Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sleepless on Oleander

Monday night was sleepless not only because of the gale winds but because the power went off again. The power went off about noon for an hour when the front came through, but somebody blew their transformer on our street. It normally take about one to two hours to replace a transformer on a telephone pole but this took from right when I was going to eat my first bite of dinner at seven o’clock until about one o’clock in the morning.

Two things: first, some damn fool let their trees grow into the power poles and the 40-knot winds caused a short to ground out, which resulted in a transformer explosion, a nice bang.

Second, due to a major design failure when our Island was laid out, the utilities were put behind the houses and when fully built out, there was no way the utility crew could get a truck to the telephone pole with a bucket lift truck. The utility easement is only five feet wide and plus, everyone (except ME) had massive retaining walls, trees, and even pool decks in the way. As a result, the crew had to climb the telephone pole by hand and then winch up a 200-pound transformer an inch at a time. No idea how much they weigh but they’re full of metal and oil and quite large up close.

No Island story would be complete without the utility trucks getting stuck in the sandy mud, although they lit up the empty lot next to us - as a favor I guess - so we could see in the our blackness only lit by three weak candles. The yellow flashers had a nice Halloween effect too. I have to give the crew credit for hanging in the game, though. Unfazed, they hooked up power after midnight and went to find some all-night restaurant, I suppose. All this was done in gale winds that even swayed the telephone poles, or so it appeared.

About two o’clock in the morning they all came back and managed to get a one-ton truck out of its hole and pull a trailer off a utility boom truck. They busted some chains with a huge bang but kept on going, nobody hurt (in fact they were laughing like hell). Then to my surprise, the largest wrecker truck in the world shows up. I mean this truck was HUGE as a semi with the trailer and was so bad it had six headlights shining backwards! It sounded like at least 1,000 horsepower and growled like a thundering devil even at low idle. Sleep? What sleep?

That wrecker operator was good. He set some mechanical feet down at the back of the wrecker and let out some one-inch cable to the trucks, which he hooked up all himself in just a minute. I swear that redneck was eating a hamburger and drinking a Coke as he adjusted the boom, winch, and engine speed like a deranged magician. When the cable went taught he pushed the throttle to the max and sparks flew out the exhaust stacks. Our pole-house shook from the vibrations. The winch was very, very slow but sure enough, a utility truck of maybe 30,000 pounds inched out of incredible four-foot ruts; he did one and then the other in maybe 30 minutes.

All because of a damn Ficus tree and our very strange Island layout.

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