January 31st, 2007 by Kevin
This last weekend I was talked into helping chaperone a birthday party of six 9-year old girls (Holy Hell On Earth Batman!). Suffice to say my Saturday was pretty busy and I wasn\’t able to listen to the NARN radio broadcast at the time. Just recently I had the chance to listen to the podcast of it while at work and definitely enjoyed Michael Brodkorb and King Banian\’s segment on the potential state-wide smoking ban.
Basically the arguments for the smoking ban rely on the premise that non-smokers have a right to never have to breath smoke even if they knowingly put themselves in a position where it can be reasonably expected there will be smoke. That you are too stupid to make decisions like if you want to breath smoke yourself. That because the state could be expected to help pay for health care they therefore have the right to make health decisions for you.
Now obviously all of these arguments are stupid. As evidence of this, were King and Michael\’s repeated examples of related situations where the same argument could reasonably be made but because of the non-politically-charged situation it\’s obviously stupid. For example, Michael pointed out that he wanted to work in a coal mine, but didn\’t want to deal with smoke. Or King likes to eat fried bacon but because that\’s bad for your health the state should outlaw it.
I couldn\’t help but think of a personal example that I\’ve often joked about but never really connected to this topic.
Part of my job deals with air traffic control systems, one of our lab facilities was on the MSP airport grounds, directly underneath the control tower. I loved that lab (more on the past tense later). Sure it was run-down, cold, unfeeling, dirty, and disgusting but it helped build team comradry. There was an unofficial rule that management wasn\’t allowed in the front door so we were unbelievably productive. We called it \”The Garage\” because that\’s the type of environment it was. Unbridled unsupervised creativity and knuckle grinding work.
An added benefit was we were on airport grounds (we got locked inside during 9/11). Hell, I parked within 20 feet of an F-14 most days. We were right in the environment our systems had to work in. The very people that worked on our stuff were a staircase away. Plus the fact that planes are taxiing right by your window and that your desk shakes every time one takes off really pounded home the importance of your software working 100%.
But there was a drawback….a big one. Actually a huge one, and definitely a health impacting one.
During the winter, when they needed to de-ice the planes, the tarmac they used was directly adjacent to the air intake vents for our buildings heating system. And they parked the planes in such a manner that the jet exhaust was blown directly into those vents….not to mention whatever chemicals are in that de-icing fluid. We spent the entire winter working in a haze of jet exhaust and de-icing fluid. There were times I\’d get about halfway home and the clouds would lift from my brain and I would realize I\’ve been higher than Jerry Garcia all day long. No wonder lunchtime was such a big deal out there.
Plus we knew the building was in shitty condition. Every time it rained, we had to put up tarps to catch water and debris from the ceilings. Hell, the only thing holding the ceilings together was the mold. God knows how many mold spores I\’ve inhaled. Oh and remember we\’re working with electrical equipment in all this. And none of this is an exaggeration. The building was condemned while I worked there (hence past term). And while we were moving equipment out part of the ceiling collapsed on me and a few co-workers.
So….was it dangerous for my health to work out there?? Abso-fucking-lutely.
So why did I?? Because I loved the building. I loved the productivity. I loved the team atmosphere. I loved the problem-solving that got done. I loved not having a manager within 10 miles of me. I loved the restaurants in the area. I loved watching the planes, especially the military ones. Sure I knew I was probably giving myself cancer, but I still went.
Could I have worked at our main facility instead and done my job? Sure. But I could do it faster out there.
Could I have gotten another job? Sure, but I liked this one.
Could I have requested a different position in the company? Sure but I liked this one.
All of these were MY choice. I loved that building and I wanted to stay out there. And despite the fact that it literally collapsed around us as we moved out, I resented the hell out of the building inspector when he condemned it. It was my choice to drive there every day, how dare they take away that option….even if it is for my own good. I would work there again in a heartbeat if it were an option.
The point is, by the same rationale they are using for the smoking ban, they should have moved the area where they de-iced the planes. They should have re-done the entire heating system. They should have passed a law requiring de-icing fluid to be safe for inhalation. Yes, by that same rationale they should have cost the state, the airlines, and YOU millions (billions) just to convenience a few people who CHOOSE to put themselves into that situation.
I made a decision regarding my own well-being. It wasn\’t entirely in my own interest, but it was my choice to make. And I was happy with that choice. I wouldn\’t have had it any differently. I didn\’t want the state to make that choice for me. And I don\’t now either.