Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Jed hanging out

(Sabrina English photo of Henley St. Bridge, the one in back with lights)

Do you wonder who keeps the pretty colum lights working on the big bridges across rivers in your city? Simple folks like Jed that is who.

My boss with his fancy camera took some photos of Jed on the job one hundred plus feet above the Tennessee river the other day. I thought I would share them with you. I also wanted to share the story while
it is fresh in my mind.

A few days before the hoist up we worked out details about how we would rig my harness and who would do what. My boss asked many times about my comfort level, and wanted to know that I would not freak out at go time. We asked permission from city planning to block one lane on each side of the Henley Street bridge and when and where as to not disrupt the city too much. Knoxville sits on both sides of this river and it is the aorta of downtown traffic flow. Then we asked the city traffic division to do the lane closure. We set up our crane team with plenty of smokes and coffee. So we had a traffic truck, my manager's truck, my foreman's truck, my truck, the boom support truck and then the boom truck. It took many folks to pull off changing some wires, ballast and bulbs on these large lights and a well deserved hat tip to 'em.

Before I went out over the edge I had thought that the most fear would be felt over the parts that reach over Neland Drive and fall to land. I found that being over land
was easier on the middle ear because the swing could free spin and I could manage orientation better because the ground is still. The water on the other hand was always swirling and chopping and looking at it made me feel like I was spinning partly because if I had nothing to hold to I would spin and partly it was my mind. It was a little like riding a bike while high on L.S.D.. I had to look down to get to my tool bag so it was not an option to avoid looking down. I also had to look up to tell the boom guy what I thought I needed while the swirling sky gave me the same weird proximity feeling. The boom guy was worried more than I was and he must have smoked a half a carton by the days end.

On the first light the power was giving me some weird readings on the meter and I took off the service cover pulled out a wire nut and got a good old 120 volt shock
on my left forearm from the crusty rotten thing. I was grounded to the fixture so the current only made it from my fingers to just below my elbow. I was glad that it was a 120-240 volt system instead of the 277-480 volt systems I normally work with. A 120, 208 or 240 volt shock feels like a large tingle and twitch feeling, a 277 volt shock feels like pure heat and a 480 must feel like heaven because that is most likely where you go when you get one. After checking my hand and my wristwatch for functionality I went about fixing the problem.

A few fixtures later I was removing the 50 pound ballast and it came out with force which took me into a fast spin from the inertia. The crew started to panic thinking I had hit myself in the head and had zonked out because I was outta control and tucked in to hold the heavy bastard from flinging into space. I yelled up and said I
was alright I just could not hold myself steady and the ballast too. They brought me up and we laughed as I stood on the ledge and we put a new ballast in the carrage and had a smoke.

I am giving you two photos of the day, one of them you can barely make me out (I did the zoom for you) and the other has me in front of some Knoxville skyline looking north across the river. The trains below are the Three Rivers Rambler which I lettered many of the cars and I did the re-designed logo on the coal car from an old photo that makes me proud to be in Knoxville even if no one ever notices me being here. That makes matters very o.k. in the book of Jed "Prophet du Obvious".

:: posted by Tennessee Jed, 10:10 PM


Damn, what an adventuous job! I hope they are paying you tons of money.
Blogger red molly, at 8:10 AM  
I notice you're not wearing a hard hat, Jed. What if you slipped and fell from there and landed on your head?
Anonymous Richard, at 12:40 PM  
ye gut to be one of the braver souls i ever met, sir!
Blogger buddy don, at 12:45 PM  
RM, It seems around this part of the world the men who put their hands on the wheel are a dime a dozen and paid like that too. I clear after deductions almost seven dollars an hour. Then when I buy food the sales tax is 9.75%, my health insurance has a $3000 deductable so I am liberated from having to worry about a thing. I did think that if things had went bad, my family would get more money than I will ever bring them, if the life insurance folks didn't find some way to haggle out of it.

Richard, I thought about that, but decided it might get tangled with the rope and fall on someone and make matters worse.

bd, Not brave, just hungry to settle my place in the pecking order of slaves. I am now "Spider Man" and "All Balls" around the shop.
Blogger Tennessee Jed, at 11:11 PM  
That is some way to get high and buzzed,, I'll try different ways myself w/ a dirty martini, but I appreciate your hard work and the pretty lights and you stay safe!
I do appreciate the story about what goes into those lights. Little things most people never think about, that Lord knows the dangers people take for pretty lights and seven dollars an hour after being taxed. You are making things better.
Blogger Julie, at 11:31 PM  
Being that I'm not so good with heights, you, dear Jed, ARE the man.
Blogger newscoma, at 7:53 AM  
The story was amazing enough, but to hear that you clear just seven bucks an hour gives me worse vertigo than the pictures. May all the bored gods protect and preserve you and yours!
Blogger Anne Johnson, at 12:01 PM  
Julie, It is a buzz of sorts. I am thinking of becoming a Fire fighter for the city...more on that later.

Newsie, I am not the man, I just know who his wife is sleeping with.

Anne, A-freakin-men, me too and I am living it!

I thank you folks for coming to see Jed from time to time. I enjoy your views as well.
Blogger Tennessee Jed, at 4:29 PM  
Hello Jed, My name is Sabrina G. English and I google my own name and found my photo on your site. Thanks for the compliment of using it. And even more so giving credit!
Am reading all about you now...

I have a photo site at

thank again
Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:32 PM  
Hey Now Sabrina, I am glad you were cool with me using your image. I always try and post the name of any artist I use because I really understand the work that goes into making nice things to look on.
Blogger Tennessee Jed, at 7:29 PM  
I love those photos..I remember that bridge from when I lived in Knoxville.
Anonymous Autumn, at 2:08 AM  

Add a comment