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The Bank

A good lineman, friend and coworker passed away recently. A memory from another friend, a lineman, regarding a shared experience with this man, brought this story to mind. It is an entirely different scene and people, the only similarity is that both pertain to the required daily paperwork, at the time.

It was winter, late ‘70’s, I was the junior lineman on a three-man line gang.  It was a climbing gang; buckets were few and far between. We were involved with job to upgrade and replace poles in a waterfront community.  These were the days when Carhartt overalls, jackets, heavy flannel shirts and thermal vests were the uniform of choice, before FR clothing was even a consideration. The truck that we were assigned to had a small cab that was a tight fit with three guys in it under normal circumstances. When you added in all the layers of winter gear, it was stuffed.

At the time, the crews reported their daily activities via a scanned form. There was no hourly verification of the work, only the type and amount of items reported. It wasn’t unusual to have an abundance of work that didn’t need or get reported on a daily basis. If you had an overly productive day at any given time, you could bank some of it to make up for those days that needed bolstering.  Needless to say, every Crew Chief carried a “bank of reserve,” just in case (Naturally, not too long afterward, this reporting system gave way to a more “accurate” time sheet).

One brutally frigid day, we had a junction pole to change over. The chief was complaining about how much he hated the cold. When we rolled up on location, he told us to stay put and we sat there for a while in the heated cab. Finally, realizing it wasn’t going to get any warmer, we all got out to begin the day’s work. It was cold! We all felt it and tried to figure the best way to stay as warm as possible but still be able to climb and work.

The chief bundled himself up…to the max, including putting on his heavy Carhartt winter jacket, with the hood. The other two of us had to laugh. He looked like Ralphie’s little brother in the movie, Christmas Story, when the mom dresses him up to play in the snow.  He could not move.

We weren’t out but a few minutes, when the chief cried out, “That’s enough…back in the truck!” We jammed back in there for a good half hour and then tried again to get something done. Didn’t work. The scene repeated several times throughout the day. Aside from the laughs we shared that day, our efforts at exit and entry were all we had to show for it.

The “bank” paid interest that day.

Terry Bellew

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