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Monday, August 19, 2013

Acetylene is Terrifying




I believe education at the entry enlisted level suffers from several issues. Most noticeably is the bizarrely inefficient time schedule that runs the day. Every hour and a half of class we take what seems like a thirty minute break, but the hour and a half feels mostly like break time or wasted due to the rambling by the instructor or having no instructor at all. “I need to take care of something, read from your books” is their preferred stall. Suddenly (not really that suddenly) your eight hours of “class time” has ended, and then you wait in formation for another hour before you go back to the barracks. 

While the instructors aren’t incompetent, they do tend to waste time, mostly with inane stories about what they did when they were deployed as welders. Actually, I take that back. The army Staff Sergeant who recalled his deployment as a solitary welder attached to an infantry unit was really interesting and gave a lot of insight on the type of work we could be doing and what equipment we would be working with (hint: not very much). However, the civilian instructors I’ve witnessed seem to relish in wasting time. No, Mrs. Smith, I don’t care about your stories of how you spent your time in army job school looking for a husband, and I don’t care about the class’s opinions on the current state of the NBA. I do care that I spent about 50% of your class reading from a textbook, supposedly studying for a twenty-question multiple choice test… that ended up being open book. Sorry, I’m probably biased due to resenting that the next three months are only going to cover a few weeks worth of material. 

This brings up my next issue. Everything in this process is intended to cater to the lowest common denominator (easiest tests in the universe, “can you read?” may as well be the threshold for passing), but the presentation still ends up confusing the shit out of everyone. For example, in going over the process of how to properly check and ignite the torch in Oxyfuel Welding, there was no helpful step-by-step diagram shown to us, there was not a lot of walking through the process in the helpful acoustics of the classroom. Rather, the demonstration was given to us on the welding floor, with a lot of noise coming from the ventilation and other workstations all around us. We were all crammed in, looking past the shoulders of those in front at the new instructor who is from inner city Baltimore and isn’t exactly a public speaking prodigy, and no one understands what the fuck he’s saying. This became more concerning, as we all watched him mime some arcane ritual with the equipment, occasionally a discernible word would pop out, such as: “Don’t” or “Regulator” or “Acetylene” or most noticeably “Explode.” After some mutually panicked “WTF is going on” glances we were all in our own booths running through this risky operation with only a bit of wandering supervision. 

I had previously read that the acetylene gas  we use with oxygen is highly unstable. Unstable as in over a certain pressure (15 psig) it could just explode, cataclysmically. I remembered this information as I stood in my booth, cautiously trying to not kill myself along with everyone else in the building. Thankfully, it turns out that you’d have to really work to get the gas up to that pressure, and that certain safeties exist to prevent such a disaster. However, the moment I held up the igniter to the torch I almost crossed my fingers, but my gloves were too thick.
It was actually pretty fun. I ended up with one slightly-respectable bead (a weld line) at the end of the four I sweated clumsily over. We get to do cool things like yell “HOT METAL” while carrying a steaming piece to the dunk tank. After today I’m feeling quite a bit more optimistic about this whole affair. 

In other news, I went to a bar Saturday with two of my friends. I was told it was Irish-themed, but they neglected to mention the Hooters element that factored into the waitress’s costumes. My inner feminist spent the night crying while I was goaded into spending over $50 on a sadly unintimidating amount of alcohol. She called me cheap okay! Therefore, I had to preserve my dignity as much as I had to drown my guilt in overpriced shots. Take that liver, I hope you enjoyed your three week vacation. Actually, I’m never going back there again. It was really uncomfortable.

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