Friday, March 28, 2008

War Stories

You know the coolest thing about Europe? Its the little differences. I mean they got the same shit there we got here, its just there its a little different. Example? in Italy you don't dial 9-1-1, you dial 1-1-9. September 11th would have been January 19th if Al Kaida had attacked Rome.

I didn't come under sniper fire during my service in Northern Italy protecting America from the Bosnian hordes, did have a pretty nasty bike wreck on that mountain in the background, and that's me in the backseat of the hornet, taking pics like a little girl. My colleague at the little tent clinic was a real prick, serving out his last few months till he began a prestigious ER residency. The residency was just a formality, as he already was an expert on everything. Having arrived in Italy a few days before him, I was in charge of the clinic, hard to believe, but that's the way the military does things. Anyway for some reason the clinic had accumulated a large number of mercury thermometers, left by previous units and it was now my job to dispose of them. Using my leadership skills, I delegated the task to my corpsman.(to those of you whose military experience is limited to MASH, corpsmen are the Navy's version of Radar O'riley and Corporal Klinger). Soon enough the gaggle of thermometers was gone, I didn't ask and he didn't tell. He did however, have a marble sized Mercury globule, that he delighted in playing with terminator style. Dr.ER had a cow when he realized that he was practicing in the vicinity of a toxic metal. "Get rid of it!! " he shrieked. In one fluid motion, like Larry Bird dishing off a no-look pass, Radar scooped up the mercury and swallowed it. A hush fell over the room. I'd never seen anyone swallow that much mercury before, what would happen? I mean there's a reason we're getting rid of the thermometers, right? Anyway, Radar didn't die, and is currently working in Northern New Jersey in waste management. When no one was looking I sneaked a peek in the toxicology book. Turns out elemental mercury is non toxic.


  1. damn you drackman!
    hornets are way cool! i have flown a lot in a pointy-nosed jet too but for the sake of anonymity will have to let everyone guess what it was. will add elemental mercury to the cyanide and hydrofluoric acid free zone rules even though it's not dangerous. we can certainly use it to create more paperwork.

  2. You guys are so freaking funny. Wonder why Dr. Gregory House doesn't steal your material???? Maybe he hasn't seen your blogs!

  3. 'gregory' huh? he's a douchebag. you, however, ginger jar, are not.

  4. It's not "non-toxic". Mercury is just not well-abosorbed by the gut. It generally passes through without complication. There's much more toxic forms of mercury that are able to enter the body with ease. Elemental mercury, among all toxic variants of mercury, appears to be the least toxic of all.

    Entertaining I'm sure, but it is extremely fucking stupid to ingest mercury.


    "Thermometers contain the less toxic elemental form of mercury and have almost never been a safety issue in peoples’ homes. However, in the 1970s and ‘80s, workers at the Staco thermometer plant in Poultney, Vermont, began to notice a common series of health problems—headaches, bleeding or sore gums, upset digestive systems, and coordination problems. Upon investigation, mercury was detected in the air of workers’ homes, on their clothing and furniture, and most tragically, in the bodies of many workers and their children. This was the first time in which the children of mercury-handling workers were proven to have been affected. "

  5. proves nothing anonymous. there is no mention of the mercury poisoning in the plant being related to ingestion of elemental mercury... my guess is that it was aerosolized or in a slightly different and highly toxic form. here's for the lawyers, DO NOT HANDLE MERCURY IN ANY FORM OR YOU COULD DIE, and here's from the california poison control center.

  6. here's from the california poison control center.

    Wow. Who knew the CA PCC could be so factual? Aren't these the same guys who labeled silcone and botox as mother's milk?

    Note to self: move out of CA at first chance...

  7. Damn, I aint never worked in no thermometer factory and I got sore gums, digestive problems and bad coordination too. "Generally passing through without complications" sorta sounds like benign to me. Wish my Sonic coney island chili cheese dog was as uneventful. And allthough he sounds like him, annonymous isn't Dr. Pric.

  8. "A pointy nose jet"?
    That sounds highly technical. Must be a fine, fine machine.

  9. When I was a kid, well over half a century ago, out in the country, my brother and I would sometimes find little globules of mercury on the side of the highway. We played with it, marveled at it, but never swallowed any. I've always wondered where it came from, whether it was toxic.

  10. dear amy,

    in fact, military pilot lingo typically refers to 'fast movers' or 'pointy nosers' to indicate fighters like the F18 pictured above, the now retired F14, the F15, the F16, the harrier, and the F22 etc...

    propellor driven aircraft like the P3 and C130 as well as jet tankers and jet freighters like the KC130 or the C5 have snub-noses and are subsonic.

    helicopters are also known as 'helos' or 'rotor wing' aircraft.

    the old A6 was a fighter-attack all-weather aircraft based mainly on carriers but had a snub nose so it is an outlier.

    also, if you are lucky enough to fly a 'fast mover' or 'pointy nose jet' then you are more likely to refer to yourself as a 'hornet driver' or 'falcon driver' than a pilot.

    drackman can correct me if i'm wrong but we used to do the same job albeit for different services.

    911doc sends

    anonymous, in terms of where the mercury on the side of the road came from another anonymous seems to think it came from the 'Staco thermometer plant in Poultney, Vermont'.

  11. Sorry... it just sounded gay.
    I learned something today, thanks for the info. :-)

  12. amy,
    no worries... actually love talking about it. my pilots were the best folks on the planet. we are lucky to have them on our side.

