Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Why I Went to College

This is the story I always tell when somebody asks me why I went to college. One reason the story is interesting is that it isn't even my story. It belongs to my wife's brother Dan, who is a construction welder. Here's the story.
A ditch box is two steel plates held about 3 feet apart by braces. You put a ditch box in the ground when you have to work in a ditch because ditches tend to collapse in wet weather, and this is Seattle we're talking about.

So, my brother-in-law Dan is working outdoors, six feet below grade, in a ditch. It's the fifteenth of December. It't 35 degrees F and drizzling rain. Dan is soaking wet and standing in ice-cold water up to his knees. He is welding an additional cross brace into the ditch box, presumably to keep it from collapsing. He is using an electric arc-welder, and he can feel the current flowing over his wet body to ground.

...and that's why I went to college.
Of course that isn't really why I went to college. Well, it kinda is. I went to college because I wasn't really a grownup when I was 18 and it was go to college and get to live comfortably at home, or go to work and live on my own. Besides, there was just this background assumption in my family that everybody would go to college. But it was clear in my mind that I would rather work indoors in an air-conditioned office, and sitting down if I liked. And I would be happiest if the most dangerous thing I did on a daily basis was drive to work. And that's why I went to college.

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