Monday, February 11, 2008
Have you ever made a choice that was so brainless, so ridiculous, so counter-intuative that as you were making it, the little objective observer living in your brain (everybody has one of those, it's not just me, right?) is screaming NOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooo... but it is too late to stop? Welcome, friends, to another episode of Poor Decision Theatre; I'm your host, Niki the Idiot. First, some character background and situation set-up : I have been the trainer at work since 1996 (that's 11 YEARS, people). When i first got the job one of my first tasks was to redesign the safety training for the team. I pride us on having the most in-depth, most thorough, most excrutiatingly detailed safety training of any program at work. It takes 2 days to do my safety training. There are videos. There are quizzes. There is CYA paperwork. It seems nearly endless, especially if you are the one conducting the training for the billionth time. In reality I would guess that I have performed this training, ohhhhhhhhh, about 60 times. There is an entire section on the proper use and handling of liquid nitrogen. Now LN2 is not particularly dangerous, but it is 323 degrees below zero Fahrenheit so you want to be careful. At the very end of the safety training on LN2 I always say, "if your clothes get soaked in liquid nitrogen, nonchalantley hold the fabric away from your skin and it will warm up to a safe temperature pretty quickly. Make sure you keep it off of your skin because it will instantly burn you. If you are wearing something that you can't get away from your skin, find a way to calmly get off of stage to someplace where the kids can't see you and drop trou. I can't imagine a situation where you would need this information, but anything can happen and you should be prepared." Next, to set the scene : Today we were in a middle school performing 5 classroom programs on cryogenics for 8th graders; i was going to do shows 1, 2 and 5 while team member Lindsey was to do 3 and 4. After lunch we were preparing for the fourth show, Lindsey up front and me in the back when the class started arriving. The kids coming in were... ummmmmm... rambunctious would be a polite way to put it. As the teacher gave them a smack-down, Lindsey gave me the "this crowd is alarming; will you do this show and i'll do the next one" look (yep; there is a look for that) so i switched positions with her real quick and started the show. It was very cold in the room so I was wearing the fleece that is part of my uniform. I never perform in my fleece; never. Now, for the action : After about 10-15 minutes I had the kids under control and rolling with the lesson. Things were going quite well and even the initial brats were on-board with the cool LN2 (pun completely intended). As I was doing an experiment where i show the 5th property of a cryogenic liquid ("rapid compression" BTW) by forcing balloons into a beaker without popping them, I drenched the left wrist of my fleece in LN2. It was completely frozen and the kids whose attention i just won were instantly distracted by it. The correct way for the scene to end : I hold the sleeve away from my arm to let it warm up and then continue with the experiment. I could even turn it into a teaching moment by pointing out to the kids what has happened. The very, very worse possible course of action : Push up the sleeve to hide the frozen part from the audience in an attempt to continue forward, thereby bringing the liquid nitrogen soaked fabric into closer contact with unprotected skin. guess which i picked. In the heat of the moment i totally blew it. After 11 YEARS of describing a situation that i have never seen happen, it happened and I screwed it up. Instantly, I could feel the skin frying, burning from the extreme cold. With no reference to it at all, i shook down the sleeve and did the experiment one-handed as the sleeve warmed up. With my arm burning and the fleece rubbing against it I had over 30 more minutes to go in the lesson . Amazingly, the show went really well; the class that started so rough and tumble really got their act together, were completely engaged and had a great time. I credit the adrenelaine coursing through my system. denoument : As the audience left and the kids for the 5th show started to come in I ran to the back of the room, ripping off my fleece (goggles flying from my face - i bet it was pretty funny to watch) to expose a long white welt surrounded by bright red agitated skin. After many hijinks (involving a faculty room, the school nurse, and our first aid kit, that were so comical you would think i was making it up) I managed to get burn creme on it and settle myself down for the rest of the last show. No kid or teacher saw my wound and even my 2 team mates didn't know exactly what had happened until we were packing. Hours later, the welt has settled into a nice red surface burn; it seems to only be in superficial tissue and i'm hoping that it won't even blister. But it is pretty big. If you're wondering if a 5 inch first degree cryo burn hurts - yes. Yes it does. But not quite so much as my pride. morale of today's episode : Do what the trainer TELLS you to do, especially if you ARE the dang trainer. The girl knows what she's talking about, for goodness sakes!