January 27, 2015. Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
NSTARIMG_2694 (Click to watch the video of my posse.)
I’m a smart girl. I live on Cape Cod mostly, and when a snowstorm comes in, I can pretty much count on no electricity … sometimes for days. I’m also a glass-half-full girl, but in this case, the water in the glass freezes fast and I’m stuck, so I hedge my bets. I found out that the NStar guys (those guys who go into the thick of the storm and fix electric wires) stay at the Hilton here, so I book a stay at the Hilton a few days before the storm arrives and I’m covered. If the electricity goes out, they fix it there first because it’s where they go to eat and sleep when they can.
This storm of 2015 is a big one. I’m here at the Hilton with my posse of NStar guys and the lights went out early this morning. My room got really cold, really fast, and I hightailed it to the lobby where there is a fire going. I was there with a hundred or so of my guys, and while sitting at the bar I got to overhear some of their conversations. I thought I’d share them with you here.
Two guys talking; one is the foreman and the other came down from Maine yesterday to help out. They’ve just met, but they share the brotherhood of a dangerous, manly job group, and there is an intimacy that comes from having a shared history of experience, even if not together.
“Well I can tell you this for sure. I don’t care who says they checked. It could be my mother. I check to make sure it’s turned off myself. And then I go in. No one gets to tell me it’s off but me.”
“I know. You know how many guys I know who aren’t here anymore because they believed somebody? I check myself, too. Yep. Every time.”
But I could tell by looking at him he didn’t check every time. He was scared. The other guy wasn’t.
Then another one joins them. He’s laughing.
“Robert just went out and he said he can’t see one foot in front of his face. He’s covered in ice. And he is pissed. I mean really pissed cuz he stuck his head out the window to see and lost his hat. Said it was his favorite hat.”
They all start laughing.
“Well, he’s our guinea pig. Send him out again in half an hour. Tell him I said he has to try again.”
“Yeah, you tell him. I’m not.” And the guy walked away.
A minute or so later the foreman’s phone rings.
“Hey. Yeah. Sure, if you want us to do that first, but we are at least an hour away from being able to get there. The winds won’t let us go yet. But tell him to put some blankets on her, but it won’t be for a few hours. Don’t tell him we will do it right away. I don’t want him up my ass. We can’t get out. But I’ll move it to the front of the line.”
He hangs up and turns to Mr. Maine.
“I know these things are great,” and he looks at his phone, “but I’m so sick and tired of having this thing go off on a Sunday night at 10:30 like I’m sitting here waiting for it. I am not available whenever you want me to be, and I liked it better when they couldn’t find us so easy.”
“I know what you mean, but I really like having it up with me on a pole. We work alone a lot in Maine, and it’s nice to know it’s my ticket out of trouble. Wouldn’t change it.”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
“How long did it take you guys to get here last night?”
“You can’t believe it. One hour to drive two miles and I wasn’t sure I was even on the road.”
“Yeah, worst I’ve ever seen out there. Not kidding. Ever.”
One guy pulls out his cell phone, looks at the incoming message and starts laughing.
“Hey, just got this picture in from a friend in Providence. Says they had a line down near an oil tank. They went in closer to look and saw a hundred propane tanks behind the open line. He says, ‘See us retreat.’ Great picture.”
Another guys walks round to his side of the bar and says, “Can I see?” He looks and says, “That’s a bad one.” And they all laugh.
They are wearing vests that glow a lot so idiots like me who shouldn’t be on the road but are anyway don’t run over them by mistake.
And they all have ruddy, lined faces, and they have mouths that naturally go up instead of down as if they laugh a lot.
And most them were wearing wedding rings.
And they were all — each one of them — itching to get out into the storm to get it done.
I had a swell time in the Hilton lobby this morning. I know they are rooting for the Patriots, who I think are cheaters (seriously, you are going to tell me Brady, who throws footballs all day, every day, didn’t know that ball didn’t have the right amount of air? Seriously?), and I know they probably hit R all the way down the voting ticket, and I know they surely don’t want my gender out there with them, and there wasn’t a man of color among them. I get that I don’t agree with them on much personally, politically, or religiously. I get that. But I also get that they will climb that pole so my lights come back on, and they will do it because they want to.
So, here’s to my posse of NStar men at the Hilton on this cold, cold, windy morning.