The Lineman Circle

Every Lineman’s Journey

You start your journey to the Lineman promised land as an apprentice. As an apprentice, you must run the gauntlet. You have responsibilities, you have task to do. Everyone is watching you, the foreman, the Journeyman lineman you work with, the more senior apprentices, how do you do the task assigned to you. Do you listen? Do you complete the task correctly? What is your attitude? Are you a worker or someone who talks a big game? Everyone will be watching you and critiquing your every move.

That is not the only thing you will have to deal with as an apprentice,  you have new pressures. Now you have books you have to study, books on everything from electrical theory, algebra to OH Transmission systems. You have to pass test on these books, and some of them aren’t easy. You have a timeline that the books need to be completed by.

Time creeps along for you, when will I be able to do the fun stuff, climbing poles, operate the line truck, go up in the bucket. It seems like it will never happen. You slowly are given a little more freedom to do more complicated task. The Journeyman Lineman you work with start to trust you more in what you do. You are brought along painfully slow, learning something new, day by day. The trust in you builds, day by day, year by year.

Then it happens, the day you waited for forever. For those that run the gauntlet successfully, the spoils of victory are sweet. You make Journeyman Lineman. It might be the happiest day of your life so far. Nobody gave you anything, they helped you, but you earned it.

When you started as an apprentice you were a boy. You really didn’t know what it’s like to work in a career, notice I said career because being a Lineman is not a job, McDonald’s is a job. Being a Lineman is a career, a career that you can work your whole lifetime. As an apprentice, suddenly you were now responsible for yourself and had a responsibility to others. Mommy and Daddy couldn’t help you anymore, you had to step up your game.”

A miraculous transformation took place during your apprenticeship. I am not talking about the task you learned to become a lineman but your whole demeanor. You came in uncertain, irresponsible, immature and now you are way different. Now you have made Journeyman Lineman. The first part of your title now is Journeyman. The name has Journeyman before the Lineman for a reason, because you have been on a great journey. Yes, you know how to do line work now, but what is way more important than that is, because of the journey you have been on, you have become confident, mature and accountable. 

You have been transformed from a boy to a man, because It takes a man to make it through all the way through apprenticeship.

But time marches on, just when you thought you reached the pinnacle of the mountain, you realize that this journey you were on has just begun, you will be on the road to mastering your profession as a Journeyman Lineman for a long time. The road will be long, you will learn more along the way, over time you will be given more and more responsibility on the crew. You will still make mistakes along the way. Eventually, you will progress to being “the Man” in the bucket. The Foreman on your crew wants you in the bucket daily because he knows he can trust you with only a little supervision to do it right and safe. You will be satisfied and maybe even a little cocky.

Along the same road you are on, new guys will come in that you will have to teach, you will see them make all of the same mistakes you make as an apprentice. You will think, “how does anyone not know how to do that?” “You will also tell them, “I was never stupid like you.,” but you really were, you couldn’t see it back then, but others could. You will help them, because someone helped you. Time marches on.  

You are still learning, the things you learn now are small, not like the big things you learned when you were an apprentice. But these things all add to your knowledge of how to do your job. At some point in the future, you realize you have pretty much seen it all and done it all. You will never know everything in this business, but you can come close. You might be running a crew or in charge of many linemen. You can handle any job given to you. You realize in this moment that you have mastered your job. Time marches on.

You see some of the apprentices that you trained, they now are linemen, some of them are damn good lineman. Your heart swells with pride because you know you had some part in making them who they are today. Some of them are appreciative for what you did for them, and some of them are not, they think learned everything on their own.  You smile, because you know they never would have made it without your help, but you are OK with their attitude. Every now and then they still have some questions when they get stumped. Time marches on.

When you were an apprentice time went slow, you never thought you were going to make it to Lineman. Now as an older Lineman the years go by faster than ever, the apprentices you trained have moved on to running crews and overseeing many linemen. Now they don’t depend on you for much, they don’t come to you like before to ask for guidance. They now think they know more than you. They joke that you are the old guy, but you don’t tell your students, “the jokes on you, my purpose all along was to teach you what I know, so you don’t have to be annoying me all the time about how to do something.”

There is a line in a Star Wars movie where Darth Vader says, “I’ve been waiting for you, Obi-Wan. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master.

Just as a Jedi knight has a circle, so do Lineman. In the Lineman circle you come in as an apprentice, the guys that came before you teach you what they learned from the guys that came before them and those guys learned from the guys that came before them.

You realize that your Lineman circle is now close to being complete. Your students are Darth Vader and you are Obi-Wan. you see, your students have become the masters.

You think back to the days when you were an apprentice and entered the circle and the guys that taught you. Where did the time go? You are not sad about where you are in the Lineman circle, because it is every Lineman’s destiny to enter and complete the circle and you always knew this. The Lineman circle has been going on since the day they set the first pole. It will continue until the day there are no poles left to set.  

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“Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not
express the views or opinions of my employer.”