Thursday, June 9, 2011

A TV Signal Goes Astray

I got a call from an old friend and past fellow employee last night. I could tell Ron had been drinking a little; louder than usual, talkative, you know the symptoms. He told me his wife D.J. was trying a new recipe for a champagne drink. I pointed out that most women her age did chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen, not alcoholic beverages, but then D.J. is one of a kind.

Some of you alert readers will remember this story but it bears repeating from time to time. And yes, the tale  gets better with age but stay with me here.

It was a hot,  middle of summer, what month I couldn’t say. The scene was Tulsa, Oklahoma, Skelly Stadium on 11th street, the site of many sporting events. At the time, Ron and I were employed by Southwestern Bell Telephone or Ma Bell as she was affectionately known. One of our crew’s many duties was to set up point-to-point microwave links for the purpose of remote television broadcasts. The way it worked was that Ma Bell took the originating signal from the local TV truck at the site, feed it to our equipment, a transmitter, and send it over the air to the downtown ATT building which then distributed the event to stations across the country.

We received the work order that a local station wanted to broadcast a soccer game with the Tulsa Roughnecks as one of the teams. The team didn’t last more than a few seasons but it had a pretty good following of fans. Now before we go any further with this story, please remember that this was back in The Day, before we had the miniature electronic marvels we have now. We’re talking HEAVY equipment, with tubes, hot, burn-the-skin-off-your fingers tubes, and transformers, big ones, presumably made of solid lead. Cables as big around as a tube of bologna and 300 feet long were strung from the press box to our little control center, a converted telephone truck. This mass of machinery had to be toted to the top of the press box, up 10,000 steps, by the mules of Ma Bell, the mules being Ron and I.

As I said, it was hot. We had worked all morning and by noon, we were beat; panting like lizards and our shirts soaked with sweat. Ron, in one of his all time moments of pure inspiration, suggested that we go to his house for lunch, only a few blocks away. We could relax for an hour with the cool breeze of his AC blowing across our fevered brows. He would call ahead and notify his wife D.J. to fix up a couple sandwiches. Sounded good, real good.

I should point out that D.J., besides being a housewife and excellent cook, held a second job as a bartender at a local pub. I should not have been surprised when a smiling D.J. met us at the door with an entire pitcher of frozen margaritas. But I was and I was grateful. I cannot describe how easily and smoothly and fast that delightful beverage slid down. When another pitcher appeared, we were powerless to say no. As you might image, Mother Bell frowned upon drunken employees driving her vehicles around the city, endangering the lives of Tulsans on the streets and sidewalks. With that in mind, Ron and I decided to forget the damn sandwiches and stay put, doing our company duty to avoid heat stroke and spare S.W. Bell any related medical expenses. The plan went well. We avoided any and all heat associated emergencies for the rest of the afternoon.

Our boss, bless his fat old heart, understood situations such as Ron and I were in (having been there and done that himself) and when D.J. called the office at quitting time to ask if he was missing a couple employees, he simply sighed and said he’d pick us up shortly. We met him at the door, grinning like lunatics. “Sorry about this Boss.”

“You boys be at work at 8 o’clock in the morning…sober.” End of conversation.

Best boss I ever had.

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