Power outages don’t rank up there with tornadoes, floods and fires as disasters, but they do halt work. When I was on second shift a power outage was a party. During the day if the power goes out they tell you to pick up a broom and clean, although not much cleaning ever gets done, we mostly stand around talking. But at night it is pitch black inside, so there is nothing to do but go outside and sit down and talk.
The first time the power went out while I was on second shift there were no battery-powered safety lights. The plant went totally black, like a cave. Of course the first thing everybody did was start hollering. With no machinery running you could hear someone from all the way across the shop. Then people started igniting brooms to make torches. They would soak the straw in open buckets of solvent (like the one Roy C. tried to put the shed fire out with) and then set them on fire. So everyone would gravitate to a broom torch and follow it outside. It was cool seeing these blazing brooms held aloft all over the dark shop, sort of like a candlelight service at church on Christmas Eve.
One reason there seemed to be more power failures in the past was because of Mosteller Road. When I began working at Brighton it was a two-lane hilly road. There are a lot of trucking companies in the area, and it got a lot of semi traffic to and from the expressway exit just to the south of us. Trucks were always running off the road and taking out power lines. Now the road has four lanes and most of the hills have been leveled.
It’s always a tough call whether to send us home or have us wait. Usually its a half-hour. If the power doesn’t come back on after a half-hour, we go home. Once on second shift the power came back on just as everyone was getting into their cars. The foreman at the time was Larry F., the shipping clerk who had once helped me unload a huge head that came lose and sent him sprinting to the other end of the building. He had been promoted to second shift foreman after Jim D. retired. Larry came out and tried to stop people from leaving, but most everyone just drove around him. I wasn’t there, I had gone to first shift by then, but they said he ran out into the middle of the parking lot waving his arms and nearly got run over.
Another time when I was on first shift a snow storm caused the power outage. As soon as I got home the phone rang. The power was back on and I could come back into work if I wanted, without any interruption in pay. So I did. I thought I would be one of the few, but I was surprised at how many people came straggling back in. As you get older you get more responsible. Although I missed a good opportunity to go sled riding with my kids. Once when I took the four of them sledding I went over a ramp at the bottom of the hill someone had built up that they were afraid to go over. They said it was great. I went airborne, the sled went flying one direction, I went flying another, and after hitting the ground I slid another thirty feet or so. When we got back home and my wife saw the big knot on my head she just shook her head.
Now it seems like if the power goes out it’s never for more than a few minutes. There is talk about the infrastructure deteriorating, but it seems to me to be getting better.