Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Pole Thumper

I lifted the garage door this morning around 6:30 AM I guess.  The cooler than usual air that came in made me wonder if I shouldn't have some shoes on and maybe a long sleeve shirt.  I stepped outside  anyway.  The pavement felt ice cold under my bare feet.  The air made me shiver.  I loved it.  After a couple of months of hotter and wetter than usual weather, I was once again experiencing the Maine I imagined many times during this summer of shitty weather.

I leaned on the back of the pick up and took in the sounds of the morning.  Birds getting busy, the slight breeze that had made me shiver, and the old cock rooster that lives behind us.  A few minutes into my quiet time with my dooryard, I heard the sound of something heavy hitting a sold chunk of wood.  It came from my left.  All I saw was the orange warning light of a CMP truck.  The truck then moved down Sam Page and stopped next to the telephone pole we get our power and lights from.  A big fellow fought his way through my manicured pucker and swung a good sized mason's hammer at our pole.

"Thwack", followed immediately with another thwack as if to reinforce the findings of the first thwack.

I was curious and feeling unusually friendly for this early in the morning.  I walked over and engaged the big man in conversation.

"Checking the poles to see if they're solid?"

The big guy was almost back in his truck, but reversed himself and looked at me.  "Yep, only have have 1200 more on this circuit to check."

"How many poles on this circuit?"

"4700 or so.  It's a big one, must have 10,000 customers on it."

"Well, how's this one?"  I looked up at our pole that had been crooked since the first day I saw it.  "Seems it has some age on it.  Been here since at least the early 1960's."

"Jeez, this one's mint.  But the cross bars on the top will have to be swapped out.  All of them on this section will have to be.  Some of them are just barely hanging on."

Not particularly interested in the notion our power lines were hanging from crossbars of dubious integrity, I was more focused on the poles for some reason.

"What's the oldest pole you know of still in service."

The big guy did not say anything for a moment.  He watched the the 2 1/2 pound mason hammer swing like a pendulum in his right hand.  A few swings later he looked up at me and said, " Well sir, there's some poles over to one of the lakes in Shapleigh that date back to the 1930's."

"Wow.  Were they still solid?"

"Oh yeah. they're still in service."

I smiled at the big guy.  "Well, I won't hold you up.  I'm sure you have a lot of poles to thump today.  Keep it 'tween the ditches."

The big guy smiled back and said, "Oh yeah, lots of poles to thump today.  Hope it doesn't rain."  He climbed back in his CMP pick up and drove the 40 yards to the next pole.

This conversation got me tossing many things around in what is charitably called my mind.

We are a society of consumers who consume mindlessly without regard to what it takes to bring the consumables to our dooryards, TV sets, computers, and refrigerators. We only pay attention when we have been cutoff from those consumables.  And even then, all we want to know is when the gravy train will pick up again.

Pole thumping may seem a lowly and boring job.  After all it is but another of the anonymous chores and duties performed on a daily basis by millions of citizens everyday.  Pole thumping is not glamorous.  I would imagine there is very little drama in pole thumping.  And many might consider it a job with no life or death consequences.  All I know is I consider the pole thumper an important guy.  If not for him checking our pole every five years or so, the power I depend on to run the burner in the oil furnace during the dark of winter would probably not be the dependable, take it for granted service I have become accustomed to.

It also occurred to me that we as a society are very selective when praising the efforts of the various workers who provide us with goods and services.  When is the last time I thanked the guy who pumps out my septic tank?  When's the last time I stopped and thanked the town crew who keep my road clear of snow and the ditches hoed out in the summer?  Well, I cannot remember when if ever I had done that.  I appreciate the results of the efforts of these people, I just have never really thought about what they did to make me content.

Yeah, I guess I could say to myself, "Your pay check is all the thanks you deserve", and leave it at that.  But then I realize that these folks are performing necessary duties I have no interest in but without them, my lifestyle might be completely different.

So instead of applauding the movers and shakers who seem mostly full of hot air and empty promises, I would like to thank the folks who labor hard under the radar to keep this country moving in spite of the stupidity their supervisors and presidents come up with.



robin andrea said...

Out here in the Sierra foothills, we chat sometimes with the tree crew who come out in the hot summer to clear tree limbs that hang dangerously close to the precious electricity-providing wires. They're working now so in the winter when the limbs are heavy with snow, they don't fall on the wires and knock out power for miles around. We always thank them, let them set up their trucks and signage on our driveway, etc. Some of our neighbors are not so charitable and have hung signs in their woods that say, "Landscaping brought to you buy PG&E." Some people can be real schmucks.

Ol'Buzzard said...

Pole thumping is a thankless job.

Now that I think about it when is the last time I thanked my wife for thumping my pole every once in awhile.

Thanks love
the Ol'Buzzard

BBC said...

The pole thumpers here make damn good money and is reflected in our electric bills, nice guys though.

MRMacrum said...

robin - But let one of those branches take out their power and the sign posters will be the first in line pissing and moaning about losing their power.

Ol'Buzzard - Thankless or not, thumping poles of almost any variety is a necessary chore in the effort to keep a society moving forward.

BBC - Yeah, I think any power company employee anywhere in this country takes home a good pay check. But so what?

Kulkuri said...

Haven't seen any pole thumpers, but I have seen crews cutting brush and branches along the power lines (it's about time they do it again here). Also people doing surveys to count how many poles have phone lines and cable tv lines, so they know how much to charge those companies for pole rent.

As for the pay of the guys who do the line work for power companies, they earn every penny and then some. Considering the danger of the work and some of the nasty conditions they work in!!

BBC said...

As long as you are good with how high your power bill is to pay for pole thumpers and linemen and even the clerks in the office I have no problem with what your bill is.