As long as it works....

I haven't been on very much because I've been working long hours.   I work at a ship repair company that repairs large freight ships.   Because of the ice, winter is when the ships dock up for the season, and get the most repairs and annual maintenance.  It's our busiest time of year.

This year, opposed to being safety watch out in the field (the most boring job on the face of the earth),  I'm a general laborer / occasional welder in the shop.  In the shop there are welders, millwrights, machinists, etc.   I work with a 65 year old millwright, named Bob, fixing large machines.

Bob has been a millwright for over 40 years.  He knows his shit.  He knows all the little tips and tricks to efficient problem solving and getting the job done right.  He's also pretty old fashioned in his work habits.  After seeing me apply some of the skills I've obtained from working in similar industries, and auto mechanics in high school,   he's recognized my eagerness and ability to learn quickly, and how I'm not afraid of working hard.   He was even talking to our boss about getting me an apprenticeship, and has offered himself as a reference once I get laid off.  

In the past couple months I have learned quite a bit from him.   I've learned a lot of new terms, and have gained a lot of experience using tools I didn't even know existed, or couldn't tell what they were for just by looking at them.  Every day is like a new episode of "How it's Made".  But in addition to resume building experience, I've gained life lessons as well.  Especially regarding our dependency on technology. 

The other day one of the machinists was in the millwright shop, getting measurements for a job.  We were trying to line up a gear box to it's motor on a mounting platform.  To do that, both the gear box and motor's coupling has to be perfectly lined up.  If it's not, the motor will simply destroy both couplings as soon as it's started up, and will render both $100,000 essential pieces of machinery useless, out in the middle of the lake, where repairs and new parts are very very hard to come by.  Depending on the machine - that can result in the loss of life, and at the very least - a shit load of money.

So it had to be spot on perfect.   To do this, the machinist brought in a laser guided device that will detect any difference in gap, between the two couplings.  If either machine is crooked, it will show how crooked it is.  I don't remember what it was called, or how it worked.... it was complicated to say the least.    After spending 20 minutes to set up the laser on it's stands, he discovered that it didn't work.   After tinkering with it for another 20 minutes he got pissed off and went to see if there was a replacement somewhere in the shop.   Bob laughed shortly after he left.

Bob walked up to the assembly and pulled a small metal wedge/shim out of his pocket.  Very similar to that of a door frame shim.   It was marked like a ruler, but instead of length it measured gap.   He pushed the shim in between the two couplings, until it was snug.   He wrote down the gap, mumbling "175 thou' " which stood for 0.00175  of an inch.   He did the same for the other side, and the top and bottom.   "Ok, it's gotta go this way a bit".   After pushing the motor, and rechecking the gaps a couple times, we had it perfectly lined up and bolted down within a few minutes.  Soon after the machinist comes back to say that he ordered a new laser, and wouldn't be able to align it until it was delivered... sometime next week.   Bob said with a smirk that only him and I understood  "That's ok, me and my helper figured it out".    The machinist let out a sarcastic laugh (probably laughing at Bob for crediting me for his work),  and left.

"The world is coming to a self destructive end Bernadette"  Bob explained.  "People can't do shit without their shitty devices..... it's like 'how did anyone do it before technology' ".   I chuckled and agreed. 
"It's like those new diagnostic machines for cars.   You plug it into the dash, it tells you what could be wrong, and all the mechanic has to do is change what the computer tells him to.  That's all fine and dandy, until the computer fucks up... then they don't know what to do".   
"Exactly" Bob said  "There's hope for you yet...."

The lesson here was that people should never depend on technology, but only use it as convenience.  Technology isn't always reliable.  It's like putting all of your important phone numbers on a cell phone, and having it stolen.   If you don't have a back up (having them written down or memorized), you could lose those phone numbers, and for some people that could result in massive loss.  Once upon a time, people lived without electricity.  If by some freak occurrence we lost electricity now - some of us would die.   It's important to remember the days before gadgets, and learning how things were accomplished in an earlier time.   As long as it works, technology can make our lives far more easy, efficient, and even less costly.... as long as it works.

Uploaded 03/05/2011
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