I have won over a lot of people in my life. Sometimes it’s as easy as opening a door for them, sometimes it takes years of kind acts and words, but when it happens there is no better feeling. In our industry, respect is paramount. Respect means people trust you, they value you and they can count on you. I know the exact moment that I won the respect of a very important man in my company and it was for the silliest reason.
Al was already a legend when I met him. I was told that he was the youngest person to ever become a crew chief in ConEdison. The easiest way to describe him was to say he is a New York City lineman. He was loud and abrasive, funny and charismatic. He was small in stature but it only took a minute to figure out you did not want to mess with him. He could hold court in any room but in a room full of lineman apprentices, he was a god.
When I started my second level of line training, I had heard of Al but had never met him. His reputation preceded him into the classroom. When I heard he was going to be my instructor for the month, I was eager to gain his respect. He came into class and instantly lived up to his reputation. The first thing he did was to make fun of one of my classmates, who he had taught in a previous class, and instantly broke up the room.
When we hit the yard that morning to start our training, I made sure I was the first person with his hooks on and climbed up the first pole to start framing hardware to pull new secondary conductors. One of my friends was up on an adjacent pole. Al was up in the bucket, between us, keeping an eye on us. He was yelling at my co-worker about something and decided to light up a cigarette. I saw him miss his shirt pocket when trying to put his pack away. In a brief moment of grace and coolness, I reached out as far as I could caught his pack of smokes and handed them back to him. The look of pride on his face was unforgettable. He grabbed me by both shoulders shook me violently and screamed the phrase he would say many times over the next month. “Thank god Pete is here!”
Winning over a man that well respected within our organization, was definitely a highlight of my career and a moment I’ll never forget.
Pete Hirsch - Chief Lineman