Tool Box Tango


One of my many jobs in the Navy was spending a stint as a tool clerk working in the Tool Room of my squadron’s hangar. Squadrons operate 24 hours a day. Flight operations happen mostly during the day so a lot of the maintenance happens in the evening and overnight. Basically anytime the birds not flying someone is wrenching on it.

In dealing with maintenance on an aircraft, tool control is key. A forgotten or misplaced tool could end up in flight controls, jamming them and causing damage or worse a crash. So tool inventory is performed at the beginning and end of each shift and after each maintenance evolution. You don’t walk away from a bird you were working on until you know for sure that you have Everything you walked up to it with.

To help facilitate that, the tool boxes only have the tools you will need when you go out to the bird. Each tool has a silhouette in the the box so its very easy to see if something is missing. These tool boxes are made of steel and the ones I worked with were made like a clamshell suitcase. They weighed about 35 pounds each.

I worked mid shift in the tool room. Mid shift is 11pm to 7am. The beginning and end of each shift is very hectic with people checking tools in and out but most of the shift is boring as hell. The mid shift especially since there was very little flight crew activity therefore very few officers wandering about getting in the way. There is only so much cleaning and maintenance that needs to be done in a 15 by 20 foot room once most of the tools have been checked out so I spent a lot of time tucked out of sight in the office nook reading or studying.

One night I had one of the tool boxes emptied out for a little cleaning and repainting of the silhouettes. I was sitting with my feet up reading while waiting for the paint to dry when I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. I snapped my head around but couldn’t see anything. Figuring I had just imagined it I went back to reading. Little while later I could have sworn I saw something again. I sat up and put my feet down then I saw it. The biggest fucking cockroach I’d ever seen!

I uttered every swear words some of the thirty years sailors I worked with were teaching me and jumped up onto the counter as the ugly ass bug skittered around on the floor near me. Happily I had come from a life where I had never seen a cockroach up close and personal before I joined the military so this was one of my first encounters with one. I looked for something to kill it with when I noticed the heavy tool box next to me. I smiled evilly to myself and promised death from on high to the bug. So standing on top of the tool counter I picked up the tool box lifted it over my head and then dropped it squarely on top of the cockroach from about 8ft in the air.

The bang the flat side of the tool box made as it hit the concrete floor was impressive. I smugly climbed down off the counter and approached the tool box. Steeling myself for the mess I lifted the box up while lamenting the fact that I’d have to repaint the exterior of the box now also.

I looked down and discovered the bug to be very much alive. To this day I swear it reared up, hissed at me while wagging its antennae and charged me. I flung the tool box again and spent the rest of the shift on top of the cabinet clutching a hammer and debating if I would get charged with dereliction of duty if I spent the rest of my shift standing on the other side of the hangar.