I hate static electricity.

Winter always starts out so nicely—a welcome break from the relentless heat of summer. The euphoric feeling naturally chilled air brings on usually lasts until we gain that hour when switching back from daylight savings time. From there, it is a steady downward slide into the depths of darkness.

By January, I grow weary of the absence of daylight, but I don’t begin cursing my fate until the outside temperature nears zero, my sinuses begin to rebel against the extremely dry air, and static season ensues. From the first minor ZAP created by sliding across the car seat and touching the door handle, the problem escalates until the hairbrush becomes my worst enemy.

As I worked my hair with a blow-drier this morning, I imagined the happy little electrons gathering on what few strands remained, just waiting for a chance to either jump or fly upwards before affixing themselves to my face. Pfffft. I blew, but the happy hair clung to my lips, nose, and cheeks, relentless in their hold.

Even after discharging on the nearest metal object and resuming my styling mission, excessive negativity crept into my brain. I started to dread going to work. As surely as throwing a bowling ball straight down the center of the lane is begging for a split, my stinkin’ thinkin’ was asking for trouble.

Some days, like this morning, it really is better to just go back to bed.

I should have known a Murphy day was on the agenda when I raised my arm to towel it dry and my left sciatic nerve screamed for mercy. The pain was enormous, and I could not straighten up after it bent me double. Mental images of explaining exactly how it happened to my doctor, or worse, haughty emergency room physicians, flashed through my mind.

“You say you injured your back while drying your arm?” asks the young, good-looking doctor of my imagination. Of course, he would be gorgeous, if I had to admit something so stupid.

A minute later, certain disaster was averted as I could suddenly stand upright. Whew, that was a close one.

The world righted itself, and I headed to the kitchen after finishing my primping. In a frantic search for the chicken enchilada soup I knew was in there (which I never found), I knocked three containers out of the freezer, which were rather noisy hitting the tile floor. Deciding the cafeteria at work would have to do (I really wanted that enchilada soup), I put on my coat, gathered my purse and textbooks, and headed out the door.

It was a short journey, as I never managed to dig my car keys out of my purse. Back in the kitchen, in better light, I found out why—they were not there. At this point I must interject, that I NEVER misplace my car keys. Never, ever, except for this morning; a morning I was already running behind, heading to work lunch-less, fearing my aging back was not going to survive the trip.

Think, think. I went over the previous evening’s just-as-exciting events, and finally remembered that I had used the flashlight on the key chain to check the brake fluid level under the hood, because that bright red light on the instrument panel surely wasn’t being annoying for no reason. My husband was up by this time, possibly awakened by crashing food, helping me search, unable to resist the chance to one-up me. I won, finding the keys in the hall closet, deep down in the pocket of my nicer coat.

Adding to my anxiety was the slight coating of snow on the roads. Already ten minutes behind schedule, I was thrilled to find the main roads merely wet after exiting the neighborhood. Unfortunately, the interstate was a skating rink. Left plenty of mental time as the traffic crawled (where were all these people going at 6:00am?), I ticked off how many emergency vacation days I had accumulated over the last year. Our auto-factory only allows five emergencies within a rolling twelve month period, and late is NOT an option.

With fifteen minutes left before I had to be seated at a meeting, wearing the steel-toed boots in my locker, I finally exited the interstate and drove the last mile or so towards the plant. In the door with seven minutes to go, I was safe, but the day was just starting.

For the next four hours I managed to avoid catastrophe at every turn. I successfully completed a complicated, time-dependent task that I had screwed up a few months back, halting plant production for twelve minutes. Explaining to top-level management how I could set a counter correctly, yet fail to actually turn it on, had taught me a lesson I wasn’t likely to forget.

Everything was going well until after lunch, when my team leader reminded me I had to pick up steel. Now, this is not a complex job, but it is outside (and I am a wuss). As chilly as the inside of the plant was, I did not relish the thought of braving fourteen degrees in a light work jacket.

Remembering the cursed start to my workday, I considered it only smart to check the level gauge on the forklift’s propane tank. The needle was in the middle, between the two ranges, but I had no idea if that indicated full or empty. As it seemed my bad day wasn’t going to happen after all, I bravely put on the seatbelt and drove through the plant.

Making it outside without incident (I am not the forklift driving champion of the world), loading the sheet metal, expanded metal, aluminum, and angle iron went quickly, almost effortlessly. I even smiled as the heated blast of the positive pressure air engulfed me at the south dock door upon reentry, but my smile slowly left, as the forklift’s motor began to sputter about half a mile from my destination.

Well crap—no question what a centered propane gauge needle meant at that point.

“Is anyone on a bicycle close to the red-tag area?” I was forced to request on my two-way radio, the perfection of my workday thus far a distant memory.

“What do you need?” Mike answered.

“The forklift tank is empty.”

His laugh squawked out of the microphone, static-free. “I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

I figured I might as well have the tank off and ready when he arrived, so I reached for the metal tank clamps, and ZAP.

Good thing the tank was empty.


linda lowry

Lexington, United States

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Negatively charged day

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  • linda lowry
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