Sometimes I think spelling should be a required course in engineering school. Here are a couple of boo-boos from an engineering office:
We used to use an automatic spell-checker when sending out specifications. One time, we wrote up a spec that said, “Paint thickness shall be 3 mils.” The automatic spell-checker didn't recognize mils, so instead, the specification went out to bid stating, “Paint thickness shall be 3 miles.” Several contractors called to ask how many tankers of paint it would take to get a 3-mile-thick coating.
Some of our projects have fire pumps. Along with a fire pump, there is a small pump called a jockey pump. But the joke was on us when a set of plans went out calling out the correct wire for a 3-hp “Jokey pump.”
We did a lighting renovation at a large parking garage, but the title written on the plans was “Parking Garbage Lighting Renovation.” Nobody at the state agency noticed that the plans said “Garbage” in 3-inch-tall letters on the cover sheet.
On a maintenance schedule, weekly maintenance was required on a particular machine. The plans, however, stated “Check the unit once every wee.”
Wiggy Gone Wild
I was an electrician working on a large job. We were all trying to finish work on last-minute items because a big open house was scheduled with food and entertainment. A local audio company was hired, and was setting up its equipment trailer. I was asked to do a temporary power hook-up for them. So I grabbed my hand tools and went to work. One of their techs told me he needed 240V, 3-phase power. Close by was a socket and a sign above marked “240-volt.” I grabbed my Wiggy, stuck the probes in, heard the familiar hum, glanced at the meter, pulled the plug apart, and hooked them up. In the next instant, the tech and the rest of the audio personnel came rolling out of the trailer, along with a big cloud of smoke. The sign was wrong! The voltage was actually 480V, and the equipment was toast. Needless to say, I have not used a Wiggy for a long time. The moral of this story is: Never believe a sign, and test it yourself. It may save your life.
Illustrations by Clint Metcalf