Silly Service

 

An America Hero

Sadly one of America’s true hero (Neal Armstrong) died yesterday.  I was fortunate to hear him speak several times to the student body at the Naval Postgraduate School.

He had a quiet wiry sense of humor.  The first time I hear speak one of the Naval Officers asked him what was the most frightening part of his trip to the moon and back.  He pondered a bit and then said, “I think it was knowing the vehicle was the product of the lowest bidder.”  You have to know government contracting to fully appreciate the remark.

On another occasion he pointed out, “Normally, federal employees received per-diem, while traveling on official government business.  However, during the trip to the moon and back, he traveled in a government vehicle, and the government furnished rations, so the per-diem received was a reduced amount.”  Again you have to work for and deal with government procedures to fully appreciate.

When I hear un-informed folks complained about government waste, abuse, fraud and over paid government employees.  I loudly and quickly pointed out to them–Neil Armstrong was a Civilian Federal Employee.  One of those over paid government employees!

God speed Neil!!

Student Aides

I was first introduced to students aides while a mechanic.  Came into work one day and there was a bright young black (pre African-America days) man, standing in our shop.  When the foreman came to hand out the daily work assignments, he introduced him to the group as our student aide for the summer.  Of course being that boss’s favorite employee (NOT), he was assigned to me.  Going out the door the foreman in a loud clear voice said, “Don’t let the boy kill himself!”   Now this was in late 60’s so you can see how tuned in the boss was.  I hustled the young man into our service truck, and tried to explain to him—the boss called him a boy, because of his age-he was a boy, and it was not a racial slur.

How this young man qualified for a student aide position, was beyond me.  His Dad  was an active duty Major in the Army, and aide jobs were supposed to go kids with financial problems.  But of course who better to work the system, than a system operator.  And the young chap had never done a day of physical work in his life.  And outside of being an inhale-exhale employee he was willing worker. Inhale-exhale employees are those who have to be given explicit directions for every facet of the work in progress.  I use this term, as I’m convinced they would stop breathing, if someone didn’t chant inhale-exhale.

The only time he tried to get away from a job was when, the shit pump plugged up, and we had to take the cover of the check value, and pulled the used condoms out of the value.  He told me later, right then and there, he decided he was going to hit the school books harder, and get a white collar job of some kind.

After several weeks, I discovered this young man even had his own car.  Because he told me, he would be late back from lunch, as he had to fill up his car.  When I asked why he didn’t fill it up either on the way to or the way home from work.  He patiently explained to me the gas pump was only open from 1100 to 1300.  Come to find out, all of the student aides, had been filling their cars and their parents cars at the unattended station gas pump.  They thought it was just one of the benefits of working for the ‘government.’ 

When I dropped a bug in the supply civilian in charge of fueling operation, he was quick to inform me that he had put his student aide in charge of ‘logging’ the gas pump.  Everyone knew they had limited work skills.  But suddenly the gas pump had a padlock on it, and sailor logging the amount of fuel pumped, and the USN number of vehicle being fueled.

While working as a Foreman, I was in charge of Emergency Services, we were the first responders to any problem or utility outage of any type. We also handled all of the public events setups, etc.  Some of the events were: graduations four times a year, military balls, change of commands, NATO conference, and presidential lesser dignitaries visits.  So I had my pick of student aides, and normally had those who had a career path chosen, and truly want to learn something about working.

Most of student aides were from welfare homes, had never held a job, and had no idea how to act, and/or what was expected of them in the work place.  Starting with, they were expected to be on time and punch in before starting time, had their breakfast, brushed their teeth, combed their hair, and were dressed in appropriate work clothing for their assigned work. And when they finished a task, ask their coworker/supervisor what to do next, not just sit down or wander off the job site. Dear reader I do not exaggerate! A lot of these kids had absolutely no idea of basic requirement expected in the work place.

