Saturday, September 19, 2015

no glove, no love

I had one of those Deja Vous moments yesterday.

    Yesterday was kind of a shitty day for me. Some unhappy news about the health of a family member, a primo case of diaper rash from working too long in sweaty drawers the day before, and I just got to feeling soggy and hard to light yesterday.

 So one of our generators died via a busted radiator, and we went to the home office & dock for the replacement. Now, my place was with the engineer, as an extra pair of hands... and I was just feeling sorry for myself and all cunty, you know?

Anyhow, at one point I stuck my head in a locker and pulled out a pack of a dozen work gloves.

 I go through work gloves like toilet paper. At any time I've got 6 pairs in rotation, scattered in their respective homes around ship. It makes my partner out here nuts, as it can be unsightly, a pair of dirty leather and canvas gloves looking remarkably like a rag or whatever, and not being shipshape. But it gets tolerated after a fashion, because my hands are dainty and shameful. I've written before about what happened. Couple fingers got mostly severed, rebuilt, some puncture injuries from fishing, at least a half dozen cases of blood poisoning there, lots of broken digits and knuckles and a persistent infection that lasted about 20 years. I can't really write with a pen too well, or hold a shovel without strong discomfort, but I type in the vicinity of 90 words a minute, and can still thread a needle after a fashion and pick my nose, so I get by.

   When I was AB on the tanker NEW RIVER, we got one pair of gloves a month, and that was it. With my pussy hands, it wasn't all that pleasant. I remember distinctly having to break my gloves in every morning so they'd bend, like you do with a baseball glove, after they got a couple of weeks old, and nipping through popped seams with a mortician's needle and palm laced with dental floss to keep them functional until new ones came in.

 That was how that company rolled. You had to have coveralls on and full PPE to prevent exposure to oil and chemicals, but you wore gloves that were marinated in diesel, gasoline, naptha and VGO.
     I often use this blog as my personal agony column and portable fainting couch, but every now and again, like yesterday, a little moment comes through, and suddenly, where five minutes before I would have thrown a shackle at anyone who called my name, like oil on the water, seeing that stupid pack of gloves was very calming. I don't know. I'm having my period or something.

    My hands hurt. Every fucking day. From November to May, they're curled up into claws and prone to cracking open and bleeding at the last provocation. But you know? I keep them clean and dry, and fresh gloves when I need them, and it's not too bad. It's better than it was 20 years ago before I did half the stupid shit that I did to them. In the past year, with a new medication, I sometimes even have fingerprints here and there. Currently they're doing well. These are my hand salad days, I guess.

All for the sake of using $20 worth of cheap canvas and leather gloves every month, rather than doling them out like crusts of bread. The idea of that would have made my last employer scoff, and that sort of attitude was exactly why working there required a union. Here, at least, I can take care of my little girl hands, and hell, with the gloves on, I don't have to feel so damn ashamed of them.


Peter said...

How about your ears? In a noisy environment like yours (I presume refueling ships is more noisy than simply sailing around), I'd assume you need ear protection too - or am I wrong?

(I speak as one who's suffered permanent hearing damage through years of unprotected exposure to gunfire while in military service.)

Anonymous said...

1. With you on the broken bones and whatnot.
2. About ten years ago, skin on fingers started cracking and bleeding. Fingers were covered with elaborate wraps of Band Aid "Tough Strips" over a coating of Neosporin and Hydrocortisone.
3. Thought it might have been caused by an HGH enhancing compound I was taking in an effort to keep up with my inappropriately younger and handsome wife. (British, in my case)
4. Have been struggling since then and November to May are my peak periods for misery also.
5. Tend to get faddish on gloves. Went from Tillmans to Memphis Glove Sidekicks to my current fave, Galeton leather palm Rough Rider -which come with pliable leather.
[Read soft]
6. Work with propane which provides its own, specific miseries.
7. A final discouraging note: a doc I talked to about it suggested that #3 was unlikely and that the whole business was probably my aging skin's response to harsh conditions.
Good luck with your hands.
V/R JWest

pediem said...

Isn't it amazing how sometimes that one little thing can turn your whole day around?

Many nights in the ER, things would be crashing and burning and just one little thing would happen, like a candle on a dark night...

Paul, Dammit! said...

Peter- I'm pretty good about wearing ear protection. Our cargo pumps are big diesels mounted right on deck, so they're incredibly noisy... so we've got earmuffs and plugs standing by, and plenty of both. I've got moderate hearing loss for my age, mostly from heavy metal music played on a walkman, of all things, from when I was a teen. Stupid, really, but I'm getting to a point where everyone else is catching up to me. Other than a predilection for not liking long sleeves much of the year (any oil gets seen or felt on the skin and washed off immediately, rather than being absorbed by the sleeves and exposing skin to a panoply of carcinogens between laundering), I'm usually pretty good about using PPE.

Anonymous said...

just saying, fish hooks, partial severing, years of on deck service, those are not "pussy hands", sir.Those are the hard working hands of a man.You only know their limits because you take them there. can't hold a shovel well? how many of the younger set even know which end to hold? your hands have seen and done a helluva lot more than the ones wrapped around a Starbucks and game controllers every day. They have served well, and the rest of us need to hear how men's hands are doing honest, hard work now more than ever. God Bless

Anonymous said...

My last nights PPE requirements were: nomex coveralla, leather fire retardent gloves, tyvex disposable suit over top, fall arrest harness, double lanyard, hard hat with side impact panels, monogoggles and a half mask with fitted P100 filters that had to be swapped out every 4 hours. Plus a tool lanyard for every tool to prevent drops from heights. The guys on the ground get jumpy when a dropped tool can fall 150 feet.


Paul, Dammit! said...

Anonymous- are you one of those crazy ass guys who rappels down oil rig derricks? Or an ironworker, maybe? That's some hardcore PPE right there. I hope and pray you don't get the shits while wearing all that gear. No way you'd make it to the can without buttering your bread.

Anonymous said...

I work inside tanks. The kind the size of a city block sometimes all the way down to little tiny ones. Some of the ones i've worked on have had some extremely toxic crap in them. When they add supplied air and escape bottle with a chem suit in place of the tyvex; those are the ones you worry about.

Funny you should mention the shits. I was in a tank and another guy runs for the manway like hells after him. Dives through the hatch and past the safety watch. I booted out thinking his monitor alarmed or something and i just didn't hear it.
He runs past the shower unit; ditching gear as he runs. Harness, gloves, mask, goggles, harhat all tossed away till he hits the door to the porta potty and i realize what kind of emergency got him out.


Will said...

you might consider getting tested for allergies, particularly of the ingested type. Food type allergies can manifest in skin disorders.
Mine is Aspartame. Mostly shows up with your complaints, but on both my hands and feet.
BTW, my hands dry out very easily, and those cracks get too deep and wide to heal properly on their own. What a doctor suggested was to use a hand creme that contains a good amount of urea, at least 10%. This is the stuff that does the softening. I found that Kaiser Health Care pharmacies carry a 20% urea cream, which works well. You don't have to be a member to buy there, IIRC. It can be hard to find a pharmacy that carries any hand lotion that has enough urea to do the job.