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BAD WORK HABITS AND STUPIDITY (2)

Here’s where the stupidity part you were wondering about comes in. There were three events, all involving power tools, which showed that I could be pretty careless at times. When fitting one of the portlights in the main cabin there was a little of my new fiberglass fill exposed around one of the port frames – just a tiny bit. I needed something to quickly knock off the extra, and my circular saw was lying handily there in the rubble on the settee; it should do the trick in a couple of seconds. Normally I’m pretty good about donning a dust mask and protective clothing, but this would only take a second.

The resistance of that little fiberglass nub to the powerful circular saw was amazing. I had expected that it would yield instantly, but it held even as I - without thinking - applied more force, grimacing and baring my teeth while the saw gradually worked its way through the nub. I got it, but by that time my face, my arms, and my gums were all prickly with imbedded fiberglass. Thankfully I had glasses on. However, I could feel the same prickliness in my lungs. Balls!!

I kept this to myself for a while and waited to see if the irritation would clear up by itself. With careful washing everything but my lungs cleared up in a day or so. I was really getting nervous about it but what can one do to clean out lungs? I confided in a coworker a couple days later and he strongly suggested I call my doctor. I did and he wanted to see me right away. Hmm, that’s not a good sign.

I think I just happened to catch a slow day at the doctor’s because he didn’t seem very concerned. He explained that lungs have a pretty good way of purging themselves of nasties like this, but it would take up to 20 years to tell if something like cancer would develop. Ah, sleep well. In another week there was no sign of irritation and I’m still alive seven years later to write about it and I feel fine.

* * *

On an absolutely sweltering July 4th in 2002 I was racing to get last minute details completed before the launch scheduled in a couple of days. This was the year most of the major structural, wiring, and engine work were done, so there were a lot of little things needing attention. Despite the heat and humidity I worked at a frenetic pace because this was show time and I couldn’t afford a delay. I must have made 50 trips up and down the ladder to the boat, and back and forth between the boat and the shop. I was fabricating and eyeball-fitting a piece of teak, which I now cannot remember what it was for, but it was critical to the launch. It was a small piece and I was using the table saw to cut its somewhat odd shape. Of course, with a table saw one should never cut anything in a way that causes one to have fingers close to the blade, and I knew and appreciated this. I cut 90 percent of the piece while it was part of a longer board, so the part I was cutting was some distance from my hands.

When I was satisfied that it was about right I crosscut the piece off the board and took it down to the boat to see how it fit. Not quite. Back to the saw to trim a little – careful with the fingers – and back again to the boat for another fit. Better, but still not quite. This went on for way more times than it should have. I was sweating profusely, I was tired, and I was frustrated. For what I again hoped was the last attempt I held the piece between my right thumb and index finger with my wrist braced over the top of the rip fence and my other fingers raised high and out of the way. I began to cut when my sweaty hand started to lose its grip. I was worried about screwing up the piece, so instinctively I started to close my other fingers to help out, but caught myself and tried to stop. Zing-whap! - Too late.

You stupid sonofabitch!!! (Me, shouting at myself) I shut the saw off and stuck my right middle finger in my mouth, now stomping my feet in anger. I blinked just as it happened so I wasn’t sure just what happened. I looked at my finger and saw that it was all still there, just with a v-groove cut into the end. It was barely bleeding. I gave myself a minute to calm down a bit, looked at the finger again and deemed it wasn’t so bad even though it hurt. So I wrapped it in a paper towel, found the flung piece, and – get this – started the saw again and continued on.