  13. So how long did radar shite toxic waste? Tee Hee. Ha Ha.

    Can't type in finger splint.

  14. Well, I guess this story kills that way of offing myself...

  15. Amy, there was a "don't ask don't smell" policy at the time, so I'm not sure if Radar recovered his Mercury later. Funny how in Air Force aerial refueling the Tanker is the "male" and sticks its long probe into an opening on the female fighter. Marine and Navy fighters wernt having none of that gayness. They have their probes and stick them into a receptacle from the tanker.

  16. i have flown a lot in a pointy-nosed jet too

    Point-nosed pilots make me hot. Terrible thing to live near the now-defunct El Toro Marine Base...

  17. Uh...Dr. Drachman, I'm not the same Amy who was asking about the gayness probe. But that's cool and all. Just thought you should know we're not the same gal. I mean, It is the most common name and all.

  18. ok, sorry damn finger splint. It's blocking my brain waves. I mean Dr. Drackman.

  19. Lynn, that was the best thing about the flight surgeon gig, having women think you were a pilot. Its like they put some kind of pheremones in those flight suits.

  20. Its like they put some kind of pheremones in those flight suits.

    Damn, a government conspiracy. I should have known.

  21. Funny how in Air Force aerial refueling the Tanker is the "male" and sticks its long probe into an opening on the female fighter. Marine and Navy fighters wernt having none of that gayness. They have their probes and stick them into a receptacle from the tanker.

    That is just hilarious! Thing is, military aircraft are extraordinarily sexy; my absolute favorite for sexiness and sheer beauty is the Warthog. I got a private pilots license late in life, after the brood left home, flew mostly the Cessna 150 (great for seat-of-the-pants flying over mountains) and the C-172 RG. Pilots and people who work in or around airplanes are so interesting.

    BTW, probably the mercury I played with as a kid was splashes from a passing tanker of thermometer mercury as another commenter suggests. Never harmed me though a neighbor said it could poison me through my skin!

  22. dear anonymous. spot on with the A-10 warthog. it is my favorite flying machine and i call it the flying tank. but sexy? i would call it very ugly and mean!

  23. Air Force jets ARE sexier than their Navy and Marine sisters. Its the landing gear. Hornets and Tomcats have to be able to take the pounding of landing on a short carrier, while air force jets usually land on 10,000 foot long runways. Look at that landing gear on the Hornet, fat and stubby, like Senator Clintons calves. An F-15, F-16, or A-10 teeters on thin spindly legs, like Heidi Klum in highheels.

  24. I am so ashamed to admit that my father is retired from the Air Force and I can hardly tell a jet fighter from an Embraer.. (Sorry, Dad!)and it is only a small exaggeration
    However, growing up on base, I saw some fine specimen of the male population. :-)

    And lastly, to avoid confusion with the blue Amy, I now declare myself: Amie.

  25. Air Force jets ARE sexier than their Navy and Marine sisters. Its the landing gear.

    Gee, I don't know, Frank. I would watch an entire squadron of F-18's screech into the El Toro Marine Base for lunch, and, Lordy, how it made my knees wobble.

  26. Umm Lynn, El Toros been closed for years, sure made quite the impression on you:) Not sure if I'd call it "screeching" though. El Toro just moved down the coast to Mirimar, you should go down and check it out when a squadron returns from a deployment, 12 hornets, usually in groups of 4 thunder in at about a 1000 feet and 400 knots, make a 90 angle of bank turn, and land in sequence, its better than a Blue Angels show in my book.

  27. re:Mercury
    Sep 18, 2007 - Edmonton - A new environmental study proves atmospheric mercury emissions end up in fish in as little as three years.
    4/8/2004 Study: Pregnant women eating too much fish
    Of the 4 million babies born in the USA in 2000, more than 300,000 of them — and as many as 600,000 — may have been exposed to "unacceptable" levels of methyl mercury because their mothers ate a diet rich in fish, a study finds.LINK

    Then you guys complain of stupid patients that need to be removed from the gene pool.

  28. Annonymous, are you Doctor Prick returned from the grave? Don't eat the fish then, I'm sure it'll contaminate your precious bodily fluids. What about cats though, they eat fish, and I haven't noticed any shortage of them lately, nor have I seen a bunch of deformed kittens scurrying around dumpsters.

  29. Umm Lynn, El Toros been closed for years

    Yes, I've lived in the area for thirty years and am painfully aware of when the base closed. I was speaking in the past tense in my previous post. And, yes, they made a huge impression on me. While all the soccer moms passed petitions around to make "my boys" stop their flying overhead, I was busy raising my eyes to the skies thanking them for their sacrifice and service. It hurts like hell to drive past the base these days. I swear you can still feel the energy emanating from the base - even if there are RVs parked on the runway (a complete sacrilege).

    Not sure if I'd call it "screeching" though.

    Guess it's a tomato/tomahto thing. When an entire squadron blew in overhead, it sounded like screeching to me. OTOH, maybe I need an ear test.

    El Toro just moved down the coast to Mirimar, you should go down and check it out

    Yes, I know. I get a small dose when I drive down to San Diego. It's not quite the same thing because all I see from the freeway are tanks and helicopters and a ship anchored off the coast. No jets. But it's still enough to get my blood pumping. Sigh.

  30. oh anonymous!
    did you not know? it's not MERCURY, it's FLOURIDE! Listen to Drackman... he knows! Do not drink the water or it WILL contaminate your precious bodily fluids!