Your Feelings Or Your Life

It’s neither the start of a joke nor the thing a woke mugger would say. It’s a conflict happening within the walls containing two very different worlds, where woke meets dangerous machinery. For those unfamiliar, makerspaces are a relatively new concept that allow people to have access to a wide variety of equipment and machinery, from laser cutters to 3-D printers, that would otherwise be unaffordable and out of reach.

A makerspace is a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high tech to no tech tools.

Much as the verbiage sounds inclusive, these aren’t toys, and people using this machinery don’t get a pass on safety or competence, unless they’re hoping for the new nickname, Lefty. As obvious as this may seem, a problem arises from the nature of “collaborative work spaces,” which tend toward more ethereal concerns such as diversity, inclusivity and, naturally, empathy.

A call came in from a man who was terminated from his employment at a makerspace. His job was to maintain the equipment and oversee its safe use. People who used the machinery had to be trained, but brief training alone was insufficient to assure that they wouldn’t harm themselves or others. Everything is happy until the blood starts gushing out, you know, and his job was to prevent that from happening.

As it happened, his superior at the makerspace was female. They had very different visions of the job, as she extolled the collaborative nature of the endeavor, bringing the ability to create things to the unwashed masses for the betterment of humankind, while he just liked to build stuff and didn’t want anyone to die on his watch.

The supervisor had been given basic training on the equipment, essentially what was provided any other random user who showed up, as her job wasn’t to actually create anything but to spread the vision, the mission. Yet, in doing so, she would occasionally try to use the machinery to show others what could be accomplished. It wasn’t that she had any skills or depth of knowledge, but even stories of saving the world occasionally required an actual demonstration of what a laser cutter can do.

One day, the supervisor flipped the switch and the equipment came to life. From across the room, the man saw this happen, and what was about to happen next, as she was about to get a new nickname due to her failure to pay attention and use the machinery safely. He yelled from about ten feet away for her to stop before she harmed herself. No blood gushed that day.

What did gush, however, were feelings. The male, an employee over whom she exercised authority, embarrassed her. He did his job. He made sure she went home that day with all her appendages intact. But he hurt her feelings. In the scheme of acceptable things to do in a woke workplace, this is not on the list.

He was terminated the next day for his insolence, or as it’s often related, sexual harassment.

It was not, as one might suppose, that they didn’t recognize the importance of competence or safety in the use of a CNC lathe. They said they did quite emphatically. Rather, the expectation was that one could be safe while simultaneously being sufficiently courteous and respectful of another’s feelings so as to avoid causing any woman to feel uncomfortable.

Machinery is the ultimate in equality. It’s inanimate. It doesn’t care about the gender of its user, their level of sensitivity or their expectations of empathy. It’s just machinery, and when used improperly, it can do serious harm, even take a life. Old-school machine shops get this, and machinists are respectful of their equipment rather than demand their equipment be respectful of their feelings.

As for the person in a makerspace, no matter how woke the collaborative aspirations may be, who is responsible for making sure every user goes home with all her digits, a choice has to be made between the harsh reality of a barely-trained person using dangerous equipment and the potential for embarrassment, or harassment as any unpleasant interaction between male and female tends to be characterized these days: your feelings or you life.

This particular makerspace now has no one who is capable of maintaining the equipment, training users and overseeing safe use. The man is out. The woman remains. It will be a warm, empathetic collaborative space, where the users of equipment need not fear their feelings will be hurt should they use the machinery improperly, dangerously. The machinery doesn’t care.

Caveat: Not all makerspaces share these priorities. Most are extremely concerned about the safety of user, and safety is truly their first priority, and do everything possible to assure that users are adequately trained and supervised, so that no one goes home with a new nickname.

24 thoughts on “Your Feelings Or Your Life

  1. grberry

    Did you mean to include a link to the source of the story? I don’t see one yet.

    The main point is clear and true. I’d go further though – it isn’t just the machinery that doesn’t care. Reality doesn’t care.

    1. SHG Post author

      This is based on information provided directly to me. There’s no link involved.

      While I agree that reality doesn’t care, there are two things about this apocryphal tale that stand out: the first is that makerspaces are in a somewhat unique niche between the types of people who tend to be particularly empathetic and the types of equipment that can maim. The second is that the concrete nature of harm from dangerous equipment may make the point more clearly than generic reality, since people disinclined to believe they could be wrong will persist unless and until reality bites them in the butt. For many, that could take some time. Others will manage to avoid it altogether. As long as their reality doesn’t cause them physical harm, they can believe in unicorns all they want.

      1. Casual Lurker

        “While I agree that reality doesn’t care…”

        Not to be too pedantic, but “reality” does care, as it’s a perceived value, filtered and processed by the senses, and by multiple cognitive abstraction layers. When exposed to a given set of identical circumstances, from the same vantage point, everyone’s “reality” is, at minimum, slightly different.

        It’s “actuality” that does not care.

        Long before the Interwebz, anthropologist, Margaret Mead, used to give a lecture on perception, reality, and actuality, and the importance of recognizing the differences between them. For those interested, I suspect it has made it to somewhere on the web, in some form.

        Regardless, the “supervisor” may eventually earn herself the title of “Captain Hook”, in addition to being eligible for a Darwin Award, presented by Dunning & Kruger.