As an example while Superintendent, I had a super bright young Korean/Irish girl student aide.  She was extremely bright and hard working, but on first day of work, she came to work in a sheer blouse and no bra, and mini skirt with no visible underwear.  I had to call her in and tell her to go home and put on some underwear, and clothing more suitable to work. Ended up I had to stake her to some office type clothing, as she didn’t have any at home.  I and another General Foreman basically took this young lady to raise, as there was no father at home and her mother was a serious drinker.  We both had teenage daughters, and daily thanked our lucky stars, it wasn’t one our daughters in that situation.  I even had to have the birth control chat with her.  She later confided in me, that her mother had told her, “Only whores screw before marriage.”  Well, folks in was the 90’s and the young folks were having SEX!  She graduated from college, became a special education teacher, and married a bright young junior Army Officer.

Of course not all the student aides were success stories. At one time we had two student aides taking a Navy service truck, going out to surrounding neighbors and stealing car batteries, during work hours.   They didn’t just steal the batteries, by removing them.  They took cable cutters and cut the battery cords of the batteries. It cost the Navy quite a few buck to install all those new battery cables.  They had stolen 50 plus batteries before they were apprehend.

One of African-America student aides assigned to the Library, spent his lunch times, going into the neighborhoods and raping housewives.  It took quite some time to resolve that situation, as a number of the victims, didn’t come forth, the description was not too good, and local police never thought to check people at the Navy School.  One of the assistant Librarians’ broke the case, and she only got into because he was always late coming back from lunch.

Over the years I saw the student population go from most black, to Hispanic to Asian-Vietnam.  The major problem with the latter, was where do you find size 2 and 3 safety shoes.

Return Visit

A couple of weeks ago I flew up to Monterey for a Kiwanis convention, to see if I could sell some e-books on a fund raising basis. The convention was on Saturday, but I flew up to San Jose from San Diego early Friday.   You ask why fly to San Jose, to go to Monterey.  Simple it was $59.00 each leg to San Jose, and I would be renting a car, regardless of where I landed.  The flight would have been nearly $300 to fly to Monterey, and that would have been via LAX and a plane change.  And if you don’t know LAX, believe me you DON’T want to change planes there.

Having most of the day free, I decide to visit the good old Naval Postgraduate School, my place of employment for lo those many years.  I called a day or so before and found someone who still worked there and also remember who I was.  I checked out October 1, 2005 and had not set foot on the place until March 17, 2012—nearly seven years.

When I left security was at a high level and the gate guard force was composed of sailors.  Without a valid US Navy ID, one had to be put on the access list by an employee.  So I had arranged that, but when I arrived, the gate personnel were all civilian Federal Police Officers, and they found my expired Gym Card good enough for unescorted entry.  They politely ask if I could find my way to where I was going.  I found it amusing, as I approved the plans for their entry compound, barriers and streets.

Met the folks who I had worked with or had worked for me at the shops building, which looked pretty much the same.  I had noticed a few new structures as I was driving down to the shops, but I knew their purpose.  One of persons was the young lady who had been assigned to the Public Works Shops as a Safety expert.  She was also our resident expert on Asbestos removal.  The other person who is now a Foreman was my ex son-in-law.  Just as an aside, before he and my daughter broke up, she came to visit me in office, and stuttered and stammered that they were breaking up and she didn’t want me taking it out on Wayne.  She still reminds me my comment was, “it is harder to find expert diesel mechanics than daughters, so she didn’t have worry about me being mean to Wayne.”

And now for the reasons why it has taken me so long to write about this visit.  I have been trying to decide if I should be complemented or insulted.  The traditional organization of Public Works is three fold—Transportation, Utilities, and Maintenance/Operations. When I was the Public Works Superintendent, I had all three branches under my purview and reported directly to the Public Works Officer (PWO) a Naval Officer.

When I retired, the Public Works function and other station operation functions where in the process of being transferred to the Public Works Center-San Diego.  It was one of the major reasons I retired.  After basically running the place for 15 years, I was expected to report to some yahoo in San Diego.  Just wasn’t going to happen, after all the years of being in charge and just winning a Contracting Out study.  Winning that study saved approximately 150 full time civilians jobs, and now I supposed to take guidance from San Diego, where they are losing out sourcing studies hand over fist.

