Scared Granny

4 11 2018

The Boeing 727 “Whisperjet”

It was fall of 1988 and I had just begun my consulting career. I was flying out of Columbus on my way home from a project with Owens-Corning Fiberglass in Newark, Ohio. As I got to my aisle seat on an Eastern Airlines Whisperjet (Boeing 727), I saw my seat-mate, for the next hour, was a grandmotherly-type who had already taken her seat by the window. Following a cordial exchange of pleasantries, I pulled out my current read and was quickly immersed in the pages of something, I’m sure was exciting.


The lady sitting next to me seemed to be a bit fidgety as she focused all of her attention on the flight attendant, who had begun giving the obligatory safety instructions.


“You’ll find these instructions printed on the card in the seat pocket in front of you,” advised the flight attendant. “We suggest you remove the card and follow along.”


Granny, beside me, watched as she pored over the safety instruction card as if she was trying to memorize it. She craned her neck, looking toward the rear and then forward, to see the exits as they were pointed out by the flight attendant. She strained to lean over me to see the white lights on the floor that led to red lights. She was really into this and I’m thinking, either she hasn’t flown very muchor she’s an industrial spy for McDonnell Douglas. It was about then that the plane began to push back away from the gate. The sudden movement startled her and she jumped like she had just touched a spoon to one of her fillings.


Soon, we were hurtling down the runway and picking up speed fast. The wingtips began to flex upward, giving rise to the nose and soon, the rest of the aircraft. As we became airborne, and the weight of the plane lifted off of the landing gear, the landing gear struts, which were just below our seats, made a perfectly normal “bump” sound as the struts extended. At that, my nervous neighbor reached over and grabbed my left forearm, digging all ten fingernails into my skin like a cat clinging to a mouse.


I turned to her and asked if she had ever flown before. With a trembling voice, she said, “This is my first time and I’m scared to death. I wouldn’t be flying now,” she continued, “but it’s the only way I could get to Charlotte in time for my granddaughter’s birthday party.”


I tried to reassure her and told her the flight would be good practice for her return home.


“Oh no,” she exclaimed, “I’m not doing this again! When I go home, I’ll be sitting in a Greyhound!”


Now, that’s a woman who loves her granddaughter!


My PC Has Gone PC!

27 05 2018

Who could forget this modern marvel?

The personal computer first became available in 1981. At the time, I was the safety director for the City of Durham, North Carolina and as my co-workers were surrendering their IBM Selectric typewriters for new IBM computers and struggling to learn new terminology such as MS-DOS, RAM and floppy, I was doing all within my power to avoid letting anyone put one of those infernal contraptions on my desk. My hope was to be able to complete my working career and reach retirement before this new technology was forced upon me. Of course, that didn’t happen. Technology moved faster than crap through a goose.


Not only was technology trucking along at warp speed, the world was also changing socially. The workplace was no longer accepting of “blue humor,” and rightfully so. The office is not an appropriate venue for off-color jokes or innuendo, particularly in mixed company. Long gone is the pin-up tool calendar hanging in the maintenance manager’s office. And while these are positive changes, somewhere along the way, progressives (see definition below) decided to take it to the extreme and, political correctness was born, and with it, the nation of the offended.


Anti-Ridiculous, Not Anti-Progress

Until recently, I considered myself a rebel. A holdout against political correctness. An advocate for normal speech. By that, I mean, I still use gender-specific terms like freshman, ladies and gentlemen, and husband and wife. I still refer to a dead guy as a dead guy and not a permanently static post-human mass. I still call a lady a lady. And don’t even think of inviting me to speak at your commencement because I will invoke the name of Jesus while on your campus. If someone is deaf, I will say he is deaf. Oh, but then some hyper-sensitive progressive would likely correct me, saying, “He’s hearing impaired.” Excuse me, libiot, Merriam-Webster (FYI-that’s the paper version of Wikipedia.) defines deaf as, “lacking or deficient in the sense of hearing.” He lacks the ability to hear! He’s deaf!


Anyone who uses a computer is familiar with spell-check and auto-correct-those helpful yet annoying features of Microsoft Word that automatically correct our spelling errors or replace the words we want to use with those Microsoft thinks we want to use. Well, recently, I had an experience that I couldn’t believe, although I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was one of those head-smack’n moments when you suddenly realize the absurdity of something and smack your hand against your forehead.


I was using my work computer to write something about confined spaces. I typed in the word “manhole.” Immediately, a red underscore appeared below “manhole” along with a message box. The message was suggesting I use gender-neutral language such as “a utility access hole.” How dare it! A machine telling me to be politically correct! I won’t take that from my mama; I’m certainly not going to take it from a plastic box full of doo-dads and doo-hickeys held together by screws and solder.

This is PC run amok!


As a result, I no longer consider myself a mere rebel. I am now a crusader against political correctness. I suppose it’s only a matter of time before artificial intelligence takes over completely. Hopefully, I’ll be raptured before that happens.


Progressive: a left-leaning loon who goes to extreme measures to shove their own ideology down the throats of normal people. Progressives can usually be found loitering in large clusters at college faculty lounges, newspaper offices and Barbra Streisand film festivals.

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.