Thursday, June 23, 2011

Safety Talk

As you all know, or would know if you read the “About Me” page, I'm a mailman in a small New England town. Occasionally the management is obliged to give us what they call “Safety Talks”, where they warn us about things that they consider to be dangers on the road. In other words, things that the main office feels may contribute to lost work days across the country. Basically, our local guys get an email from the main office with what amounts to a script, and most of the managers I have had over the years tend to just read the thing word-for-word. They figure that someone at the office wrote this, and it must contain all the information that they have to get across to us, and that way they really don't have to think about anything themselves, spontaneously, in front of a crowd. Easy as pie, right?
Over the years I have heard safety talks on:
  • Dog bites, and how to avoid them
  • Children who are out of school for the summer, and how to not run them over with the truck
  • Icy roads (would you believe they tell us each year that ice is slippery? I kid you not.) and how to drive on them
  • Bees, hornets, and wasp stings, and what to do about them (we were told to carry sprinkle-on meat tenderizer and use that on the sting. What it does I do not know, but if I ever find out I promise I'll share it here!)
  • What to do if you feel you have been exposed to Anthrax. The deadly compound, not the bitchin' band. (I think I recall the advice being to try to fall where someone would find the body quickly)
  • Wet leaves – Autumn's secret killer! (try not to stop on wet leaves, turn on wet leaves, walk on wet leaves, whatever. They're slippery. Got it!)
  • What to do if you think you have picked up a package bomb (I have my own plan for this one. I carry clean underwear and baby wipes with me in my truck. That way, when it turns out to be a false alarm I can clean up and change my pants, which are going to be in a State of Emergency all their own)

Anyway, you get the point. Some of those we get every year, some are kind of one-shot talks that are the result of our country's social and political state at the time. But this morning's Safety talk was a new one on me, and I just had to stop and pay attention.

Lightning, and how to not be struck by it..

According to Wikipedia:
An estimated 24,000 people are killed by lightning strikes around the world each year and about 240,000 are injured. In the U.S., between 9 and 10% of those struck die,  for an average of 40 to 50 deaths per year (28 in 2008).  In the United States, it is the #2 weather killer (second only to floods) The odds of an average person living in the U.S. being struck by lightning in a given year is 1/500,000.

The Postmaster of my office was giving this talk, and he started out reading from the email, just the way I mentioned above.

When there is lightning stay away from trees. Don't use a hard-wired phone, but a cell phone is okay. Buildings aren't a guarantee of safety either. You need to avoid the wiring, any metal pipes and plumbing, and stay away from the windows. Don't go in the middle of a field and lie down, like they used to tell you, that just makes you a bigger target.”
Wow,” I murmured to the carrier next to me, “We can't go anywhere.”

What you should do,” the Postmaster continued, “is to get in your vehicle with the doors closed and wait it out.”
Right,” I murmured, “you can't go near the windows in a building, but the windows in those tin boxes they call vehicles are okay. Just counting on the tires, aren't they?”

Some of the effects of lightning strikes that you don't hear that much about are loss of memory, loss of hearing, lack of sleep, and anger issues.”
Ah hell,” I said aloud, “I have all of those now.”

Now, the Postmaster had done alright so far. He had stuck to the script they had sent him, and he had gotten the message out to all of us, no matter how strange it seemed at the time. Now, however, he dropped the hand holding the paper down by his thigh but failed to say the magic phrase “Okay, that's all I have...” I shut up and started paying more strict attention. He was going off-script! This might actually be good!

Well … I know that when we're sailing, storms can surprise you. They come up quickly on the water sometimes. What they tell us to do is to get somewhere shallow and drop the anchor.”

We were all silent. Some of us were looking at each other, kind of wondering where he was going with this.

You see,” he continued, “the idea is that the lightning will hit the mast and just flow straight down through the anchor chain, into the ground.”

We were still all looking at each-other, wondering who was going to say something. I was torn.

On the one hand I wanted to tell him that was wonderful advice for the next time I was sailing down Jersey street on my Mail Yacht and there was as sudden lightning storm.

On the other hand, I had the intense urge to raise my hand so I could ask whether our mail trucks would be outfitted with an anchor for us, or if it was up to us to supply the anchor ourselves, and if so whether there was a catalog or something we could order one from.

While I was pondering, stalled out in my indecision, we all saw the Postmaster's eyes change as he suddenly recognized the complete inanity of his last statement.
Well … that's just a thing they told us, not that you can … Okay, that's all I have! Be safe out there!”
He walked away, and my chance was blown.

Curse you, Self-Realization!

Talk to you later!

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