What an interesting Friday I had.
While at work my web design client paid the down-payment for us to beginning marketing his Water Bottle Holder. I updated the site the following day, and now looks as follows. I also got extremely reasonably priced tickets for my friend and her son to visit me on January 27th through January 30th.
Here’s where it all gets interesting… While at work I got a call that I had an emergency. I went to the address, feeling dreadful and wanting to leave and never return. This emergency was to a locate I had completed a day prior. I’ve had another emergency before to my own locate, where the diggers found a metal conduit and thought it was gas, when it was exactly what I had marked (electrical). This emergency was different. It was the first one I got a call for.
When I go to the emergency site I don’t want to get out of my car and see what’s going on. The traffic lights aren’t working, the electrical service is out, I’m not scared or worried or anything, either way I know I’ll be fine, but I just don’t want to deal with it.
After a few minutes of idling, I got out of my car and went over to where the damage had occurred. A guy that was leading the emergency traffic control told me that an electrical line had been hit, and that they isolated it to be within 15 feet of the marks that were on the ground for an electrical line. I called a coworker and asked what to do next. The ticket had said they hit an unmarked line, yet this person told me that they likely hit a marked line. They told me to call the damage investigator.
I call the damage investigator from my car, and wait. My supervisor calls me and asks me what’s going on. I tell him someone told me that they isolated the damage to within 15 feet of my marks. The supervisor is angry, and says something about how he doesn’t care or it doesn’t matter that it’s within 15 feet, our marks are supposed to be within 18 inches accurate of the line. I let him know I know that, but this is all the information I know about the damage.
Then I go back to the area as the damage investigator is placing marks down, since he just got there; and he’s placing marks of where he’s getting a signal of the electrical line beneath the ground. It normally wouldn’t be able to be picked up when it’s been hit, but someone had done something to get the damaged wires temporarily connected again from what I understand, so that the traffic lights would work. So where the marks are being put down looks like two feet away from my marks. I’m worried. Then the trainee that came with the damage investigator said that he was hooked up to the electrical box in the ground, and not the street light it led to.
I relaxed for a second. I’m not supposed to open electrical traffic boxes in the ground, so there’d be no way I would know that the line ran that way. Then the investigator hooked up to the pole and got my same exact mark. Then he turned around. and got his white marks again that were off 2 feet.
Oh shoot. I went back to my car after he said that my supervisor said to go work on my other jobs, there wasn’t much I could do there anyways… In the car I looked at the prints. It didn’t look like I’d missed a line, but it seemed that the investigator picked up two lines.
I went to the job I had left to attend to the emergency, then a while later I called the damage investigator and asked him if I should be worried. He said that the prints were confusing in all honesty and not to worry about it, and to pay attention to what I’m doing. I knew he was right, so I did my best to quiet my mind. It wasn’t difficult to cease thoughts. I had ceased thoughts since I heard there was a damage. But the ceasing of thoughts wasn’t resulting in the pristine silence you would get from being atop a snow mountain. It was resulting in the screeching you get from a radio that is in-between two frequencies. If it were possible for a radio to be in-between ten pairs of two frequencies, that’s how my brain sounded. It was jagged words and sounds, a rollercoaster that teleported from up to down.
I started to do math in the jumble of the noise, trying to figure out if it would still be possible for my friend to visit me if I got fired, how much money I’d have for how long if I got fired, and how screwed I would be. I realized within a few minutes that I’d be alright for at least a month. At the very worst I’d have to sell all of my crypto-currencies to push it to a month and a half, and then I’d be back in the business of having a job and all.
Also, the back survey/study was coming up, and that would get me some money too. I also have valuable belongings like a camera and a car I can sell on a whim, should I need to make either a month or six of living costs appear out of thin air.
