Sunday, November 19, 2006

Nude Riveting


Yeah, it's hot. If you're like me, when it gets hot you take off your clothes. Mebbe not all of them but some. Okay, that's better. Couple of fans, canvas water bag hanging there in the breeze. I'm chug-gluging about a quart an hour and haven't taken a piss since last Tuesday.

Temperature in the shop pushes past the century mark and even a cotton apron and pair of shorts is too much. The humidity is about 80% and despite the fans going full blast everything I'm wearing is soaked with sweat, my feet squishing in my boots. Heat prostration is a definite possibility and my wife is visiting the grandkids. If I go down, I'm gonna die. Time for a break.

Cool shower helps. Refill the water bag, find a dry apron, transfer my tools and stand there looking at those boots, barely twenty years old and just getting broke in good. Steel-toed boots are part of the Standard Uniform, a habit of safety rewarded by having a full set of fingers and toes, despite having worked with sheetmetal for fifty years. Which I'm not, today. Today I'm riveting. Hand-setting AD3's to secure two little pieces of metal together, ten lefties and ten righties. Then flip them over and install a third piece so as to form a double-wide flange. I've made a pair of jigs to hold the parts for drilling. Drill, cleco, take them apart, deburr, move over to the vise supporting a hand-set. Form the shop-heads with a few well-placed blows from a skinny riveting hammer. Bench-work; no need for steel toes. I find a pair of flip-flops and shuffle out to the shop, just me, the water-bag and a shop apron. Cool.

I finish the lefties, having to re-do only one rivet, and start on the righties. It's about 2 in the afternoon. I'm wearing a headband that's already soaked through, wrist bands to keep the sweat from running down my arms, I've soaked my hands in Machinist's soap and I'm still sweating like a bitch. About then the UPS truck comes roaring up the front drive.

We live on a hill with a nice view of Catalina Island, when the weather is clear. Bought the place in '65, back when poor people could afford to buy a home. Our front drive is something of an obstacle course, narrow, steep and twisty; more than three hundred feet from the mailbox to our gate, guarded by a discrete sign: 'Private Drive. Trespassers will be physically abused by the gardener.' (Doesn't do much good.) We also have a straight, gently sloping back drive, suitable for everything from a transit-mix to a baby stroller. Or a UPS truck, since it can roll right up to the back door of the shop. The fact this one was roaring up the front drive said it was a new driver, so I went out to show him how to find the back drive which will save him a quarter mile and having to turn around.

I didn't know UPS had girl-drivers. Pretty young thing in shorts. Muscular legs. Surfer shoulders. Blonde hair in a pony-tail. Just filling in, she explains. Regular driver will be on tomorrow and thanks me for telling her about the short-cut out the back drive.

Couple of little packages and one big one. She wants to help me carry it but I am craftily keeping my best apron forward, shuffling sideways to lean the big package against the open gate, telling her it will be fine right there as I back away, Buns of Steel artfully concealed.

She climbs back in the truck, does her paperwork, gives me a smile and a little wave. "I like your outfit," she sez as she fires up the engine and roars off up the back drive. My artful dodging has put me in front of the big plate glass window that gives us such a nice view of Catalina. It also makes a pretty good mirror for someone sitting high up in a UPS truck.

Going back to the shop, it was 95 in the shade. I'm almost afraid to look at the thermometer over behind the milling machine but finally do: 108. I finished the ten righties about the same time I emptied the waterbag. I've guzzled two gallons of water and haven't pee'd since Jonah was a Seaman Deuce. It was about three-thirty and the thermometer in the breezeway had inched up to 97, a nice warm day for coastal California. I decided I'd done enough work and took another shower. Fixed myself a drink, smoked a pipe and sat down to write this, after putting on a pair of powder blue boxers. Nude riveting is bad enough; heaven only knows what naked typing might lead to.


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