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Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Find the Shit, Open the Door and Make Yourself at Home

It's the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, which means we're getting all kinds of catalogues in the mail.

One featured a "safe" place to hide a spare key to your house: in a fake dog turd you leave on your lawn.

Is My Hearing Going?

As I might have mentioned previously, I grew up in an industrial town along the Ohio River. There were three main industries there: an oil refinery, a steel mill and a rail yard.

My first summer home from college I really didn't have enough marketable job skills to be an "intern" at the refinery's management office, so I worked as a laborer in the fuel plant. Mostly I shoveled stuff: coal, ashes...plus plenty of things that got caught in drainage trenches, rotted and smelled very bad.

Industrial plants are loud. VERY loud, even if you wear earplugs.

Imagine all these happening at once: an airplane taking off, a jackhammer and a turbo-charged Hoover vacuum cleaner whisking away any dirt that might be on your eardrum. That's what it sounded like for eight hours every day.

Shouting to your coworkers was useless, so we communicated with an exaggerated pantomime in which you'd mouthe out the words you wanted to communicate.

For example, say you need to tell a coworker you're going to call your boss to explain you've finished shoveling the awful-smelling stuff over here and want to know if there's another location with bad-smelling stuff that needs shoveling. You get your coworker's attention, point to yourself, make walking motions with your hands then point to the shack with the phone. Make dialing motions with your fingers and pretend to hold a phone to your ear. Mouthe the words, "We're done here, ..." Now, make an obscene gesture for whatever supervisor you plan to call, and your coworker will understand you.

By the way, a "shack" is a little insulated room with a desk for paperwork, phone, water and heat/airconditioning. It's an oasis where you can go for a break and actually communicate in a fairly normal voice volume.

Oh, and you had to let your boss know when you were done with a job so he could assign you a new one, or he'd accuse you of masturbating and such on the job.

Maybe I damaged my hearing a little, or maybe I'm just off in my own world, but I could swear my hearing isn't what it used to be. Sometimes converstations with my wife are like those TV commercials for a digital phone company. The characters can't understand each other on traditional cellular phones, but a guy in a long coat shows up, gives them a better-quality digital phone and their problems are solved.

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