W&A Monthly Newsletter, February 2019: I have two riding mowers


By: John Wilson    

I have two riding mowers. One, my favorite, is a big-deck, zero turn mower. The other, less used, is a straight-ahead mower with a steering wheel. It’s big advantage is that I can bag the cuttings. Typically, I avoid that, but the need arose, and I went to pull the old mower out of storage.

I hopped in the seat, turned the key, and nothing. It didn’t surprise me because I hadn’t used it in a while. I popped on the battery charger and let it run overnight. The next morning, I took off the charger, hopped in the seat, turned the key, and nothing. Given the time it had sat, I thought dead battery. As I worked to remove it however, starting with the ground, the wrench touched the positive. Nice shower of sparks.

I thought that was too much juice for a dead battery. I tightened the ground connection and checked the positive. It was loose. I thought this was the source of my problem. I tightened it. I hopped in the seat, turned the key, and nothing. It was then that I saw the gear shift was in reverse, because that’s how I’d parked it when I last used it. I popped the shifter into neutral, turned the key and cough, cough the engine started.

For some reason this made me think of checklists, because if I’d been a pilot I’d of had a checklist to go down, and one of the things to call out would be gear shift position. I think I’ll make one to place on the steering wheel. PTO, off. Gear shift, neutral. Foot on brake. Check, check, check. As I thought about checklists, I thought of all the procedures I’ve edited and produced over the years, and how almost all of them would have benefited from checklists.

They’re not much favored in the drilling and completion community of my experience. In fact, there was even a lot of push-back over making the procedures too prescriptive. Something about letting the guys on the rig do their job. I thought that was putting a little too much faith in people’s memories, but I was just an editor.

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