These are (some of the many) Parts I Love

Things are getting real! There are tidy and parallel cascades of conduit – precisely angled and placed – running up and across the grain silo. The huge wires have been pulled in to the transformer and terminated. Lights and receptacles are wired up and in place. Now, our team has been pulling in the smaller wires and hooking them up. I love this process because it’s satisfying to see the end product so near. My last couple days have been spent “fishing” and terminating wires. I can’t believe in this year of 2012, with all the technological advantages that have been discovered and created, we resort to such old-school and brutish methods!

Have you ever contemplated how all the insulated rainbow spaghetti gets stuffed into the pipes? We use a three-step process that reminds me of playing telephone with cans and string:

1.  One person shoves a flexible piece of fiberglass or steel in one side of the pipe and pushes it through until the end. (This is “fishing” with fishtape)

2.  The person at the other end ties a piece of string (and maybe a swab) to the fishtape; and then bellows for the other person to pull the fishtape back. (Radios are a calmer and more civilized workaround to the bellowing)

3.  The fisher attaches the wires to the string, and the person at the end pulls it on through.

It sounds so straightforward, yet there is usually a complication that comes up. For example, the last time I was told to fish an easy, short run (that was underground), I spent a day and a half digging a trench:  the fishtape would not go through because the underground pipe had broken! A couple days ago, Willy Wonka and I spent almost two hours trying to shove the fishtape through a freshly installed piece of conduit. We never quite uncovered the problem – other than guessing it must have been the third 90 degree turn that was somehow weird. And you gotta love Willy’s work methods of fishing. “Just push harder!” he growled. “Put some ‘umph’ into it! Use your muscles! Use your pliers to just shove it in!” I told him it wasn’t going anywhere and he believed me once we traded fish points and his fishtape got stuck in the same place.

Fishing requires intuition and a slippery understanding of the conduit path. Once a wire pull is happening, the electricians at either end need to tune in to the deepest of nonverbal communications or risk having the wire damaged. You start to feel how hard the other electrician is feeding or pulling and each person develops a particular rhythm. One of my favorite journeymen to work with recently was my favorite precisely because our wire pulls were so easy. We could sense what was going on at the other end and develop a cadence to our pulls.

The transformer has been energized, and most of the motor control panels have been energized. This means my work day contains elements of what I call practical meditation. I can no longer take advantage of knowing all our wires are disconnected. A new level of awareness has been activated. So, as a light-hearted reminder, I wrote this phrase on my hand last week.

So far, I love this job! It’s been a good fit for me and I wish I had keened into it earlier.  I especially love:

– not having to fuss over wardrobe selections in the morning. I go to work expecting to get dirty and therefore dress for comfort and practicality;

– not having to wear make up;

– my crew and what a wide variety of characters I work with;

– practical uses of math!

– the artistic component of this job (and the amazing artists I work with);

– the constant change of this field: codes will be updated, projects will be completed and crews will change – this is guaranteed.


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