Monday, January 25, 2010

First you say it, then you do it

Anyone remember the old 1980's Bill Cosby stand-up days? In Bill Cosby Himself, he had a story from which a famous (at least I remember it) quote came from: "First you say it, then you do it." I don't exactly remember what the event was that he was referring to, but I know of the feeling. In fact, I had one last week.

I was visiting a power plant for a work, since power generation is one of our targeted markets and I am on the team. It was not at all what I thought. Let's just say I didn't dress nearly appropriate enough for such a trip, as it was SO not even close to what I thought (nor anyone with me thought). As it turns out it was a 1940's built plant that has stayed in the 40's. I am talking decor, controls, dirt and all. This particular plant is a peaking plant which means it's only utilized during peak times - really hot or really cold. It was, fortunately, neither when we visited so it was relatively quiet.

With my hard hat, safety glasses, Karhart jacket good wool coat and steel toe shoes leather heeled boots (what? they would have worked in any of our greasy smelly metal cutting plants - who knew this would be worse?), I followed the plant manager into this place straight out of the old movies. The inside was dark, covered... I am talking a layer of coal ash completely covered everything square foot of this place... and just plain scary. Everything was 1940's inside... no joking... okay there were some jokes about it (seriously it was crazy how technology was never upgraded). It was also a little too Freddy Kruger basement like for me, just between you and me that is. The plant manager proceeded to lead us up to the seventh floor to look at the stacks. Simple enough right? Up the stairs I walked, the narrow, non-lit dark coal ash covered shallow stepped stairs, just longing to hold onto the rail (I'm a rail holding girl... always) but couldn't as it was literally covered in black coal ash. I managed to make it up without tripping, falling or anything that would draw to attention to me - the lone woman - which is a good thing in an industry like mine.

Then it happened... the plant manager opened the door and stepped outside leading all my co-workers onto the ROOF of the plant. Did I ever mention my mild fear of heights? Okay, it's a roof right - I mean how bad could that be? I'll tell you. The floor from the door on out was METAL GRATE. Large holed metal grate (as in even my somewhat chunky heels could get stuck in it) and oh right, it was also see-freaking-through!). Did I mention it was the seventh floor? Not knowing this was going to be the case when I walked out, I looked straight down (in shock) and my mild acrophobia became major within one fraction of a second.

And that folks is a "first you say it, then you do it" event.

Though there was some momentary attention on me when a co-worker looked back and saw my face (I kept the words in my head - I'm trained enough to maintain some composure no matter the circumstance) and my white knuckled grip as I tippy toed across the narrow and very long catwalk and then climbed flight of stairs (yes, still metal grates), I quickly diverted him. There were a few pockets of solid floor up there between the long catwalks separating the building sections, which helped me calm my nerves some and I did manage to learn some things about this really old power plant and the industry in general. I never did, however, completely recover. When we got inside and walked back down the seven floors of dark non-lit narrow and shallow coal ash covered stairs, I put a kleenex (which I luckily had in my pocket) in each hand and gripped the rails the whole way down. I also made sure I was the last person... again... not wanting to show my real fear or draw attention. I was filthy, but I didn't even care. I lived to tell about it.

I later found out, from my male khaki pant, good coat, office loafer wearing co-workers that I was not the only one shocked by the plant and feeling a bit unprepared. I may, however, have been the only person to actually live Bill Cosby's quote though.

Sigh... live, learn and laugh at yourself.

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