Monday, January 28, 2013

The Phoneman Adventures - Episode 1

Years ago I worked on a team that installed a phone system for the City County Building in Knoxville, Tennessee. The City County Building is like the town courthouse of steroids as it held most of the city and county offices, courts, the city jail and also the independent public management department.

The important part of this story is the city jail. We always enjoyed visiting the jail for service calls, kind of the way we enjoyed visiting relatives who pinch your cheeks and reeks of scotch, Marlboros and cologne.

In short, we didn't.

It wasn't because we didn't like and appreciate the folks who worked in the jail. They had a tough job and did it well, we weren't particularly fond of the "Residents" of the jail. While filled with a mix of weekend drunk drivers, petty crooks and other various miscreants, the thing that bothered us most was we were there... 

With tool pouches...

You see, it's hard to do repair work without tools and although ANY knife would quickly be confiscated from a visitor to the jail, we were free to walk among the inmates with leather pouches filled with technician death swinging from our hips.

Screwdrivers, pinch tools, pliers, hooks, wire, snips etc... were our tools of trade and they all made wonderful weapons if used improperly.

The things which kept us in the proper frame of mind was our use of gallows humor to pass the days. We enjoyed razzing each other endlessly over our failures and problems. We also enjoyed telling each other the stories of our trips to the jail.

One story involved a group that ran a new phone line for the staff. When it came time to leave the guys were checking their tools to make sure everything was there. One of our guys named Curtis noticed he had a screwdriver missing. A quick look around didn't turn it up, so Curtis turned to the guard who was escorting them and said, "I'm sure it'll turn up sooner or later." The guard then replied, "Yeah, sticking out of our back."

Needless to say after a MUCH more inspired search the screwdriver was found where it was left, above a ceiling tile.

A second story involved a set of ladies who were mapping out the location and numbers of all the phones in the jail. One of the ladies realized she had forgotten to declare a small knife when processing in.

I need to clarify the term, "Knife" here. Knife paints a picture of a deadly killing utensil. This "Knife" was about an inch long when closed and contained a tiny blade, a tiny set of scissors, a tiny nail file and a tiny toothpick. We had gotten them as gifts from the company and they came on a keying. Most of us used them to clean our fingernails and occasionally use them as screwdrivers when wiring phone jacks when we were too lazy to walk back to our trucks for tools.

With that said, she tapped a guy on the shoulder and told him of her mistake. She held the teeny, tiny, itty, bitty knife in the palm of her hand to show him. (keep in mind the first story about out "Tool Pouches of DEATH" I just shared).

The man turned white, broke out in a sweat and then snatched the "Knife" from the lady's hand. He clutched the contraband weapon in his meaty paw, enveloping it in a kind of flesh container to protect it from seizure, and holding the meaty paw filled with tiny death high in the air, immediately marched out of the jail.

Yeah... drama...

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