Dude, I Just Work Here – Days 8 – 10

The following is a recap of my adventures and experiences while out on business continuity assignment for my employer. In brief summary, there is currently a work stoppage on the part of union employees in the Northeast region. As a result, I’ve been assigned to travel to the upstate New York and perform some of the duties of the striking employees.
My goal is to make this a running blog and post as often as possible.

(August 15-17, 2011)

Thanks, Partner
With the arrival of the additional non-union employees, my work partner and I knew things were going to change. Fortunately for us, only two of the five scheduled escorts were there and ready for work on the morning of Day 8. This meant my partner and I got to roll in our van together one last time.

It was somewhat of a bittersweet workday for us. To summarize what I’ve said before, no one has any idea why we’re being asked to go out with ‘escorts’ that have zero training in the work we’re doing, but since that is an issue we cannot remedy, we simply have to make the most of it. With that in mind, my partner and I kicked butt and took names with our job, and we closed out all the trouble issues assigned to us that day.

The Freshmen
Although we’d been there a whopping nine days, there was a funny feeling the morning of Day 9 between us and the new escorts that arrived. We felt like college Seniors giving incoming Freshmen their orientation. “This is what you’re gonna’ want to do. This is what you’re NOT gonna’ want to do. And under any circumstances, don’t you dare ”

It’s not that we’re any kind of subject matter experts or anything like that, but it is true to say the previous week felt like several months, and we all felt we had a plethora of knowledge and insight we had to transfer to our new team members. A couple of them looked at us in disbelief as we retold stories of things that happened the week before, and it seemed that every other sentence ended with the phrase, “Just be thankful you’re here in Kingston and not in the city.”

New Beginnings
With my work partner and I being split up, Day 9 saw me roll out not only with a new partner, but also in a new truck. Gone was the nice van I’d been driving, the one my previous partner and I called Milagro because it was a miracle we were assigned to a location like Kingston. Instead, my new partner and I rolled out in an old, GMC bucket truck (the work trucks with the extending arms in the back which is attached to a bucket). I decided I would name the truck Gerry … as in geriatric … as in the truck handles like a tank with Parkinson’s. Not to mention no air conditioning in our new ride. This is not a problem when it’s 80 degrees outside, but it is a problem when it starts to rain.

My first experience with the bucket truck took my new partner and me out to a remote area outside of Kingston. The terminal I needed to look was on a pole that sat about fifteen feet from the edge of street. The advantage of the bucket truck is you don’t have to use the ladder to get up the pole. This saves time and energy and makes getting to the terminal a million times easier. The problem with the truck is you need to make sure the truck is on an even surface. In the theoretical, if you extend the arm of the truck out in the same direction of the slope on which the truck is parked, the entire vehicle can flip. Given the truck was at a slant beyond the acceptable limits, I was not at all about to test out that theory

I ended up moving the truck to the center of the road (on the double yellow line) while my partner stood and waved traffic through. This is a bit of a misnomer given the area at which we were working was very remote, and if we saw more than ten cars go by in the ninety minutes we were there, that number would have been a lot. The problem with having moved truck to the middle of the road was the arm now did not reach to the pole. This meant I would have to climb the pole. Luckily, however, the pole had step climbers, and this prevented me from having to take down the ladder, carry it, secure it, etc. Still, climbing up that pole was a little more challenging than I had imagined, and since some of the steps were missing as I got to the top of the pole. This meant shifting my weight and getting comfortable in my safety belt was a lot more difficult and cumbersome that it had been in training.

The moral of the story is no matter how you think you’re going to approach resolving a problem, you always need to be prepared to tackle it from a different angle. Such is the life a telephone repair man.

Serious R&R
Day 10 brought me my first day off since this work stoppage began. My former partner and I planned to take in as tourists many of the sites and locations we’d only been able to see driving to and from various job sites. God must have really been looking out for us on Day 10. Whereas the previous days were filled with grey skies and rain, Day 10 was a picture-perfect.

We started off by driving to Woodstock, walking around the town, take some pictures, and doing some shopping. We coincidentally met up with a team of our peers that was out there working on an issue, and we all grabbed lunch together. From there, my former partner and I proceeded to the small town of Phoenicia. There we were able to check out the rapids of the creek that runs through the town, as well as take some more pictures.

More importantly, it was a great mental break from the rigors of the work assignment. For one beautiful, sunshine-filled day, we did not have to worry about work orders, cross boxes, twisted pairs, dial tone, ladders, poles, or NID’s. For one day, we could just relax and breathe and enjoy the reprieve.

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