Color Me Safe
John A. Ward

I'm the Squadron Ground Safety Officer. Master Sergeant O'Doole is the Wing Safety NCO. He provides safety paraphernalia, inspects frequently and alerts us to hazards poised to pounce on the unwary Marine.   There is a Navy manual with color codes. Electricity is blue. We paint fuse boxes, outlets and conduits blue. There are red, orange and yellow hazards too. Trip hazards are yellow. Steps, thresholds and tracks for the hangar doors we paint yellow. Soon the flight line looks like Disneyland.

The vise is the piece de resistance. Sergeant O'Doole foresees, "Some Marine tightens something in the jaws. Another walks by. It flies out and hits him in the eye."

Our Marine metalsmith rolls his eyes, "What color are vices supposed to be painted?" 

"A hazard so insidious should be designated with black and yellow stripes." 

By the next day, Lance Corporal Blanca has it looking like a tiger.

Everything is fine as long as decorations are restricted to the flight line, but after we cover every square inch of that in fiesta colors, Sergeant O'Doole yearns to explore the rest of the squadron. He discovers a storage area with an emergency-landing-strip floor, four-foot-high perimeter posts and a 2X4 frame roof covered with canvas. There are embarkation boxes under it. "Look at this. Someone could be walking under there, stand up and bump his head. There needs to be a sign that says 'low overhead'. Better still, get rid of it completely." 

That afternoon, I go to see Major Muldoon and explain the problem. 

He says, "I've been moved out of every building in the squadron. This is my last resource. If you think I'm going to give it up you're dumber than you look. I'll tell you what you can do with your sign. To get in there you'd have to be doubled over. If you're too stupid to realize it's low, what the hell good would a sign do? When I was a boy I put my hand on a hot stove. After that nobody had to tell me that stoves were hot." He opens his desk drawer and takes out a drawstring bag for shipping parts to Depot.  "Come over here and get in this." 

It's no bigger than 4 inches wide. "Excuse me, sir?"

"On the way home I drive past a ditch full of dead cats. I want to throw you in there."

The next day Sergeant O'Doole calls and asks if I had any luck closing down the hazard that was waiting to give some Marine a concussion.

I say, "I don't think there's much chance."

First published: August 2005
comments to the writer: Knob'