        Not even safety interlocks on dangerous equipment can protect some people from themselves.

        Of course, the aftermath will demand that “something must be done!“, so a new law in her name will create a whole new licensing regime, with all that entails. (Insurance requirements, Etc.)

  2. Lee

    Add this to the belief that giving CPR to an unconscious female is rape, and you get an interesting dilemma. “Should I save her and risk being accused of rape, or just keep on walking?”

    Woke v. Darwinism, indeed.

  3. B. McLeod

    If he had just let it ride, and done nothing, nobody else in the world would ever have known that he saw the danger in time to have shouted a warning. For good or ill, this is likely to inform the discretion of his successor, and karma will be paying a Stumpy an unpleasant call before all is said and done.

    1. SHG Post author

      Since it was simultaneously his job to prevent harm to Stumpy, he would be responsible either way. If only there was a way to gently, kindly and empathetically prevent harm when the danger is a split second away.

      1. B. McLeod

        I am mindful of the quiet warning delivered by “Willy Wonka” (Gene Wilder iteration): “Stop. Don’t. Come back.” Didn’t work, as I recall.

        1. Casual Lurker

          There was an interesting French movie (with subtitles) from 1989, called Baxter, about a white Bull Terrier. (Look it up on IMDB).

          You can hear the dog’s thoughts. Baxter is not too fond of an annoying child. There’s a scene where a kid is drowning, and Baxter, after waiting awhile, barks for help, and the kid is rescued. Baxter thinks to himself “I called too soon”.

    2. Patrick Maupin


      Regardless, one of my own personal cognitive dissonances (or so I’ve been told) is that I can simultaneously believe that corporal punishment is wrong, and that it’s OK for a small child to think “I don’t know why, but every time I get close to the street, I black out.”

      1. Norahc

        The greatest lesson my dad ever taught me was that actions have consequences. Sometimes those consequences included having to eat dinner standing up because i couldn’t sit.

        It’s a life lesson that we don’t seem to be teaching anymore.

  4. Rojas

    Doubt if they keep statistics on such things but I’d wager there are more than a few folks gracing this earth today because some un woke SOB hollered “look out motherfucker” right after seeing someone/something trip the latch.

    I don’t know how far OSHA goes to mandate it, but I do know they “strongly encourage” it. A “near miss” or “near hit” as you may, is considered a failure. In general a failure in the safety program that could lead personal injury brings formal reporting requirements and mandatory failure analysis with documented corrective action.

    If she’s running the rodeo without any concept of the why of such things, she’s more liability than just an accident waiting to happen.

    1. SHG Post author

      As dangerous machinery filter into empathetic enterprises for the good of mankind, details like competence are secondary to the right perspective on global missions, and hence the superiors possess the correct vision if not the necessary competence to run a CNC. Something has to give.

      1. Guitardave

        Part of me says don’t do this…but, what the hell.
        I make my living (if you can call it that) using a CNC. ( if you want to see my work go to Huber banjos dot com or Heartland banjo and guitar dot com…i do almost all of their inlay work.) A while back i was pocketing fingerboards, and, like I’ve done hundreds of times before, i shut off the vac table and poped it off the fixture…but it fought me a little and….well the router head ( 90,000 rpm die grinder type ) was not clear of the back of may hand. I know, a 1/32 dia. dental tool don’t sound too threatening…..but if you drill that sucker into the thinnest skin part of your first knuckle, index finger….well….you get a little whiff of what drilling bone smells like…then, put a drop of iodine in that almost bloodless wound….lets just say its whatever the opposite of nirvana is.
        My point is, i was really pissed off at my machine for treating me so badly, and i didn’t talk to it for a week. It STILL hasn’t apologized! Fucking machines.

        1. SHG Post author

          Stercus accidit. Even in experienced hands, a CNC can hurt. One might think it would be appreciated if a potential injury can be avoided, but apparently not when the injury is from a lathe rather than words that might strike a sensitive person as unkind toward a woman.

          My son plays uke, and he’s toying with guitars.

        2. rojas

          In the very early eighties I worked as a 2nd shift CNC lathe operator with a large oil tool mfg. company. They probably had over 200 machines in the CNC deptartment. A large majority of machines being 2 or four axis turret lathes from 4″ to 45″ chuck sizes.

          Every few months the typical background noise would be interrupted by something going bump in the night. The mills would typically scream and groan to a stop when crashed but the lathes could shake the building when the spinning three jaw took a blow from the turret or errant tool. What followed was about ten seconds of silence, I assume to listen for a workpiece that had been loosed and traveling across the shop. Then the caterwauling from the other operators would begin in earnest. This noise would rise to a crescendo that sounded a little like a Tarzan African animal stampede running through a well stocked farm located on a waterfowl refuge. Of course a very pissed off supervisor had arrived by then a little breathless from their sprint. Hence it was time to try and explain the situation with the cries of very horny peafowl in the distance. The experience was humbling to say the least.

          One thing of note is that a good percentage of people simply freeze up when witnessing the impending doom. That big red emergency stop button is nowhere to be found. In many instances this means you have put hands on ’em to clear a path to the control and shut it down. I suppose these days this could lead to assault or sexual assault accusations if one is not sufficiently courteous and respectful in the few split seconds on has available to effect the outcome.

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