Thursday, August 21, 2003

Reflections on Knoxville

As I wrote the other day, I've been taking a couple of classes in Knoxville this week.

(Knoxville being in Tennessee, Al Gore's home state, the state that he just took for granted in 2000, the state that would have put him over the top and saved us from this endless national nightmare. But I digress.)

I drove because I wanted to have my bike down here with me. Nothing worse than being trapped in a sterile hotel, in a strange city, not knowing anyone, without a bike. I tend to sit around, watch T.V., eat and get fat.

Some observations:

-- I'm taking two classes: Incident Investigation/Root Cause Analysis, and Human Factors. Good instructor, interesting classes. Most of the other students are corporate health and safety directors, not the crowd I usually hang out with. But they are, to a man (they're all men) very supportive of OSHA, and not outwardly hostile to unions (this even before I revealed my pedegree), even though none of their workplaces is organized. Some are even Democrats.

Admittedly, this was a self-selected group or else they wouldn't be in these classes in the first place. But it confirms my belief that the world would be a better place if the big corporations, and small-business associations like NAM and the NFIB let the health and safety directors (instead of the government affairs slugs) determine business' national health and safety agenda in Washington. (It would also be a better world if pigs could fly.)

Not that this is really much of a revelation. Many have heard me rant and rave about how, during the ergo wars, we would talk to company health and safety directors who thought that ergonomics was great and their ergo programs had saved their company millions, and how those nice boys and girls from OSHA had helped them put together a program -- only to get a fax from their corporate headquarters complaining that OSHA was rushing ahead on ergonomics before there was any science and an ergonomics standard would surely bankrupt them. If I was king of the world....

-- This part of Tennessee is beautiful. I drove up to the Smokeys yesterday and rode my bike around the 11 mile Cades Cove (twice) where I saw lots of deer with antlers and two bears. I also spent a couple of late afternoons doing my Lance Armstrong impersonation around western Knoxville. It took me a while to find out where the bikers ride. In riding around the less biked part of town, I also observed the quaint Knoxvillian custom of using bikers as target practice for beer cans flung from moving vehicles -- usually pickup trucks. Luckily, their aim is not great (probably because they had previously ingested the contents of the afore-mentioned beer cans.)

All in all though, it was a good idea to bring my bike.

-- 500 miles is a long way to drive -- even if you want a bike with you -- especially without the benefit of whiny, complaining, fighting kids and back-seat-driving wife (all of whom I love and miss terribly). What saved me was a tape of Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island, which is about Great Britain. If you've never read anything by Bill Bryson, you should. He's not only informative, but extremely funny -- one of the few authors who can make me laugh out loud. (He's also written A Walk in the Woods and A Short History of Nearly Everything) In addition to entertaining me, it had the added advantage of making me appear crazy to anyone passing me -- especially the ubiquitous, speeding, trying-to-stay-awake semi truckers who infest I-81 -- who warned each other on their CB's to stay away from the crazy guy in the Windstar.

I must get a book-on-tape for the trip home.

Update: My British correspondant, Rory O'Neill informs me that Bryson was a scab in the London Times newspaper dispute. Hmm. I guess I'll have to be more careful.....