Bringing Down the House
My apprentice and I were rewiring an older home, and as with many of these jobs, some of the home runs required one man to be in the attic and one man down in the room. Everything seemed OK as we progressed with the work, but as I passed from the living room through the kitchen and into the laundry room there was a terrifying crash behind me. A thick cloud of dust made it hard to see anything when I turned around, but when it cleared I saw the entire kitchen ceiling had come down. I looked up and there was my apprentice standing on the ceiling joists looking down in shock. We both started laughing hysterically. It appeared the original plaster and rough lathe had been separating from the ceiling joist and was hanging a good inch off the joists. I guess we finished it off by being in the attic. We probably saved the landlord an expensive lawsuit.
Once when I was working as an apprentice in Connecticut back in 1978, I was entrusted with some fluorescent light repair work at a local bank. The company I was working for didn't have uniforms, so I was able to wear whatever I wanted, and on this occasion I had on a Grateful Dead tie-dyed shirt and blue jeans. While I was changing some ballasts behind the teller counter, the silent alarm went off unbeknownst to me or anyone else at the bank. I wasn't near anything that would have set off the alarm, but the next thing we knew the police came through the bank's front door with their guns drawn on me. I guess my long hair, beard, and clothes didn't go very far in making me look trustworthy. It's a good thing that the tellers jumped up and said there was no robbery in progress. After that incident I learned why it pays to look professional while working.
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Illustrations by Clint Metcalf.