One day my fellow electrician and I started a traffic signal project at a busy intersection. First, we had to take down the old signals, which were supported by wood poles and suspended over the roadway with ⅝-inch steel cables. We usually took the old signals down by attaching a pulley to the top of one pole, running a rope from the signal through this pulley and back down to the trailer hitch of our truck. One man cuts the steel cable while the other backs the truck up, slowly lowering the signals to the ground.
But on this day my partner came up with a new idea. “We can lower them without the truck,” he said. “I'll just tie the rope around my waist and serve as the counterbalance. These signals aren't that heavy.”
So with traffic stopped in all directions, I climbed the ladder, put the jaws of the bolt cutters around the cable, and asked for the third time, “Are you sure?” He swiftly replied, “Hurry up and cut the damn thing!”
As soon as I cut the cable, all hell broke loose. I dropped the cutters, grabbed the pole, and watched my buddy proceed to ski at a very high rate of speed across the intersection. As he sped to the edge of the road, he faced several obstacles, including a 3-foot-wide by 10-foot-deep ditch. With momentum on his side, he was able to leap over the obstacle in a single bound. He landed in a gravel parking lot, tucked and rolled, popped to his feet, and yelled, “I told you they weren't that heavy!” I was laughing so hard I was barely able to climb down the pole.
A couple of years ago, an apprentice and I were upgrading a security system in an elementary school. It was the dead of winter, and we were both happy to be working inside. I was installing devices in another part of the school when my apprentice showed up with a bright red mark on his forehead. When I asked him what had happened, he said he was working above a drop ceiling in an awkward position and was having trouble pulling in some new wiring. Because both of his hands were wrapped around the cable, he decided to use his head as an additional leverage point for the pull. Unfortunately, the pipe he placed his head against was for hot water heat. I was surprised he didn't fall off the ladder and hurt himself even worse after receiving the scalding imprint. I don't work with him that much anymore, but when we do get together this story almost always comes up.
Illustrations by Clint Metcalf