And just like that…it’s over. In two days, I will have my life back.
I certainly didn’t see it coming. I woke up after a good night’s sleep including that whole extra hour because we don’t start until 7:00 on weekends, and who knew setting the alarm for 5:30 instead of 4:30 would be so thrilling.
TZ Crossing: Journey’s “Suzanne.”
Red Sea Crossing: Uneventful.
Morning festivities: Full of rumor, gossip and intrigue.
Kerry mentioned that she’d heard from someone who knew someone who’d heard from someone else that New York and Massachusetts were in alignment, only Pennsylvania was holding out, and that everything should be wrapped up by Friday. Pause to figure out what day it is. Friday, OK, that means end of next week. But it’s a rumor. I let it in one window of my mind, and shooed it right back out another. The last thing I need is false hope. Not interested. Come back with the goods. Besides, I hang out with Rabbi Sunshine who is already investing in his long underwear and electric socks for when we are still doing coverage in November.
Rab and I got breakfast and ate it in the truck in the CO parking lot. And over 80s music on the radio, we proceeded to bond. We had a really great conversation, life stories, lot of laughs and reflections and philosophy. It was a good time. I was at peace.
We started off to our first job at an apartment complex in Monsey. Some of the places we’ve seen on jobs either turn our stomachs or break our hearts…or both. We were let into a tiny studio apartment that a single mother had been living in for eight years: it was the size of my kitchen. And broiling hot, there was no A/C. Her phone had been out a week and try as we could, it came down to needing access to the phone boxes on the side of the building, which were all locked. And it was Saturday so no superintendent was on the complex site. We had to call around to a few different numbers and leave messages before someone finally got back to us with yet another number, the super’s direct line, and we left a message there. So that was a chunk of time and hassle with no results.
From there we headed over to a community home for disabled adults – with a small diversionary drive as we found ourselves being tailed by red shirts but it didn’t last long. I won’t describe the home to you because I am a coward. It was pretty unbearable and another large helping of “shut the F up, your life ain’t that bad” to choke down. The building’s main line was on the fritz as well as their fax line. The funny thing was that the Rabbi and I got the job ticket for the main line, and then we bumped into one of the Mountain Brothers who had the fax job. “We could never get one of you guys out here before,” the woman at the desk marveled. “Now we got three of you!”
She showed us to the panel in the back room and Mike and I proceeded to do our thing. Check dial tone and the number. Take the wires off the binding post. Then get out the damn meter and pretend we know…what…we’re talking…about…wait a minute…”Hey, Mike, I think I got a good one,” I said, the lightbulb beginning to flicker over my head. “Look at this. Look. See that? And that on the ring side? That’s a good pair, isn’t it?” He peered over my shoulder. “That is a good one,” he said. “I think we got it. Now can we trace it?”
Ah. Yes. Unfortunately this particular establishment had the rotten luck to be serviced by the notorious Central Avenue Cross-Box. This box was hit by a car nearly a year ago and while it suffered significant structural damage, the wires within remained intact and sound and little service was interrupted. Until some other individuals (who shall remain nameless) arrived on the box on a certain date in time (which shall remain undisclosed) and proceeded to perform an act of violence (unproven) with an alleged instrument (possibly a pair of scissors but we can neither confirm not deny). In a nutshell: when we set tone on the binding post in the home, picking it up in the mangled mess of intestinal wire in the cross-box was going to be like finding a you-know-what in a you-know-where.
Unless…of course…Re-Pete, the master of cable and splice and all things nice, was at said cross-box…
Muah ha ha ha ha ha ha HAH!!!
The Rabbi nipped on over to the cross-box, which, since it is shrouded in blue tarp and surrounded by a chain link fence, goes by names like “The Hole,” “The Hut,” “The Clubhouse,” and “Roy Bruce’s Hubcap Shop.” He called me when he arrived, “Pete is here!”
“Helloooo, Pete!” I called.
