Today was a ‘Safety Stand Down’ day at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. It is a day during which all of us are supposed to pause from our daily work tasks and reflect on our own behaviors toward safety with the understanding that all actions can incur risk, from the important decisions involving others to the tiniest and most innocuous seeming ones involving only ourselves.
One of the events I attended during this stand down was an engineering branch safety meeting. Normally during these monthly safety meetings (my MSFC friends are groaning already) we stomach an impersonal canned slideshow covering topics from road rage to chemical storage to proper stretching before reaching into those treacherous filing cabinets. This format was (thankfully) different – everyone sat together in a room and shared personal stories of accidents, foolish stunts, and lessons learned the hard way (some more hilarious than others). As a group, we gleaned the lessons that should be taken away from these experiences to try to find a way to incorporate this information and re-train ourselves to think more practically and cautiously.
And all the while I was thinking of the lesson I’d learned just the day before...
It started, as most disasters do, with chocolate. And in this I can blame one of my officemates who for this purpose I will refer to as LAM. LAM has a habit of stocking on her desk the most wonderful dark chocolate stash known to mankind. Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but when you’ve had a week as bad as mine, all chocolate develops a touch of mystical enchantment. In fact, had it not been for the ethereal glow above the bowl and the angel chorus singing Barry White, I might have walked right past her door and my day, and finger, would have ended without misery.
But I didn’t, and it did.
I grabbed that delicious piece of dark chocolate from LAM’s bowl and by the time I got back to my desk I realized that I’d smeared a big brown streak of it right across my front pant leg. And this is especially aggravating considering I only have the one pair of khakis left that fit me (also partially because of LAM’s delicious bowl of chocolate). So for the next several minutes my other officemate, Mama J, got to hear a variety of cursing from me that I wouldn’t normally use in the office while fighting with the chocolate napalm stain. The dear heart had a plastic tub of sanitizing hand wipes which we were both hoping might work without leaving my leg a wet, soppy, chocolaty mess... which it almost did. Now my stain looked less like a chocolate smear and more like spilled make-up.
Now onto the hand wipes. *this would be a good place to cue the evil music*
This container was similar to most any tub of baby wipes that you might have seen – the cylinder with a cap and a star shaped slit in the top from which you pull the sheets individually. Well, not wanting to be unkind and leave one of the wipes half hanging out to get dried out, I did what anyone would do and what I have done probably a dozen times with baby wipes. I take my finger and shove the sheet back into the canister.
But, as I learned, this was not your average canister and it certainly wasn’t for babies. Whereas the star slit in baby wipes is a weak, flimsy sheet of plastic, this one was an industrial strength sheet that I’m surprised my finger went through in the first place. And when I realized how insanely tight it was and tried to pull my finger back out, those star shaped wedges of thick plastic became barbs holding my finger in and giving me the choice of continue to let the circulation be cut off and endure that pain, or pull at my finger and say Adios, skin.
By now Mama J is listening to an ever more inventive string of cussing from me as the pain is getting worse and my finger is turning a not unattractive shade of purple. On one hand I’m angry because I never dreamed that something that simple could hurt so badly, but second to the pain is the thought that there is NO WAY in hell that I’m going to have to go to the medical center on site to have them cut this monster off my finger and end up on a slide in one of our safety presentations.
And this is where my own personal safety lesson comes into play. As I sat there trying to wedge pens, bottle caps, paper clips, ANYTHING that would get the teeth of that star slit to let go of my poor tormented finger, I was struck with the thought of how I wished that I hadn’t left my pocket knife at Steven’s house. It wasn’t until later that I realized how LUCKY I was that I’d left my knife at Steven’s house because, in my blinded-by-pain state, I actually thought that it would have been a GOOD idea to take a knife to wedge between my finger and the plastic using I don’t know what as leverage. A vein, maybe?
Since all stories should have a happy ending, yes, I did finally get the evil hand wipe lid off my finger before the actual rot set in but yes, it does still actually hurt. So my safety lesson to share for this day is a combination lesson. On the high road, be aware of how pain clouds your judgment – you might be in trouble, but getting out of it quickly can get you into MORE trouble. On the low road, your mother was right. If you stick your finger into puckered holes, you really might not get it back...
*Points intact finger and laughs* HA HA HA HAReplyDelete