Friday was a tough day because in all, I only got three jobs done. I had one in the morning i needed double-checked since I was getting two lines on something I was convinced there was only one line (the damage investigator checked it and my one marking had been correct, the one that was there from before from another locator was not). The second job I got done was a huge-headache. It was a pile up of transformers and switching facilities, with ten three-phase lines running under the ground, and an end of main gas pipe, which meant it had to be quality checked by our QC person. So I did all I could, which was locating the main gas line and the 10 electrical lines, and QC’d it for the remainder of the end of main, as well as a certain portion of an electrical line. Then my third job, which was interrupted by the emergency, involved one pesky three-phase line which was not picking up in the direction it should have been. The damage investigator helped me check this one too, at the end of the day, and that took a while to get figured out but eventually he got it, and I was feeling quite beat for having needed help on 66% of my tickets and having had possibly caused a damage.
On my way to taking some photos of the first place I’d been at in the day, to upload when closing my work, I got a call from my supervisor. The line that had been hit had been checked by me, and by my trainer and a trainee when I’d called them out asking for help a day or so prior, when I initially marked that area. Both myself and my trainer had done a 360 “sweep” around the electrical box, and we’d only picked up one line. The prints were also confusing in the sense that they did not mark that there were two lines in the ground, one going from the street light to the electrical box, and one going from the electrical box 500 feet to a traffic light.
Although the damage occurred outside of the 18 inches we’re spared, my supervisor was certain that they could fight it and not be responsible for the damage, and even if they would be there’s only so much we can do as locators and that the prints weren’t all that clear in what was there. Furthermore, my supervisor told me, in a way that sounded extremely genuine, that he was impressed that I correctly marked another line that was totally in a different spot than the prints showed.
I told him to forgive me if I’m two to three times as slow over the next two weeks, because this all gave me a scare, and he said not to let it corrode at me. The damage investigator told me the same thing earlier. He said that dig season is coming up (when there will be two to three times as much work), and there’s no point in letting it get to me.
At home my friend told me why I’d been put out on the field nearly twice as fast as the other trainees: because I’m smart. It answered a question I’d been having since that morning, when I met a trainee that was still in training, but had started only one week after me. That meant that I was on the field after two weeks, and he was on his fourth week and still in training. There was no way that I could figure out as to why I would be put on the field so much sooner. Sure, the company had doubled and it may have been hard to continue training me with 20 other trainees coming in, but damages caused by improper training results in possible bankruptcies for my company. My friend said that they put me on the field because i’m smarter than the other trainees.
When I considered how my trainer, who I would bet has a higher IQ than me, did not find the second line when I asked for help marking that area the first time, and when I consider how my supervisor was impressed I marked something else in the area in which the prints were not accurate, I can see this possibility of being put out quicker because I’m smarter. In all honesty, time will tell. I can’t know for certain if I’ll still have my job in a week or two, because of even this occurrence, or another one down the road. All I know is that I’m giving it the best I can and more.
The worst that can happen to me for failing to accurately mark a line, or marking it at all, is that I lose my job. I still probably get paid my last paycheck. The worst that can happen to the guy that accidentally digs into a three-phase line or a gas line is he dies, or becomes disfigured. The worst that can happen to me after losing my job is that I have to sell some crypto-currencies and not be able to do things like host friends over from other states. The worst thing that can happen to a guy who hits a line afterwards is that he can’t get another job and his family has to starve.
As a result, I do my best to stay focused and keep my cool, even when the weather is extremely tough to deal with, whether it’s close to zero degrees or windy or starting to rain (I haven’t had a down pour yet), and even when the ground is frozen and I can’t even place my ground rod a fourth of an inch into the ground, to the point where it gets bent like a noodle when I kick down on it trying to make it budge. I have to do my best because others’ have more to lose if I fail than I do, and that’s new to me.
When I got home that day, is when I got my friend the tickets. I had time to do it since work was done, and I also felt somewhat comfortable with continuing to have my job for a bit longer than a few hours.
To be continued…
Also published on Medium.