Gut Rumbles

November 28, 2003


Have you ever done something that you were really afraid to do at the time? I'm not talking about being "frightened." I'm talking about a gut-churning, visceral fear rising from deep inside your soul that makes your hands shake and spots dance before your eyes. I'm talking about being so scared that you think that you might shit your pants or piss all over yourself at any moment.

I have.

I've never been to war, but I suppose that a sudden firefight is easier to deal with than a situation that you see coming and cannot avoid. You have time to think about what you see coming. You ponder everything that could go wrong. You spend a sleepless night planning what you're going to do if the shit hits the fan. Then, you get out of bed in the morning and go do it, no matter how much you fear what the outcome may be.

After a night of thinking about it, I rode a swinging scaffold up 60 feet inside the first pass of a boiler to check out a screen tube weld one day at work. I don't like heights and I wasn't really comfortable with the condition of the boiler. I knew that ALL the tubes were in bad shape. We had to pump that sucker up to 600 PSI while I checked the welds.

Due to the configuration of the plant, we could not perform a hydrostatic test with cold water. We had to use what came out of the DA tank, which was water heated to 225 degrees F. The CRO was pumping up the pressure as I rode the scaffold all the way to the top of the screen tubes. I had a radio so that I could talk to him and hear what pressure he was squeezing on those fragile tubes. He was at 550 PSI when I got to the top.

"Take it on up," I said.

I could hear that boiler creak and moan from the pressure. I knew that if one of those tubes blew, I would scald to death. That boiling water would cook me like a blue crab in a Low Country Boil. I unhooked my safety harness. If a tube blew, I intended to jump from the scaffold and take my chances on a 60-foot fall into the furnace.

I had a pocketfull of paper napkins. When the CRO said that he was at 610 PSI and holding, I started daubing at the welds. The napkins all came back dry. Not even a teardrop of wetness. It was an excellent repair.

"Okay, it looks good," I said. And I got down from there as fast as I could.

I actually did that. I was terrified the entire time, but I did it. And I had 24 hours to think about what I was going to do ahead of time, too.

I have a few opinions about fear and courage. I will be delighted to share them with you.


I've heard it said that courage is doing what needs to be done even when you are scared spitless. This sounds like it meets the description admirably. Hope your Thanksgiving was a good one.

Posted by: Rey on November 28, 2003 08:38 AM

Actually I put this into the category of you being an idiot for doing something that put your life in jeapordy. If you had to do it to save your children or your life I understand that but to perform a job for a company that doesnt give a shit about you anyway - what's up with that?

What do you think would have happened if you had gotten injured? You probably would have become an example for the company to use about what not to do.

Posted by: Louie on November 28, 2003 08:47 AM

Louie, looking back on it now I realize what a fool I was. But I didn't see it that way at the time. I WAS taking care of my family by doing what I did that day.

It was my JOB.

Posted by: Acidman on November 28, 2003 09:20 AM

That must have been colorful writing, Acidhead; it induced queasiness.

Yeah, hanging off of the sewer lines on the steep side of Stone Mountain sorta reinforced my fear of heights.

Posted by: Key on November 28, 2003 09:35 AM

(Yes, my reason WAS pure, unvarnished STUPIDITY.)

Posted by: Key on November 28, 2003 09:36 AM

Seeing someone having a heartattack and everyone turning to look at you casue you're the only one there with the training. And knowing if you freak he's probably gonna die.

There's some gut churning fear........

Posted by: Symph on November 28, 2003 11:47 AM

I used to take my Infant, Child and Adult CPR classes cause I had to now I take 'em cause I want to.

Posted by: Symph on November 28, 2003 11:50 AM

This is exactly the way Jesus Christ felt from the time he was twelve years old until he was actually executed. He went up that scaffold knowing full well the tube was going to blow in his face; and He did if for us.

There's suppose to be an excellent movie coming out this Easter about Jesus's last 24 hours. "The Passion" , produced by Mel Gibson. Gibson spent $25 million of his own money to make the picture.

Posted by: Jim Long on November 28, 2003 12:36 PM

During the Samuel Johnson days they had big men enjoying small talk; today we have small men enjoying big talk.

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Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.

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