Yeah, it got to me. I feel half justified and half annoyed about it but whatever, it was a tough day on a lot of levels.
TZ Crossing: Joan Osborne’s “Light of this World.”
Red Sea Crossing: Uneventful.
The day’s agenda: four jobs with the Rabbi; one was the inside wiring job carried over from two days ago. The other was one Mike had worked on most of the day yesterday, out in the field by himself with an untrained escort for company but no assistance. He said it was a very frustrating time, up on a pole for hours trying to “find a new pair” which is a concept that continues to elude both of us.
We did yet another crash course with a meter, trying to wrap our brains around it. It’s like an intermittently flickering lightbulb with both of us, it remains just tantalizingly out of reach. One of these days it’s going to click but in the meantime, we hate the meter with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns.
So back out we drove to Calvin Street (not for real), parked the truck, set up, the Rabbi belted up, and up the ladder he went. And he looked good:
“Lookin’ good, Mikey!” I called up.
“What, you taking pictures? Text ’em to my wife!” he yelled down. “I’ll give you the number…”
He was up about half an hour trying to find good pairs. “Six is a good one, I think,” he said. “I’m really not sure. You want to look?”
“Yeah,” I said. And I did. It was time to climb. And I did.
“You look great,” Mike called up. “You were born to do this.”
“Ha!” I laughed. But it felt OK up there. Putting the meter on pairs, I still didn’t know full well what I was doing, but the point was I was up there. I’d done it.
“Sue, we have some company,” the Rabbi’s voice floated up to me. My stomach sank down to my boots and I looked across the street, where the driver’s side door to an SUV was opening and a Red Shirt getting out. I looked away and back to the terminal box, determined to keep my eyes there.
“There are only two,” Mike said. He’d moved closer to the base of the ladder. “Come down if you want. But listen to me and only me, whatever they say you ignore it. You all right?”
“Yep,” I said, narrowing my focus into a pinpoint laser beam on the meter and the binding posts. My heart was doing a slow, kettledrum thud, because this was what I always feared happening since I’d gone to pole climbing school and they had discussed the possibility and the tactics of being harassed while working aloft.
One guy was ten feet behind us, the other ten feet in front. They were keeping their distance, and for the life of me I can’t remember what they were saying. I know one yelled, “You should learn how to use your safety equipment!” That rattled me until I did a quick inventory – cones, hat, gloves, glasses, belt, ladder extension tied off, ladder tied to the pole…no, they were full of shit, we were textbook here. I tried harder to block them out, focusing on the meter, pushing the tip side, flicking the reverse button. Tip. Ring. Change pairs. Tip. Ring. Change. The sun beat down on my neck and the back of my legs. I was sweating.
Don’t be dramatic, I thought. There are only two. This is not the angry mob of your nightmares, surrounding the ladder and trying to bring you down. There are only two. Mike’s right there. I can come down any time…
Then Rabbi said, “Guys…it’s a woman up on the pole, OK? Yell at me all you want, rip me a new asshole if you want, but do the right thing here. Let her be.”
And they did. Not another word from them. They just loitered and stared. And smoked. I thought I’d found two good pairs so I wound up the cords of the meter, put everything in the bucket, and started down. Near to the ground, Mike reached up, unclipped the bucket from my belt and said quietly, “You have to close the box.” He handed me a 216 wrench, I stuck it in my pocket and went back up, safetyed back on, closed the box, screwed the latch, then came down.
My heart was pounding like cannon and my hands were shaking. I leaned back against the van doors and exhaled. “You did great,” Mike said. “Catch your breath. We’re gonna pack up, get the ladder down and get it on the truck. That’ll give them something to laugh about. Then we’ll get out of here.”
I nodded, shaking out my shaking hands, glad to be down, glad the Rabbi was my partner for good, and a little ticked off that these guys had upset me. Thankfully we got the ladder down and on the truck without too much of a Keystone Kops routine. We got in, fired up the A/C, and drove off. The two strikers got in their car and followed us.
“We’ll just take a little drive,” Mike said cheerfully. “To Bear Mountain if we have to…”
We drove for about half an hour and eventually lost our tail. And then we made our plan: we’d call RB to send out an escort, I’d go back up the pole and set tone on the pairs I thought were good, and the escort would stay with me while Mike went back to the cross-box and tried to pick up the tone. We were going back. Why? Because screw them, that’s why.
This time we had no company, and logistically, the plan worked well. Our pairs sucked, Mike couldn’t pick up any tone on either of them, but going back to the scene of the crime was a small victory and enough was enough, we’d tried our best. “Let’s go over to the CO and take a breather,” he said, after we were packed up. We thanked our escort and sent him back to the garage, then drove off. I felt exhausted suddenly. I’d been riding a pure adrenaline wave and now I was crashing. I felt bone-weary and a little sick to my stomach. Actually a lot sick to my stomach. I ducked into the CO ladies’ room and I wasn’t sick, but man I did cry. Later on I would post on Facebook that I’d had “a little bit of a cry,” but that was an understatement. Ugly cry. A really spectacular jag. I just let it go, let rip, the whole twelve days out in one big magnificent bawlfest. Then I washed my face. I felt only a little better – I was wickedly thirsty and my stomach was still skittering in all directions.
We got back in the van to head to the inside wiring job, and I felt like I had a whole pack of wolves on my tail. I had to fight really hard to stay level. Keep breathing. You’re tough. You can do this.
The wiring job was also a bust, but the people there were truly nice and very sympathetic to our plight and understanding that we might not get it done. There was no A/C in there, we were way past lunch, thirsty as hell, weary and getting wearier. We were tracing multiple wires and cables all through this huge house, trying to figure out how it got to the garage at one end to the living room at the other. And then we had to call Mike’s instructor Glen again, trying to work out the algebraic equation for taking two phone lines that had been split into one and wired into a single-port jack, and splice them into two again to wire to a double-port jack, but in a way that let both phone lines ring on both jacks.
Yeah, I know. Even Glen was stumped. And the Sabbath was approaching. Rather than rip all the wiring apart and start, we begged their patience another day and said we would come back on Sunday. They were very cool about it.
By then it was 3:45. I truly felt like crap. We grabbed lunch and headed back to the CO, trudging up the stairs to the break room. I knew I had to eat; both the Rabbi and I have lost weight since the strike started, and neither of us has it to lose. Still, I could barely swallow anything, I just wanted water, cool water in my stomach. I felt like I’d had the shit kicked out of me. I wanted to go home, but I was even feeling bad about that because Jeeps had taken the kids camping and the house was empty. I wanted my home, my bed, and my children sleeping on top of me.
Somehow I got through the rest of the hours and we got back to the garage, signed out, and hit the road. 287 was choked with weekend traffic, wolves were looming in the rear-view mirror and I thought to myself, I’m not gonna make it.
What do you mean, you’re not going to make it, asked the Voice of Reason. Not make it home? Of course you will, it’s going to take some time, but you’ll get home. Not make it through tonight? Of course you will, maybe it won’t be the greatest night’s sleep of your life, but you’ll make it through to morning. You had a shit day. Now there’s nothing to do except to feel better.
There’s nothing to do except feel better. That was it. That was the hook. I grabbed on and let it reel me in. Driving out on the span of the TZ, Moby’s “Memory Gospel” came up. And I began to feel better. And finally I was home. There was one Mike’s Hard Lime left, and two awesome, encouraging emails from co-workers. And I found the energy to make some dinner: soup was definitely in order here.
Ladies and gentlemen, the money shot:
(I know you’ve missed them. So have I)