Today was a very interesting day in the short-lived career of Transitional Cable Guy. Transitional because I got one of the jobs I hoped for and am starting soon. In fact today was to be the third-to-last of my brief career as a cable guy.
And it was a great day because I did nothing and was home by noon. The way the cable business works is you get a route, which really is a set of up to three geographically co-ordinated jobs. These were nice and close jobs, no more then forty minutes from my home. This really very nice. When I finally got my truck, as new guy I got the truck nobody else wanted, primarily because it has neither air-conditioning or a functioning radio. Given that the mercury hit 102 degrees fahrenheit (38.9C) the day I picked it up and I had to drive it for two and one half hours straight to get home, you can imagine the great wailing and gnashing of teeth coming from the driver's seat the whole way back to Columbus. I seethed the whole way. The thing about being a 'business class' cable guy, is you don't get much local work. One hundred mile trips (one way) are quite common, so spending four or more hours in a truck are also normal. So on this day, when the thermometer only got to 97F, I was home just after noon.
My route had two jobs, and one was a transfer of cable tv, internet and phone for a mexican restaurant. I arrived at the site and found the restaurant, located in one of the old strips that populate the centers of many American small towns. The thing is, the restaurant was closed. The building immediately to the left of said address had just been cleared. As in, there was nothing but dirt where once had stood a building. Said non-building had been attached physically to the still existing building. The lights were out in the existing restaurant, no one was there and a side door to it from the pre-existing building next door had been boarded over. I called the owner who hurried over to let me in.
Turns out the old restaurant had been located partly in the old buliding. When the derecho winds raced through Ohio on June 29, 2012 the the top two floors collapse onto the first floor, Fortunately that floor held because the place was full of patrons at the time! The county engineer condemned that section of the building, and refused to let the owner back in even to empty the cash register! It had been demolished and the refuse carted away before I arrived. The owner wanted to get a phone line set up, so he could get an answering machine set up. He was making plans to occupy a nearby empty bar, but hadn't signed the lease or worked the details out yet.
Really there wasn't anything I could do but call dispatch and reschedule for later. I could see how to get cable into the new location, but they don't have a lease. And the electric service for the existing building had gone down with the fallen building. One thing we cable guys are taught to do is is to bond our system to the electrical ground. Grounding is a complex subject, but you want all grounds in a building heading to one place. While planting a second ground rod or other ground might seem advantageous, what it really does is confuse the electrons who all want nothing more then to race to ground. I needed a ground and a place to get a phone line into the old place, which was probably going to be shut down in a week as they moved into the new place! So there was nothing to do but move on.
My second job was at a nice little warehouse located out in the country where I was to install internet and phone lines. The first thing I did was find the tap, where local cable is tied onto the main trunk lines. It is here your service begins. But the rule of thumb is if the tap is more then 300 feet (100 meters) away, you need to call engineering. If you don't you risk the signal growing to weak to use. The distance calculated at the electric service, because that's where you bond/ground the cable. That ground bar is where it changes from the drop to building service. I paced it off and came up with an estimate of 350 feet (horizontal), As the spot I needed to reach to get the cable was between 100-200 feet further away, it was pretty clear I couldn't install it with any confidence it would work. So it was call engineering, call dispatch and reschedule a direct burial team bringing thicker cable.
I might have called to get another job, and make a bit more money. And if it was 84F I probably would have. But at 96, in a truck with no AC, and a new job soon to start, I decided to just go home. I hadn't climbed a ladder all day, and clearly there was nothing I could do about the route I'd been given. And frankly, I'm glad to be home with my air conditioner, preparing to make a fresh start next week.