The 'BARKING OWL' always has something to say, and like the feathered version, can be either WISE...............or ANNOYING!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Inner Bottom

Have you ever taken a nose dive?  Come to the end of your rope?  Gone off the proverbial edge?  Is it yet to come, or have you already, hit rock bottom?  Perhaps that trauma at least gave you the comfort of thinking that "it can't get any worse".  Well I have some news for you, and it may not be good to hear.  There is a place below the bottom, and I have been there.  It is called "THE INNER BOTTOM"!

Working as a "shipfitter" requires much flexibility (in more ways than one, but more about that later).  Every morning in the shipyard we men gather outside at 7 AM, no matter what the weather is doing and no matter what the season, for the daily stretching routine.  Then we meet with our various foremen to be assigned a job.  This is the daily moment of truth.

I never know with whom I will be partnered, what I'll be doing, how long the job might take, which part of which ship (and whether I'll be inside or outside), or even (and don't tell my boss) what in the world I'm doing!  But seriously, the quality of the day, or at least the drudge factor of the day, comes clear in that moment. It's either an "All right!  I'll working with my buddy Ryan putting in exhaust supports in the generator room!", or "Oh crap!  I have to work with _____, while he complains all day as we climb around in ballast tanks cleaning up welding rod stubs and cigarette butts!  But whatever the assignment, I have learned to make the most of every day by getting to know a new partner, by being intrigued with a new part of the ship, or by learning and practicing another set of skills I've never known before.

It wasn't very long ago that I had no experience with cutting torches, air powered grinders, welding whips, dry docks, cargo holds, bulkheads, crops or conveyor actuators.   I have since worked on upper decks, main decks, quarter decks and even under the ship's shell in the dry dock.  I have been ordered to carry steel, cut steel, wash steel, tack steel and stitch steel.  I have worked in cargo holds, generator rooms, ballast tanks, engine rooms, conveyor tunnels and escape tubes.  I have had to chip ice, shovel ice, melt ice and slip on ice,  as well as fire watch, shower in sparks, burn steel, take the heat and nearly melt.

So far, so good.  So far, I have avoided being sent to crawl into the INNER BOTTOM!  The inner bottom is a small dark muddy place running along the very center of the cargo ship (in my case), that separates the very outside shell from a work space above, usually the "tunnel" where a cargo unloading conveyor belt runs the ship's length.  It is barely 2 feet high inside and is accessed either by crawling through the narrow manhole from the muddy bottom of the wide open ballast tank, or by dropping down through a manhole in the floor of the tunnel.  Either way, physical flexibility, and some bodily dimensional limitations (height and/or girth) are required to avoid getting stuck half way in.

No place to spend eternity.
Most often the work on a cargo ship is required elsewhere.  But once in a while someone is sent in to install a crop, snipe a bracket, or simply to meet their maker (I heard a rumor about a skeleton found...).  The only time I ever had to work inside the inner bottom was in dry dock, and the shell of the boat had been removed. At least part of the job could be done from standing on a short ladder, but then I had to crawl up and roll over the angle iron ribs dragging my torch line, air line, extension cord and lights, welding lead, grinder, various helmets and shields, fire blankets and other miscellaneous tools with me.  Only then could I begin to work all crouched and twisted and trying to keep flying molten steel from being strewn across my person.

But, it was heavenly!  People complain about being assigned such jobs, yet when confronted with an eternity in hell, they shrug and scoff and glibly claim that at least they'll be there "with all their friends", as if there could be ANY degree of comfort in a place chosen by rejecting the free gift of ALL comfort.  No.  The ultimate INNER BOTTOM will be faced alone.  No friends, no coworker just outside the manhole to drag you out if you are overcome by fumes or injured by accident.  No manhole or escape hatch.  No connections with power or light..  No satisfaction from facing a challenge or from completing a difficult task.  Not even a chance to shake a fist at God; the opportunity to get real with Him is given, and limited to, today.

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.                                                              2 Corinthians 6:2

A ship's inner bottom is a protective void.  Its upper deck provides the flat space needed to accomplish important work, while its floor is a structural resistance to the sea's intrusive power.  Hell was intended to be a place to separate Lucifer and the other fallen angels from God's presence forever.  Only those people convinced to join him in his rebellion need go there.   God's open home (all are invited to enter by the work of Jesus Christ, offered by God's amazing grace!) is the best place to meet friends, to enjoy God's presence face to face, to enter into meaningful and pleasurable work, and to live eternally, ever maturing and growing more and more "in His image".  Nobody will ever be glad they chose the ultimate inner bottom.

By the way...MILLERWRITES copy is COPYRIGHTED. Why cut and paste when you can simply copy the link?


  1. This was fascinating to "see" into what you do at work, especially paragraph #4. The switch of themes was a bit abrupt, but hard-hitting all the same.

    1. Abrupt switch of themes? Where is that? LOL Thanks for coming by!


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