Friday, March 20, 2009

What the hell is wrong with some people??

I work in a manufacturing facility. A very large manufacturing facility. It's about 1.8 million square feet, and when I started over fifteen years ago there were 4,000 employees. With our reduced volume and products, we are now down to around 800 employees, which is still a decent sample size for the general population.

I must preface this by saying most of the people are hard-working and dedicated, and want to simply do their jobs and go home. That said, I think the statistics for strangeness at my place is a bit skewed, as there have been an inordinate number of folks (I have seen and heard about) who have done things or been part of activities that I just don't see anywhere else. I mean nowhere. Yes, there have been the people with alcohol or substance abuse problems. There have been the relationship problems. I have known some really strange people. I have seen and heard things that I cannot share with just anyone, because repeating these stories and forbid it, laughing about some of them, reflects on me.

Those of you who have heard the tales know of what I speak. How many of you know men who have had their [ex] wives throw all of their clothing on the front lawn? Check. Or brought it to work to throw out in front of the guard shack? Check. Or have been shot at by them? Check. Convicted arsonists? Check. Felons convicted of attempted murder? Check. Church "preachers" who steal from the company? Clans of brothers working together who I cannot begin to describe in a way that would do justice, but suffice it to say in one case brothers 2&3 refuse to speak with brother 1 because he had killed brother 4 with a 2x4 (no murder conviction (aggravated assault), because it took over a year for him to die). I had to call the police when he showed up at work one morning. People who live at work, because at 60+ years of age they thought they had scored big by getting a woman half their age to move in, only to have her then move her biker buddies in and shove him out. I didn't even blink. Lunatic hotheads who everyone is sure will someday kill someone? Check, check, check, and check. In fact, he did eventually kill someone, and though he shot a sheriff while en route to kill his ex-wife and mother-in-law, he was finally apprehended less than a mile from their location. There are so many things I could share. Many of us talked about compiling the stuff for a book, though nobody would believe it.

What is my point? Strange things don't surprise or shock me. Something happened today that changed this. In one of the men's restrooms in my area, we had a "poop bandit." I don't mean a thief, but someone who pooped on the floor, walked through it, leaving poopie footprint tracks everywhere, then smeared it on the wall as some sort of poopgraffiti or "poopart" (does this make him "Poocasso?"). Now, as a self-described poopaphobe, I am especially horrified. Who does this kind of thing? Is this an angry person, quietly plotting away day after day ("They'll all pay! Hmm hmm hmmmm")? Or did he just have to go, and think, "This seems like a good idea!" Unbelievable. I used to use this bathroom to wash my hands (as a germophobe, I rarely use toilets away from home). Now I can no longer use it, as there is no amount of cleaning, short of acid and steam, that will make it remotely usable for me. Thank goodness I wasn't the person who found it! I would probably be in a corner somewhere, catatonic and drooling or sucking my thumb.

I guess I'm just venting. I just had to get it out, lest I go find a bathroom somewhere...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Getting Older

As we get older, things change. Of course, everything around us changes, but I'm talking about us as individuals. We are more mature (though many people I know would dispute that I act like an adult), and physically we gain and lose various abilities. In fact, I'm really not the same person I was twenty years ago. I'm pretty sure all of my cells have been replaced with new cells.

I digress. On Saturday I learned about motion sickness. I have always been immune to it, with only three exceptions: I was spinning excessively on a ride at the State Fair when I was nineteen, and had a hint of the feeling beyond dizziness. Then again in 1987, while in San Francisco for spring Break. My friends Jerry, Dave and I drove out towards Napa Valley, and we stopped at a small airport (near Sears Point Raceway) that offered biplane rides. Jerry had done this previously, and I was all for it. The "menu" had choices: The Scenic Ride, Thrill Ride, and The Kamikaze. I chose the kamikaze. After paying my money, I went to the airplane, which was already running. My safety briefing consisted of this: "Don't touch anything. If you have to get out, pull this [seat belt release], pull this [another belt release], get out, and pull this [parachute rip cord]." I keenly awaited the coming maneuvers as we climbed to 3,000'. Once there, we started doing loops, spins, dives, more spins, rolls, and some really violent spins (tail yawed heavily while spinning). As all of our maneuvers were conducted between 2,000'-3,000', I quickly realized the parachute was useless. The spins were such that I would never be able to get out of the plane (say, in the event of a catastrophic failure), and if I could, would be batted like a baseball. And if the flight was controlled enough that I could get out, there wouldn't be a need, as the pilot could just land it. Anyway, after my flight, I wasn't sick, but I wasn't quite right. My equilibrium was off, and I had to lie down in the car for a bit while we drove to wherever it was we were going.

The third time was in 1991. I was in San Diego, on my way to Hawaii, where I stopped in to see a buddy from Airborne School. He was an Air Force dude (commissioned about the same time as me), and had recently finished his initial training as well. He was training to fly F15's (which would be sooo cool). He had just completed an aerobatics course (for fun), and was eager to show me what he had learned. We rented an airplane (rated for this endeavor) and went flying over the bay in San Diego. The experience was similar to what I'd had a few years earlier, and I wasn't sick, just not right with the world.

All of my life, I have enjoyed rides that spin, roll, and turn you over: thrill rides. The Son of Beast is the most violent roller coaster I have ridden, but I have no qualms about eating chili fries from Skyline Chili while waiting on line for the ride.

Saturday was something new. I learned I can do something, and in no time go beyond "not right with the world" to the realm of "Oh my, I must stop this now." So what was it? What was the diabolical device that caused me to reflect on my age and realize that I too can be vulnerable to a motion-related issue?

A commercial grade tire swing…On a children's playground. Yes, forty-three years of motion, and a playground brings me down. Yes, this is the actual swing. Those are not my kids. I found the picture someone had posted on flickr. This swing is a large construction grade tire, with a bearing and swivel at the top. The bearings must be of NASA grade near frictionless ceramic type, because it spins so smoothly, and with the mass of the large tire, seems to have perpetual motion, as the tire spinning does not slow a bit once started. I spun Sam around like crazy, and he merely got dizzy, wanting to spend over thirty minutes playing on this evil device. I figured I'd give it a try. Sam started spinning me, and in less than two minutes, I was brought to my end. I had to get off. I had to maintain my composure. I was hot and sweating. I was dizzy. I felt ill. I had such a headache. I had to sit. What just happened? Holy schnikes! Stay cool for the boy. Now he wants me to chase him. Running after him, every impact of my foot is compounding what I just felt. After leaving the park, and returning home, I had to take a nap to shake it off.

I have always wanted to somehow get a flight in a fighter jet. I used to think I might fare better than many, though I might well get sick. Now, given the opportunity, I'm pretty sure I would have an experience similar to the one described in this funny article from Sports Illustrated.

I still wouldn't pass it up.