Friday, June 7, 2013

the finger

Please forgive the surly comments in my prior post. Raising funds to buy a fire truck would be nothing short of spectacular, especially in a speck-on-the-map town like Daylight, Indiana.

I spent a lot of time at an unmanned pipeline pump station years ago, located in a giant corn field about 10 miles outside of Daylight. In that little tiny place, there was a post office, feed store, and gas station that sold pizza. Along the road near the "downtown" section, there was a cluster of old houses with giant trees in the yards; some had picket fences. It probably wasn’t a bad place to live; very idyllic there with lots of cats and lazy dogs wandering around, and old people sitting outside on their porches in the summer.  The nearest motel was 30 miles away.

Because of the nature of our work and remote location, our team would arrive at the pump station and work very long hours (like 16-20 at a time). I was the only woman on the team and did all the software work. There were electronics technicians, electricians, and two engineers on our team. Sometimes laborers met us on site if there was digging, welding, or heavy moving to be done. It was good work, challenging, and required lots of collaboration to troubleshoot and fix problems.

Working with a bunch of men is well…interesting...a change of pace. It’s a good thing I grew up with brothers because familiarity with their male perspective on things has always been helpful in working with men.  Men tend to be less volatile than women when things get ugly, definitely more aggressive (most of them), and they make decisions faster….could be they are more ready to take risks as compared to women.

me and brothers

Because the pump station was unmanned (usually), there were no restroom facilities built into it. It was a one-room metal building, lit with fluorescent lights, bare-bones furnishings of one table with telephone sitting on it, and some folding metal chairs. No place comfortable to sit, no privacy, and maintained frigidly cold so as to keep the electronic equipment housed in it humming along. The men would walk behind the building to pee. No way in hell was I doing that with all those men milling around, so I’d get in the car and drive to the nearest/only gas station in Daylight. A few times when we were working, I saw a man open a cabinet, pull out a roll of toilet paper, and disappear. I assume he went into the corn field for that business. Pity the poor farmer who happened upon that when he was out checking on his corn!

We always had pizza from the gas station for lunch and dinner. It tasted OK but was super greasy and just didn’t settle well…ever. Late at night, when we were all tired and getting cranky (at least I was always tired and cranky by then) the men would just start cutting loose with loud farts, laughing about it, and having contests. One night, guys were pulling their pants down and lighting farts with a butane lighter. I didn’t watch, but my imagination saw it all perfectly. Gross! Men really do that!!! Sometimes I wondered if they were being extra nasty and bad just to see if I would complain.

One afternoon, one of laborers mangled his hand and cut his index finger off just below the first knuckle. The engineer immediately put him in the truck and drove off for the hospital. They left the finger behind. One of the workers picked it up (it still had a glove over it) and set it on a fence post. Somebody pulled the glove off and they were standing around taking turns touching it. A guy pulled a camera out and they started taking weird pictures of each other with the finger. They brought it in to show me and I most certainly did NOT want to see the finger up close and was adamant that nobody had better touch me with the finger or I would start serious disciplinary action. They laughed at me and teased me for a few minutes with it, then finally left me alone. They were just like naughty children! They set it back on the fence post but it disappeared later that afternoon. We think a crow may have taken it.

To this day, I wonder why they didn’t take the finger with them to see if it could be reattached. That’s a common thing these days, but perhaps it wasn’t so common back in the early 90s. Still, it was possible because I know some old workers who had fingers sewn back on successfully.

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