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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Obey the Grinder, Fear the Grinder

My bed (or rack, as we call it here) is always made. Whenever I leave the room it has to be made to a very specific and rigid standard, which takes considerable time and effort to do. Since sleep is such a valuable commodity, everyone here sleeps on top of the covers, using blankets that we bought ourselves (which we then hide in the morning) instead of the issued ones on our made bed. Look what the Marine Corps has done to us. I don’t sleep in a bed, I sleep in a fake bed. We all sleep in fake beds. 

 Class 022-13 (that’s me!) started Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW or MIG) this week after passing out of Tungsten Metal Arc Welding (TMAW or TIG) last Thursday. To sum up my ability, I’m generally bad at welding with infrequent bursts of mediocrity. Thankfully, I experienced one of these bursts during test day and succeeded in not being recycled, ashamed, and miserable. In TIG you sit at a table, have a torch in one hand, a filler rod in the other, and operate a foot pedal to change your amperage. It’s a legitimate miracle that I passed (considering my coordination), but at least now I know that I won’t be dropped for my minor shakiness, as the other unfortunate soul wasn’t able to make it past the first day of TIG. However, I was often lacking cool confidence and control. My inner dialogue while welding sounded like: “Okay, got it, wait, am I too cold? I’m probably too cold, shit. Wait, no okay it looks good… wait when’s chow? This stool is really hard, and the ass of my pants is really sweaty- OH SHIT TOO HOT, okay, whew, maybe that section isn’t going to look like shit in the light, wait, I think I’m too cold again” (gets the filler rod too close to metal and suffers a minor electrical shock) “AGH FUCK- shit. Goddamn-no NO STOP IT STOP GET COOLER STOP NO NO WHY GOD WHY” (end of weld).
But that’s all in the past now, locked away and never to be seen again (TIG is only used on cool things like aircraft, as if they’d ever let me touch a helicopter). On to MIG, where you set up the machine, point the gun and weld. As a pessimist-romantic, I immediately decided that MIG was awful and TIG was my favorite type of welding, pardoning the awkward hardships and remembering instead the comfort of sitting down. The first day of MIG made me feel absolutely inadequate, but it turned out that my equipment was legitimately broken and gave reassurance that the ugly, splattered metal  I produced wasn’t 100% my fault. I got to witness my uninhibited talent earlier today, where my gloopy glop of a weld brought a very “are you kidding me” look from the instructor. After retreating back to my booth, I became acquainted with my new nemesis, the grinder.

If we had a fight, it would win. 

About 80% of my time in the MIG annex so far has been spent using this fucking thing. I don’t say "fucking thing" lightly. It’s a tool used to cut bevels prior to welding or erase the damage caused by one of my welds, and I hate it. As you “grind,” gripping it firmly with both hands, aware that any casual negligence could result in loss of limb or life, your hands experience the bizarre sensation of numbness accompanied by uncomfortable pain. I tried supporting the back with my torso, but stopped when I felt my internal organs rattling along with everything else. This results in having to hold the grinder at an awkward length away from me, slowly sheering edges of metal as sparks fly and sweat rolls down my forehead as I picture the visuals of mutilated body parts that came in contact with the incorrect side of the machine. Word on the street is be careful with the grinder, because by the time you realize you’ve had an accident, you will have really had an accident. 

After reading what I’ve written in this post so far I realize I sound like a crying baby. Good thing I know I’m not a baby. I’m just a sobbing man-child who’s afraid of a tool that he gets paid to use. Much better.Until next week, make sure you take some time out of the day to appreciate the disfiguring grinding accidents you haven't suffered.

P.S. To anyone who has been maimed or killed by a grinder, I apologize for not including you in my sendoff. It's hard to make these sorts of things universally inclusive.

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