Linemen VS Alcohol

The Lineman Life Podcast

Welcome to another episode of The Lineman Life. The podcast for power professionals. Today we’re going to talk about a lineman favorite, alcohol.

So this last week I happened to be riding around and I started thinking about a couple of alcohol stories from some of my fellow linemen and myself. I decided to get out my phone and record it. So you’re going to notice in this episode that you can hear my truck in the background, when I’m speeding up and slowing down. I just talk about a couple of different stories. They’re pretty funny. Epic, back at the company I used to work at. I’m sure you got plenty of good alcohol stories at your company too.

So without further ado here we go. I entitled this ‘Lineman versus Alcohol’ because that’s pretty much what it is. You’ll understand after you listen to the episode.

Today we’re going to talk about alcohol, and specifically lineman and alcohol. Over the years alcohol has played some part in my career, and it has played a big part in a lot of lineman’s careers. It is kind of a common thing that a lineman is going to drink a beer or two after a hard days work. A lot of things have changed in the last 10, 15 years. Back in the good old days, we used to drink outside the gate, at the base yard. As soon as the day was over, we had the beer iced down in the coolers, and everybody would walk outside, shoot the shit, and talk about the day and what happened during that day. Drink a couple of beers before we went home.

We also used to have parties at the base yard, have cookouts. Come in there, cook steaks, drink beer, play poker, but all that’s changed now. None of that goes on anymore, because no company wants to be responsible anymore if something happens while some of that stuff is going on. And some of these stories I’m going to talk about today are a direct result of why we don’t do this anymore. And I’m not trying to glorify alcohol. Alcohol has caused a lot of people pain. It’s caused me a little bit of pain in my life also. I don’t even hardly drink anymore. I’m considered a lightweight now. I used to be able to hold my own, but now, you give me two beers, and the next morning I wake up with a hangover. And it got to the point where the hangover is not worth the fun of drinking to start with. So I very rarely take a drink anymore.

I’m going to talk about a couple funny stories, and I’m going to talk about a couple serious stories too, of reasons why you should think before you take a drink and drive. Because that’s the biggest thing that changed now. I think it’s okay to drink, but you definitely can not get behind the wheel of a vehicle if you’re drinking now, because there’s too much at risk. Basically your job now is at risk. Back before CDL’s if you got a DUI, company’s would usually let you slide, but now things have tightened to where you might be gone if you get a DUI. So first of all I’m going to talk about a couple funny stories.

And this one’s epic at the company I used to work for. Actually two of these stories happened on the same night. We had a cook out, and it was at a little state park, and it was all lineman there. Some of the lineman’s wives were also there. Not the kids though, this was an adult party. It was at night. So after this party was over, there was a real narrow driveway to get in and out of this park, a one lane road. And it was really curvy. So going out one of the guys actually turned his truck on the side. He literally went around the curve too fast, the truck went up on the side, and when we came up on him, he was climbing out the top, and literally we walked up, we got on the truck, and we pushed it back over on to all four wheels. He got in the truck, and he left, which that was pretty amazing.

And another thing that came out of the party that night was one of the guys, he had his wife with him, and he was telling us the next day, on the way home he had a flat tire. So he was on the side of the road, and he got out his little mini-spare, not a regular size, he had a little mini-spare, and he changed the tire on the side of the road, and he said, after he changed the tire, driving home, he said, “Man that wheel, it was out of balance,” he said he could hardly drive the car it was shaking so much and jumping around.

So the next morning when he went outside to take a look at the wheel, he had actually put the spare tire on backwards. And that’s why it was so wobbly. So like I said, that’s an epic story. He still can tell that story, and it just makes everybody laugh, because I could just see this guy. He’s basically drunk on the side of the road trying to put his spare tire on at one o’clock in the morning, and he couldn’t figure it out.

Now I got another story about … and this is getting into the part about what not to do. And what alcohol will make you do. We had three apprentices, and they were at this bar, and they got to talking to the bartender. And they were back there bragging, “I work for the utility. I’m a lineman,” this, that and the other. They told her about how great they were, and she was eating it up, or I guess I don’t know what she was doing, but the bartender finally decided to cut them off, because they were getting a little rowdy.

So they started telling her, “Hey, I work for the utility here, we’re going to go out there, and turn your power off if you don’t give us another drink.” So she refused to give them a drink. So they walked outside, and actually went to the disconnect on the building, and pulled the disconnect, which killed all the power to the bar, which wasn’t a very good move. They only let it stay out for about a minute or so, and then they turned it back on again. Well you could imagine how that went over.

So it finally got up to our vice president, and our vice president was not one to pull any punches. He’s a big believer in responsibility, and you got to be accountable for your actions. So he gets these three apprentices in a room, and he starts laying into them. The first thing he told them was, “Don’t lie to me, because if you lie it’s going to make it worse on you.” Of course, he took them separately, started talking to them. Two guys admitted it, and one guy totally refused to admit, “I’m going to talk to the union,” this, that and the other. So what happened is the guy who wouldn’t fess up and say what happened, they fired him. And the other two guys, they are still there to this day, but they learned a valuable lesson. Alcohol can get you in trouble.

I just thought of another story. I’ve been in this business a long time, and certain things have happened to me, and I just like talking about funny things. So we were on storm trouble, I believe it was up in North Carolina, that’s when I was working back in South Carolina. We’re up in North Carolina, got the long convoy, the storm was over. We were returning back home, and we’re going down the interstate, Interstate 95. And I look ahead of me, and I actually see a guy in the bucket truck, one of my friends, reaching out, hanging out of the window of the passenger side of the bucket truck to get to the water cooler. And this is while we’re going 70 miles an hour down the interstate. He unscrewed the top of the water cooler, and he had a couple beers in there, he had beer in the water cooler for the ride home.

