The other day a guy at work was holding one end of a torque multiplier when it slipped, crushing his thumb.
He was screaming and holding the bloody pulp when a co-worker trying to get to him slipped on some hydraulic fluid, smacking his head on a
steel frame. The guy who drove them to the hospital twisted his ankle getting into the truck. Later, a worker in the lab bumped a beaker of
chemical that spilt on the floor and the fumes burnt her lungs. Another worker, rushing to help, broke the end of a quartz heater tube,
gashing his arm. I heard the commotion and came out of my office, hitting my door on the head of another worker on his way to the scene.
On the other side of the plant, an engineer setting up a huge vertical lathe hit the wrong button and flung a metal shield into his forearm.
When the technician helping him tried to open the first aid cabinet, the latch stuck and the whole cabinet came off and hit him in the head.
An office worker upstairs was rolling backward in his chair to grab a notebook across the small office and the caster on his chair caught on a
paper clip, spilling him onto the floor and wrenching his shoulder. News of these accidents carried a cloud of fear across the plant.
People were standing around, afraid to do anything. One guy got so panicked he rushed for the door, tripping over his shoelace and sliding
headlong into the door jamb. The rest of us just stood very still, very quiet, not wanting to be the next victim of the curse working its
way through the plant.
Then I woke up.
I attributed the dream to the pair of freak accidents that had happened at work coupled with way too many Stephen King novels in my youth.
But as I thought about it during the day, it dawned on me that it was a metaphor for our society.
We're all merrily going about our business and hear of someone Bam! struck down with a case of terminal stupidity.
That's okay, that happens occasionally, only to be expected. We see the isolated case here and there in the paper and on the news. Then we hear of someone closer to home falling victim; perhaps someone close to us succumbs to Reasoning Deficiency Syndrome (RDS). Nervously, we scan the horizon. Is there a visible cloud of the poison that's causing this? Or is it an unseen virus, striking at random and without warning? Are we susceptible? Is there a chance that tomorrow we could open our e-mail and believe that someone named firstname.lastname@example.org
is really responding in RE:Your urgent inquiry?
Or is it possible that we already have it and the virus itself is masking our
awareness of our condition? After all, the people who manifest the symptoms
the most seem to be the most clueless about the existence of the disease.
Just in case, we must identify the symptoms so if we ever fall victim we'll have a measurable standard we can judge by.
You'll recall toward the end of "A Beautiful Mind" that a person John Nash didn't know approached him. To verify the person wasn't a hallucination,
Nash wisely asked a student passing by "Can you see this person?"
Most people know instinctively whether the people they're talking to are real or not. Nash had a history of conversing with
imaginary people, so he had to apply this safeguard. Most people also instinctively are able to smell the aroma of fertilizer.
My experience has shown that our sense of smell is becoming deadened, hence I offer some suggestions for safeguards.
Here are the things you need to ignore:
Any e-mail containing the following:
Gee whiz, maybe I'd better make a list of things you can believe to make a shorter article.
But, see, that's the rub. That's the liability of all these scams. It's the boy that cried wolf syndrome. There is so much fascinating and enlightening stuff that's legitimate out there in this wonderful world of ours. Those purveyors of bullcrap that cause us to build this wall of cynicism are stealing that wonder from us.
But just in case, take the above list and filter all information through it before it gets to your brain. Or, better yet, download a free version of the filter at: