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I had a kink in my neck.

Filed under: From The Porch Swing

When I was a little boy, I fell down a lot.  I had a healthy sense of adventure and exploration, but not much sense of balance and almost no muscular coordination.  My first stitches came when I fell off the monkey bars at the playground, split open my chin, nearly bit my tongue off, and frightened my grandmother half to death.  My first butterfly band-aid and my first scar both came courtesy of the same incident, which started with me atop a tricycle and ended with me off the tricycle, bleeding beside the driveway.  I’ll be happy to show you the scar next time we’re at a meeting or conference together.  It’s right in the middle of my forehead, although 50 years later it’s starting to look more like a dimple than skin tissue healed from a horrific injury.  Even at my advanced age (it’s good to have reached an advanced age, and I hope it keeps advancing), I can fall down and get hurt.  Last year while on summer vacation, I walked barefooted down a boat ramp, intending to enjoy some cool water up to my knees, but only made it ankle deep before slipping and busting my butt.  I’m not sure which injury was worse, the cut on my heel from an oyster shell which was my first wound ever closed with Super Glue (cyanoacrylate, and thank you Uncle Jim for the first aid work), or the emotional wound incurred when my wife couldn’t stop laughing.  Tears streaming down her face, she tried to explain how extraordinarily funny I looked when four limbs flew out in four separate directions and then started windmilling as I splashed down.

So, physically, except for my rugged good-looks accentuated by the tricycle incident scar, I’m not very gifted.  But I did receive an intellectual gift that more than offsets my poor balance and lack of eye-hand coordination.  I take tests well.

I take tests so well that it eventually, indirectly, hindered my academic performance.  I didn’t study in high school, but no one in the school had higher test scores.  I started thinking that I was smart, no, not just smart, brilliant.  At the university level, my arrogance about not needing to study finally caught up with me.  The day before an early morning chemistry final I picked up my text book, expecting to leisurely thumb through it and reassure myself that I still knew it all.  Surprisingly then, but unsurprisingly in retrospect, I found that we had covered so much subject material in the past ten weeks that I couldn’t remember what we’d done before that.  The day before an exam on 22 chapters of chemistry, I found I couldn’t do the exercises at the end of Chapter 5.  Panic.  Cramming.  Caffeine.  And well after midnight, when I finally laid my head to rest, I rested it not on my pillow, but on my thick tome of a chemistry book.  Shortly after awakening, with a painful kink (crick) in my neck, the exam proved that knowledge did not migrate out of the book into my head while I was sleeping.  So, I learned a lesson.  I should have studied earlier in the course, not just near the end of it.

I realize that studying and training aren’t exactly the same thing, but I do think there’s enough similarity between the two, putting information into one’s brain, that I wonder if the lesson I learned in college might have some relevance to the world of dangerous goods.  Generally speaking, with North America a particular exception, we use a set of Dangerous Goods regulations for two years, and then discard them for a newly revised set.  IMO makes it easier, allowing a year of transition, but the most restrictive mode of transport, air, allows no transition.  Yes, there’s similarity between the outgoing set of regulations and the incoming set of regulations, but they are different enough that the regulations require we be re-trained.  And it’s that re-training that I’ve been pondering.

It didn’t help much for me to postpone studying my chemistry until near the end of the semester, so what good does it do to postpone re-training until near the end of a biennium?  My consequence was a poor grade.  The consequences of not re-training promptly could be non-compliance.  And non-compliant could mean unsafe, for example allowing lithium metal batteries on passenger airplanes.  The delay of re-training doesn’t even have to be until near the end of the biennium.  How does re-training in March prevent a violation in the immediately preceding February?  If we don’t need re-training in February, why do we need it in March?  If we don’t need re-training in the first month of the biennium, why do we need it in any of the other 23 months?  In other words, if we truly do need re-training at all, don’t we need it as soon as the new regulations take effect?

There is good news, though.  Just because the regulators don’t require us to receive our re-training in January of every odd-numbered year doesn’t we that we can’t arrange our re-training for then.  We can get on a sensible training schedule ourselves, getting re-trained when it does the most good.  So, get re-trained now, right now, as soon as possible.  And without it becoming a regulatory requirement, you can help get this kink out of the regulatory system.

Written 1/7/2015 for HCB Magazine

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