Seventy Feet Above the Ghetto

What do “normal” people do with a long weekend?  Relax?  Catch up on some Netflix?  Sleep?  We rent an eighty-five foot cherry-picker and salvage stadium lights, copper, and telephone poles in one of the worst neighborhoods in town!

A few months ago, my sweetheart put in a ridiculously low auction bid on the poles, lights, and electrical system from a baseball field that the city is decommissioning – and won.  The field is in a rather seedy part of town, surrounded by tiny little houses built in the fifties, all of which had couches or easy chairs on the porch and empty forty-ounce bottles festooning the lawns.  (Cue Elvis.)

The “man lift” was actually a pretty cool machine.  From the basket at varying altitudes you can drive it around from pole to pole, extending the arm or increasing the angle to get into the right position.  It’s amazing what you can see from up there:  a couple lounging on their porch watching us work, a couple doing drugs in their minivan, a couple doing each other in their SUV… the full spectrum of human behavior.

When we got to the pole that was connected to the electrical transformer it seemed to be disconnected, but “for safety” I took my hands off the rails of the basket and crossed my fingers that the soles on my sneakers were rubber when my sweetheart cut the main wire from the transformer to the pole.  There were no sparks, no buzzing sounds, and no electrocution.  Though that would have made for an exciting story, I’m still glad it worked out that way.

Yesterday, after removing the guy-wire from one of the smaller poles, he noticed that it seemed to be wobbling a bit more than some of the others.  In a Hulk-like moment he walked over to it and pushed on it a few times and it quickly toppled into the vacant parking lot.  Ooh la la!

All-in-all we garnered several 1000 watt two-foot diameter metal-halide lights (some with birds’ nests, some without), hundreds of pounds of copper wire, and a half-dozen seventy-foot poles.  All of this will get recycled in one fashion or another, hopefully resulting in a net profit after the auction price and equipment rental.

What did this experience teach me?

  • 70’ up is a lot farther looking down than it is looking up.
  • Everyone in that neighborhood needs a new roof.
  • It takes a lot more strength to use bolt cutters when you’re 70’ up in the air than when you are on the ground.
  • Having a big piece of equipment with you lends an air of legitimacy.

On this last point, I have to say that I was surprised that no one from any of the surrounding homes, nor any of the passing police cars, stopped to ask us who we were or what we were doing.  I joked with my sweetheart that we could start a successful life of crime going around to various sports fields in the off-season and stealing all of the copper, lights, and poles.  All we’d need is some big equipment and maybe a clipboard and no one would question us.  Add a few cones and some caution tape and we would be completely impervious.  It makes me wonder what they’re really up to when I pass by a construction site now.



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