For some seven years from the mid-70s to early 80s, I worked for Brown & Root in a couple of industrial plants along the Houston ship channel. I didn't work in their construction division as many did, but rather in the maintenance portion of that then-enormous company.

Working maintenance meant that you wouldn't be moving from one location to another, but would have a more permanent place to "hang your hat" -- or wear your hard hat.

Every morning I would gather with my co-workers in our small office where we would drink a cup of coffee, scarf down some breakfast (healthy breakfast -- like donuts), swap a few stories and receive our "orders" for the day. It was a common occurrence for a supervisor to come up during the day and pull a worker off of one job in order to get something else accomplished.

So it was the day that Tony (a company "big-wig") came and gave me instructions for a job he wanted me to take care of.

For those who've never been in or around these industrial plants, when inside you find that you are surrounded by various "units" that contain a series of motors, tanks, pumps and pipe -- miles and miles of pipe. Many times the pipes are covered with fiberglass insulation, which is then covered with a heavy aluminum shell.

Tony asked me to follow him to one such unit. He pointed to one particular section of pipe, which was covered with that aluminum shell. He noted that the pipe wrapped and wound all through the unit, from the ground where we were standing and made its way upward through the multi-level unit.

My job would be a simple one.

"Take a large permanent-marker, trace the line through the entire unit and about every 2 feet write ‘into' on the jacket," he instructed.

Easy enough. I can DO this!

I spent the next few hours walking and climbing -- and very neatly writing "into" on that shiny aluminum insulation jacket with my large marker.

I had just finished the project when Tony walked up to check on me. He stood there with a sort of strange look on his face, studying my completed job. Then he softly spoke.

"I meant the symbol for nitrogen," Tony said.

When I was laid off some years later during the oil crunch of the early 80s, I'm thinking my printing on that pipe was still intact. And I'm sure that everyone else who happened to be in that area wondered why anyone would write "into" instead of "N2."

Life's an adventure. I'm livin' it up!

Randy McLelland, a.k.a. Randy Mac, is senior pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship Church on FM 202. He plays the role of "Grandpa" in The Promise and, through his "Livin' It Up" ministries, is a motivational speaker and Christian entertainer. He can be reached at or 817-454-3386; his Web site address is