Like I say, you wouldn’t dare do that now, because if you got caught doing that you would probably be out of here in a second, but that’s kind of how things were back then. And I guess we spoiled it for all the newer guys, because we did all the stuff, and a lot of people got caught. A lot of bad things happened and so now all the companies are smarter now. They’re not really going to put up with it.

So the last thing I want to talk about is DUI. DUI now is a whole different ballgame. A whole different era when it comes to DUI. Companies are not willing to let you hang out, for six months, a year whatever it takes to get your CDL back. They’re not really willing to wait on you because basically if you don’t have that CDL you can’t perform your job. So companies aren’t willing to wait on people.

So I always tell some of the newer guys now, “If you drink a lot, or you hang around with a lot of guys that you drink every day,” because I knew some lineman that they drink a 24 pack every day, after work. “If you’re hanging around your friends, and that’s the kind of friends you have, you know you’re a product of your environment.” I think there’s an old saying, “You’ll be just like the five friends you hang around with,” so think about that. If your friends are all big drinkers then chances are you’re probably going to be a big drinker too. So if you’re going to keep a job here, as a lineman, you might have to consider changing some friends, because no company is going to put up with that any more.

There was a Lineman back at the company that I used to work for, he had had three DUI’s. And the last one, number three, they kind of told him, “Look, if you get convicted of this DUI we are going to be firing you.” And this guy had been there 30 years and they just flat told him, “We can’t deal with it anymore. If your convicted we’re going to get rid of you. So you better do what you got to do.” He hired a lawyer, and he got one of the most expensive lawyers you could get, somebody who had a lot of connections, because he knew he had to get off of this conviction.

And he told me it cost him 50 thousand dollars for this lawyer. And the lawyer actually got him off that DUI.  I don’t know how things work when you get around those judges, and all that, but I’m sure it pays to have judges as friends,  the lawyer knew the judge, I guess that helped, the guys still there, but like I said, companies are not willing to deal with that now.

First DUI you get it’s a very good possibility you’re going to get gone. Second DUI I can almost guarantee you, you will not have a job as a lineman, because that CDL is very important to what we do. Company’s don’t want people driving these 50, 60 thousand pound vehicles around with people who have had DUI’s and lose their license, and all that kind of stuff. No company wants that liability from that kind of thing. So these are just a couple things to think about. And I know alcohol still plays a large part in what we do. And there’s nothing wrong with having a couple of beer with your friends. That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is don’t get behind that wheel if you’re going to drink, don’t do it.

That reminds me, one last thing I’m going to tell you. These stories are all true. Like I said, I’ve been doing this a long time, and things happen out there. We had another guy who was at a bar. Now he had been drinking, and he did not want to drive his vehicle home. The utility I worked for had service trucks that run 24 hours a day. Two guys on the truck, three different shifts, so they were all over this big city all the time. There was always somebody out there working. So it’s about midnight. This guy he was drunk. He didn’t want to drive home. So he calls one of his friends on the service truck, and says, “Can you come get me, and take me home? I’m not going to be able to make it. I can’t drive.”

So as a fellow lineman, what do you think the guys on the Service truck did? They went over there in the company bucket truck, picked him up, from the bar, and carried him to the house. Well, somehow that got back. I don’t know how it did, but somehow that got back to management that they had done that. So the manager  called the guys on the service truck and the Lineman that needed the ride into the office. So the Manager asked, “Did this happen? We’re hearing that you went and picked up your friend, and carried him to the house on company time in a company truck.” Well luckily the lineman was smart.

We had this slogan, and it was a company slogan, and they had been driving it into our heads for years, like companies do. This is how we are. And the slogan was “do what is right.” That was the slogan. So all of the Lineman were in the room with management and I think they were going to get rid of all of them. One of the Lineman brought up the slogan, “do what is right. That’s all we were doing. This guy called me, and I cared enough about him. I didn’t want him to drive home, since he had been drinking, so I did the right thing. I’m following the company slogan, do what is right.” So when he said that, this lineman told me as soon as he said that the manager had no comeback whatsoever. He paused and said, “Okay, see you guys later. Thanks for coming in.” And they left, and the company  never mentioned it again.

Now, I’m not condoning going and picking up your buddies at the bar, but I do tell my friends, and some of the guys that I work with, “If you ever need me to come pick you up, I don’t care if you’re in a bar, I don’t care what you’re doing, if it’s 3 o’clock in the morning, 2 o’clock, if you need me, you call me, and I promise you I will get in my car, and I will drive over there, and pick you up from wherever you are and carry you to the house,” because I do not want anybody to be drinking and driving. It’s just not the thing to do now. There’s too much at risk. You can lose your family, you can lose your job. You can lose everything you have over a dumb mistake driving while drinking.

So that wraps it up for this week. I appreciate you listening to my, I guess this is a little rant, but I appreciate you guys listening. Thanks for all the comments I get on the show. People are always sending me emails and stuff, and telling me how they appreciate what I’m doing, and the people I’m talking to, and I really do thank you for listening. Head on over to my website thelineman.life, yes that is the URL. It’s thelineman.life, it’s not .com. Or, you can also get there by going to linemanpodcast.com. Head on over to my site. There you can find my contact information. Got a couple free resources on the website, you can take a look at. Got the lineman slang dictionary. I got the pre-job briefing cheat sheet. Pick those up for free. And just basically let me know how you’re doing, and what you’d like to hear me talk about. So until next week, this is David Spooner saying, “Keep safe and remember you are your brother’s keeper. Aloha from the big island of Hawaii.”

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