Tarzan the Electrician

I was fresh out of college, recently returning from Army active duty, and was hired on as an electrician at a small electrical contracting firm. One day, our receptionist put a trouble call through to me from an upset housewife, complaining that the electricity in her home would come and go on windy days. She also said that her electric clothes dryer would make the lights come on somewhat dimly, adding that the brightness of the lights seemed to be coordinated with the turning of the dryer's drum.

I went to the home to investigate. Sure enough, the lights came on and dimmed/ brightened as the clothes dryer drum turned. A check of the main panel and fuses revealed no problems. Next, I went to the meter and checked for loose or corroded connections. Again, all looked good. I did the same at the service weatherhead with the same results. Then I decided to trace the utility's triplex cable service drop from the weatherhead to the utility pole. That's when I noticed that an upper limb on a large tree appeared to have grown around one conductor of the cable.

Not truly appreciating the danger associated with my actions, I climbed the tree to get a closer look at what appeared to be a pinched phase conductor. As soon as I got close enough to verify that this was the case, I promptly fell out of the tree. Bruised and dirty, with torn clothes but dignity untouched, I called the utility, notifying them it had a problem with its service drop.

What did the wind have to do with all of this? The tree limb would flex and bend with the wind, alternating between pinching the effected phase conductor on and off.
Steve Clausen
Little Rock, Ark.


Just Another Dummy

While employed in the engineering department of a local theme park, I was assigned the task of correcting the documentation (as-built) pertaining to the animation controls for one of the boat ride attractions. To accomplish this task, I either had to work late after the attraction closed for the night or begin early in the morning before it opened. On this day, I chose the latter. During the closing hours, the audio in the attraction was muted via a switch on the operator's console located in the guest queue area at the entrance. My signal that the attraction was opening to the guests was that the operator would “unmute” the audio via that switch.

On this particular day, with my back to the water, I was busily confirming the proper electrical pair versus particular movement of an animated figure using a handheld test box when several flashes of light distracted me. I turned around to see a full boat of guests floating by with camera lights flashing. (Oops, the show had opened an hour earlier than usual without anyone turning on the audio.) At just that moment, the audio kicked on and started playing the attraction's theme song. There was only one thing to do. I knelt beside one of the little moving figures, faced the boat, outstretched my arms, and began to sing a chorus of the attraction's theme song. After receiving a round of applause from the guests, I posed for another picture, took a bow, and hurried behind the set before the next boat came by. Somewhere, someone has a rare photo of one animated dummy and one live dummy singing together.
Tom King
Kissimmee, Fla.

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