An Electrician Tells of his Trade and his Housekeeping
Okay, the top anchor is pulled away. That’s an electrician’s job. The brackets have pulled away from the top. They drill into the mortar instead of the brick because it’s easier and it gives way. I could go down into the city to those row houses and every other one would look like this. This is a dual line, you and your neighbor share this line and it’s perfectly safe right now. I used to fix these by myself all the time but this is a deck, and to use a ladder on a deck or to get onto a sub roof like that house five doors down, is considered hazardous and one man is not allowed to do it. It’s against the law for me to have you hold the ladder. You see the neutral? That’s the bare wire without the insulation. That is intact. If that goes you will get fluctuation and it will burn up your appliances inside the house. I’ll write this up as a non-emergency and you’ll get two guys out here in two or three days. They will knock on the door and try and make contact but if they don’t they’ll just go around and take care of it. They might put you out and you might have to reset your clocks.
Look, down the street. There are more of these. But this homeowner he’s anal—OCD like me. I was a lineman for eight years and a trouble shooter for thirty-two. I’ve got my forty in and I’m out next year. I was married to a woman for thirty years who took three baths a day. The only thing good that came out of that relationship was my thirty-seven-year-old daughter who has a doctorate in applied psychology. So I know what I am—I’m OCD. I have to make the bed. I cannot leave an unmade bed. I’ll be late for work and still have to make the bed. The bath and shower, clean it every day, every time I use it. The guys I work with they know this, so they move my pens around in the truck. They’ve taken dead mice and put them under the seat so that the heat will bring up the smell and get me cleaning the truck like a madman.
I work in a man’s world and that’s what men do. There are no women out here though I hear some are in training to be linemen. Some women have tried it but they never last on the streets. They think they can do it but they can’t. None of them can climb the poles. We use pole hooks. Those bars are for Verizon employees. I used to teach climbing. The women always quit. It’s a man’s job—for now. They’ find some way to downgrade it maybe so that women can do it.
Those are forty foot poles. Anything with a transformer on it has to be forty feet. You see those four bells on the cross piece. Each one of those wires carries seven-thousand-?-? volts into that transformer so that transformer is handling thirty-thousand volts and buffering it down to house power. Poles start at forty feet and go up five feet at a time until they break into ten feet jumps from seventy-five, to eighty-five to ninety-five. We have poles taller than seventy-five down in Elicot City. Places like Portland, Oregon might have a lot of taller poles. That pole there is a nice thick five-grade. There are eight grades. A one is a skinny little thing. An eight is something you can barely climb it’s so wide. You see how the vines find purchase in the hook marks left from us climbing the pole? Those poles go through hell. That forty-foot pole has six feet in the ground. The ninety-five foot pole has 12 feet in the ground.
I go out to Towson after this to a thirty-thousand-volt call. That’s an emergency. You see that transformer over there with the black casement and vents? That’s for cooling, venting the heat. You see that tight line, how everybody thinks the line should be, straight? That’s bad. Birds sit on these, winds whip them and that tight line is pulling on the old mortar in these brick walls. Yours has a nice belly in it. We’ll pull it up just a little. Everybody says we should put all these wires underground. You realize how much that costs—costs you and me? That’s why BG&E is selling this off—the distribution end. This is where the maintenance costs are, where the work is and underground maintenance is always the deepest work—it costs. We got bought by this outfit from Illinois. BG&E is holding onto the supply side. There is a big facility up in Northern Baltimore County where they just sent me to check on their candle. A candle looks like a light pole made of heavy gauge aluminum and this computer cranks this big breaker and they had no indication that the power arc occurred so they sent me to observe this five foot blue arc when they cranked that breaker.
I’ve got a year to go and I’m out. I have a coworker who has bladder problems, is pissing himself on the pole at sixty-eight and he’s still working his life away. For me, just being me is work. I’ve got to have everything cleaned, everything in the sink stainless steel, can’t abide an unmade bed. Knowing what I am is an advantage out here. Good luck to you.
(c) 2019 James LaFond