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Jeff McFadden @homemadeguitars
, 41 tweets, 5 min read Read on Twitter
Y'all wanna hear a little personal story?
(If you don't, just scroll on...) 1/X
2. About a thousand years ago I went to work at KU Medical Center, a big University hospital in Kansas City, as a maintenance man. I'd quit Southwestern Bell about six or eight months earlier.
3. Back then they hadn't invented PTSD yet, so I was just one of those crazy Vietnam combat veterans who were on all the TV programs running wild, getting arrested and killed.
4. And it would be some 30 years before they ever ran the cat scans that showed up the hole in my brain. So I was just a weird guy who could fix anything and get along with nobody.
5. But I knew if I took jobs where I could be alone with the broken machinery, people would leave me alone and I could scratch out a living. Maintenance man was good.
6. We had this pneumatic tube system that went all over the hospital, delivering messages, lab specimins, and drugs. It was a wonderful machine.
7. The carrier tubes had brass rings around them, and labeled turn rings. Every station had an address. You'd put your tube of blood into the carrier, set the address for the lab, and poke it into the suck tube.
8. Fwoompf! Away it would go, and it just a few seconds, Fwoonk! It would pop out in the lab.
9. There was an exchange central in a secure locked are in the basement, with 8 or 10 tubes coming down from above to a long conveyer belt, and 8 or 10 leaving the other end.
10. It had to be a secure area, because although the country wasn't as loony about drugs as it is now, they knew they couldn't be shooting tubes with morphine in them around in open public view and access.
11. As the carrier would squirt out of one tube, brushes would read the brass ring addresses, and pneumatically controlled levers would swing across, routing the carrier this way and that until it entered the tube to its destination building.
12. Then as the carrier swooshed up toward its final destination, other brushes would read the brass rings again, and somewhere another pneumatic lever would jut out into the tube,
13. and deflect the carrier out of the tube to its destination portal. Fwoonk!
14. This whole process took, on average, about ten or fifteen seconds from end to end.
Microprocessors and computer chips hadn't been invented yet. You'd be amazed all the stuff we could do back in the Stone age,
15. using nothing but brute force electricity, magnetism, pnuematic and hydraulic actuators.
16. There was one major flaw in the whole system. Above Surgery, up on (I think - it's been a *really* long time) the 8th floor of one of the buildings, the tube reached its apex for that leg,
17. And made a sharp 180 degree bend and headed back down.
If a heavily loaded carrier had to make that leg, and at the same time there was a lot of traffic in the system,
18. carriers would be the little engine that, no, actually, couldn't, quite. They'd make it right to the peak and stop.
19. It would be a few minutes before anybody realized, by which time there would be blockages here and there around the system.
20. To clear it some maintenance man had to scrub up, go into surgery (we never scrubbed our ladders, which went *everywhere*) climb up into the ceiling over the nurse station, and crawl in through a hole to the inside of the pillar.
21. Just as an aside, you can't imagine how fascinating it is to be a maintenance man. I've been into places in buildings that most people have no idea exist,
22. climbing and crawling through the hidden skeletons of all the systems that make the world you live in work. It's like the difference between what a human looks like to me, and to a surgeon.
23. Almost everything that happens, from running water to electric lights to heating and air conditioning, exists in a whole secret world you've never seen. The tops of the elevator look a lot different than the passenger space.
24. Anyway - back then I was skinny. If you've watched my YouTube channel that may seem inconceivable, but it's true.
And the hole into the pillar was little. And above the ceiling.
24. This old building was built before sheetrock. In this particular era they framed buildings in with steel, then covered that steel with a tough steel mesh called metal lath.
25. The metal lath was there so plaster would cling to it. So the walls were steel framework, totally covered with a tough steel mesh, which was in turn covered with strong hard plaster.
26. When they built (enclosed) this pillar and tube system, it didn't occur to them that they'd need access to it. So the first time it broke - long before my time there - somebody got up there, bashed a hole in the plaster,
27. And then tore a hole in the steel lath, crudely, with pliers.
I don't know if you've ever torn into a wall in a surgery department, but this makes surgeons and surgical nurses *very testy*. They're allergic to dirt and messes.
28. Normally they'd tell you to come back at midnight, but this was before the invention of email. When this tube system went down the hospital was paralyzed. They didn't have that choice.
29. KU Med is a really major hospital in the Missouri / Kansas region. When I worked there in the mid - 70s they had over 6,000 phones, about fifteen buildings - you don't shut down KU Med.
30. So... Anyway... The whole in this metal lath and plaster was small, raggedy, above the ceiling, and all but life threatening. One guy had to take a set of wrenches, climb through it, take the tubes apart,
32. Dig out all the jammed up carriers, poke them out through the hole and drop them to your waiting coworker, put the tubes back together, and climb back out.
33. You couldn't get a ladder inside the pillar. You had to climb up and down using the structure, the tubes, building frame, and lath.
34. So like I said, I was young, skinny, and tough as whip leather, so it fell to me to do it.
By the time I got through the hole in the lath I was cut up and bloody.
35. My scrub suit was in tatters. This one wasn't going to the laundry, it was going to the trash.
I did all the take-apart-fix-put-together stuff, and looked up at that hole, and I had an epiphany.
36. I was inside this pillar about 3 ½ or 4 feet square. The bleeding had stopped. I was warm, safe, and... If I stayed there, sooner or later In would die.
37. The only way to get out of there was by doing some *really hard, really scary* work. There was absolutely to possibility I could do it without getting hurt, cut up, and bloodier than I already was.
38. And I realized that life is full of these. You're safe, warm, and if you don't voluntarily hurt yourself, maybe seriously, you'll die. Right in this safe, warm spot.
39. My friends, as Americans we are in that spot. Exactly that spot. We are safe and warm. If we don't voluntarily hurt ourselves, we might not die, but our country surely will.
40. Bob Mueller didn't come open up the pillar for me.
We're in that exact spot.
Don't forget the Band-Aids.
--jeff out
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