Inside Jobs

I was fortunate enough to help a friend out yesterday (also fortunate enough to have a friend!) – he has a calibration business and had a lot of work to accomplish on a boat that recently pulled into port. He deals mainly with pressure gauges and flow meters, I’ve dealt mostly with electronics, but he knows I’m dependable and that I know “righty tighty, lefty loosely”!

So, I showed up at his shop in my usual “uniform” – khaki slacks and a polo shirt. I’ve been on enough boats to know it can get dirty, but I wasn’t worried – we were just calibrating gauges.


He was kind enough to remind me to wear boots the previous day; but, when he saw me, he chuckled and asked if I wanted a “work shirt“.

“Nah”, I responded. “How bad could it be?” I was soon to find out.

We arrived at the boat a half hour later and hauled the gear up to the back deck of the cargo ship. After an elevator ride up four flights to the main deck, we had to venture outside and along the starboard (right for you land lubbers :)) side to a ladder way about midships. This was when I realized I was in for a treat. You see, my friend never mentioned what kind of gauges we were calibrating. After an 80 foot decent into the belly of the boat, I found out. Almost 6 full flights of STEEP ladders down into the fuel pump rooms. We were calibrating 30 fuel flow monitor gauges. These are for all the fuel that powers the boats’ engines, generators, and for refueling other boats at sea.

It took a few minutes for the smell to register – that familiar scent which took me back almost 20 years to my sea-service days in the Navy: good ol’ jet fuel , JP5, the smell of money.

We spent four hours down there. I mostly removed the gauge fittings and prepped the test fittings while my friend ran the tests. I partly enjoyed the task; that is until, I took a bath in jet fuel. One valve wasn’t operating properly and as soon as that fitting came off – JP5 starting shooting out all over me! It stunk, it caused a rash, it wouldn’t come out of my clothes, and I was afraid to be near anything with a flame for two days!

Overall, I helped a friend out and I was able to reminisce about my navy days long ago. I remembered the hardships of sea duty, constantly fighting the ship, a little nausea here and there. But, mostly, I was reminded of how fortunate I am to have an “indoor” career which doesn’t require me to handle fuel products. I am paid for the ideas I generate, documents I create, words I speak to others, and overall leadership capability.

I am grateful I don’t come home after a long day at work and need a shower because I smell like an oil rag.


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