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That First Christmas

It was my first big winter storm. This was a big one and it was a new experience. There were crews from all over the company, as well as outside crews from other organizations.

It was my first year on the job. I had worked through quite a few big outage events during the previous summer, but this was different. A full-scale ice storm…and it wasn’t even winter yet. It happened shortly before the holidays.

I was the ground hand/driver on a 3-man line truck. Apart from the lineman on the crew, I was assigned to my regular truck, with my Chief Lineman, working the midnight shift. The scope of the damage, the type of conditions and the manner with which these linemen and crews handled the work was so amazing to me. Besides the opportunity to gain experience, that storm provided memories that remain with me all these years later.

The restoration work had us working 16-hour days over a two-week period. As Christmas Day drew closer, it seemed like there was no end in sight. We were beginning to think that we would be working through the holiday. Between the long hours, short interval of time between shifts and trying to get ready for the holidays at home, everyone was tired and running on fumes.

Finally, one night, a few days before Christmas, the office let the Chief know that the storm assignment was over, and we would be released that day.

Later that morning, we returned to the yard. I pulled the line truck up to the entrance to the garage. It had a Stop Light at the entrance that operated in sync with the garage door motion. As we waited for the door to fully open, there were few words spoken, each of us exhausted, ready to get some well needed rest and some downtime.

I looked up and our yard master was standing just inside the door, hurriedly waving me in. Without thinking, I put the truck in gear and drove into the garage.  As I entered, there was a loud crashing sound, as the truck brought the bottom two sections of garage door with it. Apparently neither of us (the yard man nor I) had noticed that the signal was still red.

Stopping the truck just inside the entrance, with the remnants of the doors hanging off the boom, I looked out and saw the two General Foreman and three of the Foremen looking at me, shaking their heads in disbelief. Then, they walked off without saying a thing.

With everyone exhausted from the events of the preceding few weeks, each of us went about the process of completing the finish of the day and left the follow up of criticism and blame to another day.

Terry Bellew

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