Sine Waves 600x318

Subsurface Switch

 My memory engine springs to life like a garage air compressor that comes on, unexpectedly, in the middle of the night. This memory lands me in early spring at underground fused switch 615X.

It was late in the day, almost quitting time, when I see a 100 customer outage on my screen. I’m almost exactly across the street from the end of line customers so I swing into the apartment complex parking lot to check meters. Nope, no mistake, all meters are blank. I punch up the source side device and drive to Ginnelli Way and Real Road. I parked to preview the circuit map and transformer locations when I catch movement out of the corner of my eye. Just beyond a fallen tree trunk in the front yard I see what looks like a large woman manhandling a steel enclosure cover. To be sure, I haven’t even pinpointed the exact location of the subsurface switch and probably wouldn’t have imagined it in the middle of the front, side yard.

I’m still not 100% sure what I think I see but as I walk past the fallen tree, the open subsurface enclosure is apparent. It is a large enclosure, roomy like a 1948 Buick Roadmaster convertible. The switch, likewise is a gleaming, vintage stainless steel beauty seemingly built to last forever. The concrete enclosure was deep and wide and to say “they don’t build them like that anymore” would be pure understatement. The lids, heavy rectangular steel, were most likely the only defect of this type of construction. The lids are made to fit precisely over the enclosure without any support in the middle. Simply put, having the heavy lid fall across or slice into the energized cable would be disastrous. Everything about the enclosure is heavy-duty nice…except the lid design is dumb.

I spoke to the woman clutching the steel lid much the same way that Gene Wilder spoke to the monster in the Mel Brooks masterpiece “Young Frankenstein.” “Put… the lid… down.” The words were a deliberate, calmly spoken command. The lady, with dull expressionless eyes, replied in gibberish. A second time, I requested; “Put… the lid… down.” I didn’t want to make a bad situation worse; a situation where she dropped the lid across the cable. Eventually she complied. I surveyed the situation and noticed a collection of hand and garden tools around the outside the enclosure. I also observed the switch in the open position.

I phoned the Division Operator and asked if there was any reason the switch should be open. I reported my suspicion that the customer may have opened the switch with a garden implement. He gave me permission to close and check power Ok.

I closed the switch and power was restored. Using the shotgun required a good amount of torque to operate the switch. I wondered which garden tool she had used to operate the switch.

Did this episode have anything to do with alcohol or drugs? Probably. Did the lady act alone? Probably not, some of her adult children were also present. What does not cease to amaze me is what misguided focus, endless determination, abundant time and a motley collection of hand and garden tools can accomplish.

 I turned the situation over to corporate security, my supervisor, and called it a day.

Dan Flores - Troubleshooter

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