Monday, September 5, 2016

RESTORING POWER; REVIVING POLITENESS



My grandkids are too young to remember the last hurricane that came through Florida, so they were especially frightened by the media coverage of the coming of  Hermine. I told them that they really shouldn't be worried. We live far enough inland that the hurricane would have pretty much blown itself out by the time it got here, and we'd just have issues with fallen trees, power outages, and some flooding--the odds of our house getting flattened, or blown over the rainbow to the Land of Oz with us in it, were slim. My prediction came true. It didn't even blow hard enough to wake me up the night Hermine came by. Of course, my wife says I could sleep through an artillery barrage, but that's beside the point.

I was impressed by the preparations for the storm. I didn't count how many power company trucks had assembled at the fairgrounds before the storm, but it looked to me like they certainly had more than enough. Over the next few days I learned that we needed every one of them, and probably could have used some more. Our house was one of the lucky ones--the lights flickered, but didn't go out. I'd like to express my heartfelt thanks to all the electrical workers who came from hundreds of miles away to help restore our power. I can't say enough about how great it is for people from far away to come together in times of need to help. It is a testament to the brotherhood of man. Or should I say the "siblinghood of humankind"?

Every silver lining comes attached to a cloud, however. It has come to my attention that in some parts of Florida power linemen are being harassed by people who don’t think that their power is being restored quickly enough. I even heard of one person who interfered with the linemen to such an extent that he got himself arrested, and another person who was threatening to sue the power company for being tardy in restoring that person’s power. I'm not one for expressing myself with profanity, but when I heard about this I was tempted to use some in describing what I thought about harassing people who have traveled hundreds of miles to help.

I’ve done a non-scientific survey of the power company trucks which have come in to help restore electricity here in North Florida, and they have come from as far away as Virginia and North Carolina to work in less-than-ideal conditions to help restore our power. It seems to me that we owe these workers our thanks for their selflessness, not heckling because they aren’t putting us at the front of the queue. 

There are many problems with the idea of harassing these linemen as they work. I’ll name just a few: (1) The linemen themselves don’t decide what they’re going to fix first; they take their orders from the central office, which sends them to the places of most critical need first—like hospitals, fire stations, places of densest settlement, etc. So these people who are out there harassing the linemen have misdirected their anger. Go picket the central office which passes out the work assignments if you have to, but don’t interfere with the repair process. (2) The more you harass linemen working on somebody else’s line, the longer you’re going to delay the linemen from getting around to your line. (3) It’s incredibly rude, self-centered, egocentric, and thoughtless to harass people who have traveled hundreds of miles to come help you simply because they have so many people to help that they can’t get around to helping you as quickly as you’d like. (4) Etc., etc. etc.

I worked for the phone company in a previous life, and I vividly remember working 48 hours straight without rest when one particular storm came through. Thousands of people were without telephones (electricity too), and we worked ‘round the clock restoring service. I think I slept 12 hours straight when I got sent home at the end of the ordeal. If someone had come to me in the middle of those dirty, wet, grueling, and exhausting 48 hours and started giving me a hard time because his telephone wasn’t the first to be restored, I would have wanted to bend a lineman’s hammer over his head. 

I don’t want to sound like a fossil talking about the “good old days,” because I fully realize that they were leavened with a lot of “bad old days” that our convenient memories tend to block out. But I do remember that when I was out working in the field for the phone company I would frequently have people come up to me and very politely say, “If you don’t mind. When you get a chance, could you come take a look at my telephone? It’s been out for a week now.” I’d ask, “Why haven’t you called repair service?” and I’d get a reply something like this, “Well, I really didn’t want to bother y’all. I figured I’d just speak to one of you the next time I saw you.” That’s a little too far in the opposite extreme from these people who are harassing power linemen today, but I think the world would be a  better place if more of us had some of the kind of patience and politeness that was displayed by those long-ago people who appreciated the service they received and were willing to wait a while for it to be restored.

So while these selfless workers from faraway power companies are here in our state restoring our power, why don't we revive some old-fashioned politeness and let them know how much we appreciate them. It might help counterbalance the harassment they seem to be receiving from the self-centered, ill-mannered, citizens of our state who seem to think that the world revolves around them.