Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Lineman's Tale

     Tam and I did not see an IPL lineman maintaining streetlights last night; we won't say where it was and we haven't any photographs of it -- and here's why:

     Hypothetically--  The streetlight out front of Roseholme Cottage -- actually, in front of a neighbor's place -- had been ailing: it wouldn't stay lit cycling through start-up only to flicker out and begin again, over and over.  I'd meant to call Power & Light but someone must have beat me to it.

      Tam, reading on the porch, tapped on the window last evening while I was finishing up my radish sandwich.  When I looked out, she pointed to a big P&L boom truck parked next to the streetlight, jacks down.  "He's going to fix the light."

     I came outside to watch.

     "It's just the one guy," Tam said.

     "Yup.  Power linemen are like Texas Rangers: one problem, one lineman.  One night at work, I watched a guy swap out insulators on a 14.7 kV line on very tall poles, working from the ground with a 'hot stick.'"

     "What if the boom falls over?" (Jokingly.)

     "It won't.  And nowadays, they're insulated; all the controls are hydraulic."

     While we spoke, he'd ridden up, popped the photocell off the top of the light, lowered the bucket to open the diffuser, remove the old lamp, install a new one and raised the bucket slightly to plug in a new photocell (they have a twist-lock connection and a nice thick gasket to keep the weather out), holding his hand over the top until the new lamp came on, all with never a wasted motion.  Tam was holding up her iPad, framing possible photos and the lineman watched her as he rode back towards the ground.

     I gave him a smile and walked out to thank him.  He'd parked the boom and raised the street side jack by the time I was at the sidewalk.  As he came around the truck, he asked, "Are you trying to get me in trouble, taking my picture?"

     "What?  Oh, goodness no!  Thanks for fixing the light.  ...Why would you get in trouble?"

     He grinned, "You'd be surprised.  One of the guys took a dead animal off the line in a customer's back yard, a neighbor put a picture of it on Facebook and he got suspended for three days when the Company saw it."

     "Well, we won't do that.  --Hey, the light out back by the garage hasn't been going out during the day.  It's just on all the time.  Do I need to call that in?"

     "Is that a light you pay for?"

     "Yes, it is."  (Seven bucks a month.  "Private" streetlights are a heck of a deal and most Power & Light companies are happy to put them in, even along the street.  If they don't have to set a pole, installation's cheap.)   "Um, if it's not a problem to look at it....?"

     "Naw, I'll just run back there next.  There's an alley, right?"

     "Yes.  Thank you!"

     "Just don't get me in trouble."

     Again, hypothetically; I'm not saying he was ever there, we haven't any pictures and nobody can prove anything from what I've written.

     But it's a heck of a thing when a guy can get in trouble for doing his job well. 


perlhaqr said...

I can see getting in trouble for there being pictures of doing things you shouldn't, or even if the pictures are the thing you shouldn't be doing (ER pics on the FaceTwits are a HIPAA violation, folks) but it doesn't make any dang sense at all for some random third party taking your picture doing your job, getting you in trouble.

Anonymous said...

Ive never heard of a radish sandwich but it sounds interesting

og said...

You mean you actually respected his desires and didn't do whatever the hell you wanted anyway, it's a free country? How appallingly decent of you.

I have often not seen Streets and San guys throwing hotpatch on the crumbling edge of peoples private driveways, or cleaning messes past where their responsibility ends. it's nice to not see people doing their jobs with some level of pride and respect. It does happen, once in a while.

homebru said...

Wonder what the union says about the manpower requirements for that job.

Don't need to wonder about the wishes of the company about union grievances.

Sendarius said...

Here, that job would be six guys: two to close the road and direct traffic around the stationary truck; one to operate the bucket; two to ride the bucket (one handing tools and parts to the other); and one to watch for the bucket riders' signals, and tell the bucket operator where to position the bucket.

I don't know who would do the paperwork.

Joanna said...

Here's a poster you could send to the guy who wasn't there: http://www.despair.com/effort.html

GreyLocke said...

There was no IPL Truck, the lights magically started working again through good wishes and Unicorn flatulence.

But a good Lineman is still worth his weight in beer.

Robin said...

You gave him cookies too, didn't you trouble makers?

Anonymous said...

When I was employed by the township, in winter I'd always plow the driveway of a 92 year-old resident. According to the rules I could have been fired. A real lack of common sense these days.

Of course if a couple of good looking ladies (as in your case)needed assistance I may have done their drive too.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

I never met an IPL lineman who wasn't courteous and good at what he did. They were also fairly liberal with their service entrance crimp connectors if you were an electrician doing service upgrades or repairs, and needed a few to get the customer back up and running before the inspector signed off. They wouldn't give you fresh meter seals, of course, but that's entirely understandable :)

greg said...

Not saying this is the case everywhere, but it's entirely possible that this guy is just as worried about getting grief from his peers for setting 'too high of a standard' as he is about getting in trouble with his bosses.

Roberta X said...

Greg: see previous remark. Fuzzy's experience echoes my own.

While (obviously) I'm not saying *this* guy was an IPL lineman, and IPL itself is now an appendage of the the vast AEP company, IPL was, for decades, practically a "boutique" power provider. They served the metro area of one very large city, they brewed up their own power (usually a slight surplus)and they have a long tradition of working to a very high standard. (The occasional exploding manhole cover downtown aside: demand downtown has been running a bit ahead of AEP's replacement/upgrade schedule, with statistically-predictable results. In fact, we're probably due for anotherone in the next 3 or 4 months.)

...However, power linemen in general work to a high standard and it's not because their employers hire only the best of the best. Dealing with live power, at the kind of voltages and currents that can turn a side of beef into a puff of ash and smoke more quickly that I can write the words, either you're careful and methodical or you screw up and get fired or killed as a result. They either start good, get good, or get gone.

Ian Argent said...

Having gotten a (fairly generic) "how to stay safe around electrons in motion, and why not to play silly buggers with lock-out/tag-out" course as an adjunct to a college job doing deskside support for a pharmaco, and being the son of a guy who designed and implemented rooftop locomotive engine systems, the thought of being close enough to the kind of voltage that makes you want to wear 100% cotton because it doesn't melt to your skin makes my hair stand on end. Thoughtful, conscientious, people are the kind of people I want in that job.