Now, this is where I want you to really visualize the scene. I'm all alone. I'm lying on my back on a metal walkway that's only two feet wide and has no sides. I'm still wearing my overalls and my hard hat and my safety glasses and my tool belt carrying every tool known to humankind. My precious oscilloscope is balanced on my chest. In one hand I'm holding a bunch of meter-long ceramic tubes containing the thermocouples. I'm using my other hand to help me inch backwards along the gantry.
Just 24 inches in front of my nose we find the bottom of a furnace holding approximately 100 tons of liquid glass. The furnace is radiating a huge amount of heat -- I'm generating sweat in quantities that I would not have believed possible. The furnace and I are suspended six stories in the air above the basement. It's pitch black. The only light comes from the lamp on my hard hat, which means all I can see is the small area on the bottom of the furnace that's in front of my nose.
Are we having fun yet?
I eventually reach the site for the first thermocouple, stick it in the hole, seal it with damp clay (several pounds of which are in a plastic bag stuffed in one of the leg pockets of my overalls), use the oscilloscope to make sure the cable is sound, and then wire the thermocouple to its cable. I then continue to inch my way on my back to the site of the next thermocouple.
Finally, I reach the last thermocouple (at least, the last one on this side of the furnace). As I'm wriggling my way into position, I hear a really loud splash six stories below me in the basement. My first thought was "I wonder what that was?" This was closely followed by my second thought, which was "I wonder where my oscilloscope has disappeared to?"
Did you wonder how I knew that the basement was filled with about four-and-a-half feet of water? I discovered this first-hand when, about 30 minutes later, I was to be found wading around the basement with the water (the cold, dark, fetid water) up to my chest, feeling my way through the mud with my safety boots, desperately trying to locate my missing oscilloscope.
Remember that my only source of illumination was the light on my head. This penetrated the gloom at least 10 feet, which is to say that it was @#$%& useless under the circumstances. I have to say that it's at times like these that having an active imagination is not the blessing you might think. Every time I heard a splash, I wondered if some creature from the nether regions -- perhaps a giant mutated eel -- was heading towards me under the water.
I never found the oscilloscope.
I waited in dread anticipation for my boss's return. I fully expected that the company would dock the cost of the oscilloscope from my wages. Had they done so, then -- based on the huge cost of the scope (at that time) and the pittance I was being paid as a student/intern/whatever -- I'd still be paying it back to this day.
However, when my boss did eventually return (relaxed, refreshed, and sporting a jolly nice suntan), he simply said "Don't worry. Things like this happen all the time when you are rebuilding a glass factory. Just requisition another scope from head office." Then he wandered off happily into the sunset leaving me thinking, "It's a funny old world, and no mistake!"
That poor oscilloscope, alone in that wet dark place, probably still haunts Max's dreams. Luckily his boss had just had a nice vacation to sooth his spirits. Has a piece of equipment suffered at your hands? How did your boss handle it?