“Helloooo, Suzanne,” I heard in the background. I’ve stopped trying to correct him on my name, it’s just a lost cause. I flicked on the tone and watched, or rather listened to the master at work. Soon, I heard the beautiful sound of a probe picking up tone. “Is that it?!” I cried.
“No, that’s not you. I got about four people sending me tone to this place,” said Re-Pete.
“How do you know which one is ours?” the Rabbi asked.
“I just know,” said the cablemaster. I heard whistling, snatches of conversation, and then: tone.
“We got it,” said Re-Pete modestly.
“We got it?” I repeated incredulously.
“Sue!” the Rabbi crowed, “we found a pair! We actually fucking found a pair!!!”
“Put a short on that baby,” Re-Pete called. I put a short on that baby and it was a beautiful thing. He ran a new cross-connect at the box while Mike drove back over to me. We re-ran the wires, threw on the butt set, and…(drum roll): dial tone.
“I think I just came,” the Rabbi muttered. Naturally I couldn’t let that one go so I quickly texted Re-Pete: Got dial tone. Had orgasm. Going back to CO. Well done.
High fives all around, we’d actually read the meter, found a pair, and fixed a phone by ourselves. We were at the pinnacle of our technical career.
So back over to the CO we go for biological breaks and re-grouping. We bumped into Tracy, and hung out chatting in the hallways, discussing the rumor that was brought up this morning. It was funny because we were all actually sitting on the floor, legs outstretched, backs up against the cement block walls. “This is very college,” I observed.
“It is like a dorm, isn’t it?” Tracy laughed, “except no one’s walking around in a robe or a towel, carrying their shower bucket.”
“That would make the job more bearable,” the Rabbi remarked, fiddling with his Blackberry. “Let me call this guy I know. I hate to get caught up in a rumor but he should know something…” He dialed, and the conversation from my side went along the lines of, “Joe [whatever]…Mike…hi…listen, we’re hearing vicious rumors that this thing could be wrapped up by next Friday…[suddenly his eyebrows fly off his forehead]…Tuesday?! What the…how…Tuesday?…OK, ‘off the record, Tuesday’ what does that mean?…Really?…”
Tracy and I were exchanging excited glances, wondering if this was real, could it actually be over? Then my phone pinged with an incoming text. It was my boss, and I’ll give you the visual just so you can see how it was:
It was over. There was light at the end of the tunnel and it was not a train. It was over. I was going to get my life back. Mike’s phone started ringing, Tracy’s phone started ringing, my phone started ringing. The three of us erupted into screams. IT WAS OVER.
(I can feel you all looking at me funny, just hear me out). It’s over, and thank God, don’t get me wrong, I am limp with relief that I no longer have to work these crazy hours, I can do the next two days standing on my head now that there’s an end-date and no pressure of picketers, and I spent the better part of the afternoon composing a mental list of all the things I was going to do with the recovered time. But back at the garage tonight, a handful of us hung around to listen in on a conference call, discussing what had gone down and what it had meant for both sides and what was going to happen now. And if you looked around the room, you saw a lot of set jaws, a lot of furrowed brows, and a lot of expressions full of emptiness and a sort of principled puzzlement. Because if they are coming back to work, under the same terms that they left two weeks ago, to work under those terms indefinitely, and we are, in essence, right back exactly where we started from…then what the hell was it all for? The executives on high had made clear that they appreciated our sacrifice, and we in turn had made it clear to them that we didn’t want that sacrifice to be in vain, to be for nothing.
And listening in on that call, and looking around the room at those faces…it felt a whole lot like nothing…nothing except politics and posturing and being one side’s pawn and the other side’s punching bag. And the looming possibility that we could be right back in this garage in another 30 days.
“You guys are tired,” one of the office managers said quietly. “And it’s after seven. Why don’t you all go home?”
Some hung around, but I drove home.
I’m mostly relieved. And partly…confused. I guess this experience has changed me more than I realized.
I don’t know how to tidily tie up this post. I’m going to leave it there for now and go to bed.