“Though I find your Henry Ford history interesting, do you have any thoughts on the market crash?” — David L.

Did it crash? I thought it was just down 7%. Maybe today it will crash. Hope not. Having so long dreamed the market would someday reach 5,000 (perhaps by the end of the century — up from 777 a mere 15 years ago), I guess I don’t see 6,500 as a crash. But of course I “hear” you. If I ever know in advance which way the market is headed, I will definitely post it here.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming: Stubble Trouble.

I know you’re probably sick of hearing about my visit to that offshore oil rig, Platform Irene. But better sick than dead. When I was telling you about the helicopter and the hydrogen sulfide hazard last week, I forgot to give you a proper safety briefing.

Did you know, for example, that when approaching or leaving a helicopter you should “Stay low, head up and eyes looking around?” And that you should “Keep your arms down at your sides?” Without a briefing and instructions like that, you might have gotten off the chopper, spotted a loved one, and jumped up and down waving your arms — chop, chop — to say hello. Of course, in our case, we were not allowed anywhere near the outside of the chopper when its engine was on or its rotor was turning. But these were valuable tips all the same.

Less obvious, and thus all the more important because you might not have thought of it on your own: “Hard hats and baseball caps will not be worn at any time while the helicopter is operating.” This is a federal regulation, so a lot of thought and study doubtless went into it, though no explanation is given (repeated thwops on the hard hat could dull the rotor blade?). There is no mention of big hair — Marge Simpson, where are you? — but we may have been handed the abbreviated version of the regs. (I am quoting here not from the verbal briefing we got but from the fine-print safety form we were handed to read and sign.)

As for the hydrogen sulfide, which could quickly kill you if you didn’t slap on a respirator as soon as you heard the sirens go off and saw the panic in the roustabouts’ eyes, we were reminded about 29 CFR 1910.134(e)(5)(1) Part which states that “Respirators shall not be worn when conditions prevent a good face seal. Such conditions may be a growth of beard, sideburns, a skull cap that projects under the face piece, or temple pieces on glasses.”

Which sounds very much like ANSI Z88.2-1980 (7.3), also part of our briefing sheet, which states, “A person who has hair (stubble, mustache, sideburns, beard, low hairline, bangs) which passes between the face and the sealing surface of the respirator shall not be permitted to wear the respirator.”

Leading, no doubt, to the following dialog for the Platform Irene TV Movie I envision, amid wailing sirens and roustabouts running every which way:

“Quick! Pass me one of those air packs!”

“No. Not until you go downstairs and shave off that stubble.”

“But [muffled, as when shouting and holding one’s breath at the same time] I’ll die in ten seconds if you don’t give me that thing!”

“Sorry, bud. Safety regulations.”

I suppose in theory the point is that no one with these hairy hazards should be allowed on Irene in the first place. But that’s not how it works. You can get onto the rig; you’re just not supposed to sue if there’s a gas leak and you have a mustache.

My impression was that our hosts were far safer and more sensible than the printed forms they were required to hand us. Had there been a gas emission, I think they would have found a way to save even George, our bearded cameraman. Hope so. Liked George.



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