Saturday, November 19, 2011

The laws of math, physics and chemistry apply to everyone

Over the years I have mat a few people that think the law doesn't apply to them.

Now I am not talking about the laws made by the various legislative branches but the laws of math and physics.

My favorite instance of this took place back during the infancy of cell phones and involved a complete idiot that probably knocked up the daughter of some fat cat somewhere along the line. I figure this because the man was stupid, yet was in a fairly high place. The proverbial married the bosses daughter situation.

Back then cell phones were cutting technology. The minutes were damned expensive and the phones looked like Vietnam era GI field phones unlike todays phones that quietly slip into a shirt pocket. The phones were pretty costly, too.

We were lightering a ship of crude oil that was headed to a refinery when some clown boarded us with the inspector. I was told he was an expeditor of some sort that was there to insure the cargo got delivered promptly and safely to the terminal. I had never dealt with one before and to me it was no big thing. I simply figured that if the customer wanted someone on board that was fine by me just so long as he obeyed the rules and stayed out of the way.

Of course, I am telling the story about it so I guess it is apparent that the expeditor didn't stay out of the way. Instead he did his very best to destroy a very expensive piece of equipment, kill a number of people and cause a major ecological disaster.

Now on black oil vessels there generally isn't a vapor recovery system installed and even if there was it is not used when lightering ships. The tank tops are generally vented so that as the incoming cargo goes into the tank the air it displaces has some place to go. It vents into the atmospere. This means that unless there is some sort of wind blowing to move the fumes thay hang on deck. It doesn't take a whole lot of moving air to evacuate the fumes, though so this is seldom a problem.

Black oil is generally underrated as far as the dangers go. Most peole think of it as some black ooze that comes out of the ground but it isn't. It comes in a myraid of different characteristics. You have to remember that virtually all petrochemicals come out of it. It contains all sorts of things from the gasolines and benzines all the way down to the asphalt they use to make pavement and everything in between.

The smart cargo handler knows this and treats it with respect.

Enter the son in law of the customer who was a little on the self important side. This idiot thought he was exempt from the laws of math and physics.

To this day the overwhelming majority of cellular telephones are not rated for use in hazardous areas. Although the units they make today are probably a lot safer most of them are still not rated for use in hazardous areas.

Of course, the expeditor was supposed to call in every time there was any sort of event taking place with the cargo and lightering it off of a ship is certainly considered an event so he decided it was necessary to call in and report that the cargo was being taken off of the ship.

He picked up the cell phone and I politely reminded him that he wasn't supposed to use it on deck. He started to argue that he wasn't getting reception inside the house where it was permissable to use it.

I stayed pretty polite but firm and he continued to argue with me. I politely sat him down and explained that the laws of math and physics made no exceptions to the needs of an expeditor but he wasn't satisfied. I finally explained that fires and explosions do not care if the person causing them is a big shot or a peon that the end result was still the same.

He didn't seem to get it.

The instant I was back on deck taking care of things he went behind my back and started to set up his phone. I had seen it coming and simply ordered him back inside. I tended to business rapidly and decided that because I wasn't senior that I ought to wake up the captain. I did and he wasn't too happy about it.

He told me didn't care if the expeditor or the phone went over the side just so long as it wasn't used on deck. He was a crusty old salt. He was great to work for because like me, he didn't handle stupid very well.

I simply went into the galley and snatched up the phone and hauled it out on deck with the expeditor following me like a frightened puppy babbling away. I held the phone over the side and told him that he had three choices. He could either take his phone back aboard the mother ship, or I would drop the phone over the side. If neither of those were acceptable I would throw HIM over the side. He could simply pick one.

A minute later he was climbing th Jacob's ladder back on board the mother ship and next time I heard about the incident was the following day when I explained my actions to my port captain. He told me he would take care of it. I didn't hear what happened until several months later.

During a much later discussion with my port captain he confessed that the customer wanted to know why I simply didn't throw his son in law over the side.

Looking back on it, doing that would have been a whole lot easier.

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