies logic.

Can you just hear the conversation between the medical student and his parents when he announces to them he wants to be a proctologist?

Here’s the way I see it. During a family gathering, perhaps a family reunion, the son, Steve, has come home during a break. He pulls his parents inside to share his news with them while others are outside enjoying the activities.

Steve: Mom, dad, I wanted to let you know that I’ve decided to specialize in proctology.

[Silence. Mom and dad look at each other then back to Steve.]

Mom: Stevie, that’s wonderful. Maybe you’ll be able to help me figure out why my feet hurt me so bad.

Dad: Oh Martha, that’s not a proctologist. That’s a podiatrist-a foot doctor.

Mom: Well, what’s a proctologist then?

Steve: A proctologist, mom…

Dad interrupting: It’s a butt doctor!

Steve: A proctologist, mom, specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders affecting the colon and rectum.

Mom: Oh my. Well, son, if…

Dad Interrupting: You’ll be the butt of a lot of jokes, son.

Mom: Oh don’t you listen to him, baby boy. If that’s what you want to do then we’re behind you.

Dad: [laughing] No, Martha, he’ll be the one behind. He’ll always be behind in his work.

Mom: Hush Albert, you pervert.

Steve: That’s okay, mom. I’m already getting used to that. But you know, dad’s right, proctologist are kidded an awful lot.

Mom: That’s okay. Let ‘em laugh. We’ll see who’s laughing when they’re all flipping burgers and you’re making a butt load of…oh, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to say it like that.

Dad: [Laughing hysterically]

Steve: It’s okay, mom. Like I said, I’m used to it.

Dad: [Still laughing] There’s one good thing about it- the job is recession-proof because business will always be looking up. [laughing harder]

Mom: You stop that, Albert. Be proud of our boy. He’s done so well. He was working real hard to get himself through medical school while so many other young kids were just sitting on their…oh, I’m sorry, I did it again.

Dad: [on floor laughing]

Mom: That’s enough, Albert. It’s not all that funny.

Dad: I need an aspirin [still laughing]

Mom: Albert, I told you to hush. Now let’s get back outside and share this good news.

Steve: Come on, dad. Let’s go play some corn hole.

Dad falls down steps laughing and breaks his leg.