Ah well off the soap  box!!!

First, all three branches of Public Works now had a separate Manager at the GS-12 level.  OK that’s three guys to do the work I was doing, but wait, the powers to be had also created a new billet of Civilian Assistant Public Works Officer (APWO) GS-13, who reported to the Public Works Officer. So can I say it took 4 people to replace me!  Now you can understand why I was in quandary on how to take it.   My final feeling is—It Happened, don’t lose any sleep over it.

Second, the Navy has stood up a Naval Support Activity in 2010 to take care of all the military property and functions in Central California.  Surprise, we had already done that in the early 1900, before the decision was made to roll everything into San Diego PW.  This type of function warrants a Navy Captain as the CO, and whole bunch of high grade civilian positions. It will not be too many years before, they are either re-organized out of existence or there will be another round of contracting out studies.  And then it will be bye-bye.

One of my major gripes is retired Naval Officers filling Civilian billets.  The civilian APWO that was created and installed had been the PWO when I retired.  It is a major conflict of interest: while in command they determine the structure and grade level of positions in the organization, and then when they retired—surprise they are the best qualified candidate. Plus the selecting official is someone who they served with in the military.  Frequently they had been the superior of the person, now selecting them for a civilian position.

The arrangement at NPS, is especially onerous, as the job was written to require a Professional Engineer (PE) certification.  I worked with 15 plus Military Officer APWO’s and 1 Civilian APWO, none of whom where PE’s.  When I was on staff I fought this constantly with Human Resources department, and always managed to beat it back, with the threat of law suits.  This chain of events forced  a civilian to retired, who had been doing the job for several years, was qualified, and should have gotten the job.

GLAD I AM RETIRED!!!!   Next Student Aides

SILLY SERVICE

Ivan E Gillis

Silly Service is a weekly episode (to be compiled into an ebook) my of years as a federal civil servant. As noted below, I started my civil service career on March 4th 1968 and retired October 1, 2005, with 38 years service.  I know the numbers don’t equal 37 years, but at the time one could add accrued sick leave to your years of service calculation, which gave me 38 years service.

I started as a Journeyman Maintenance Machinist and retired as the Public Works Superintendent.

March 4th 1968 was a Monday, and the day I started my Civil Service Career.  I was told to report to the CPO (Civilian Personnel Office) at 0800 to check in. It was also the day I started learning the 24 hours time system and bureaucratese a language of and for Civil Service and Military personnel.

 At the time we lived in Aptos, CA, about 20 miles south of Santa Cruz, CA.  Monterey, the home of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School was about 40 miles around the bay.  I left early and found it a much easier commute that going over the hill is San Jose.

Various clerks explained my benefits to me, took my fingerprints, my photo, and etc.

Then came the oath to support and defend the constitution.  Since I was a birth right Quaker I asked to ‘affirm’ the oath, rather than swearing to it.  The CPO office was not familiar with that procedure, and had to get approval from the JAG (Judge Advocate General) officer—the Navy’s lawyer.  He found it pretty humorous that a Quaker was going to work for the Navy.  But I had 2 children and wife to support, and $3.25 per hour looked pretty good that morning.  It was a whole .15 per hour more that I was making at the previous job.

Escorted to shops and introduced to the General Foreman, and Work Center Foreman, who was my new immediate supervisor.  Found it interesting that all the supervisors and most of the workers were mostly retired military with the majority being Navy Chiefs retirees. Also most were 10 t 15 years older than me and I was 35 at the time.

Asked Ray (the new boss) when I should bring my car around and unloaded my hand tools and welder’s equipment.  Much to my surprise, I learned that the Navy furnished all the hand tools and equipment.  Of course the welding gear appeared to be left over from WWII.  The fact that no one in any of shops could weld, might have had something to do with it.

One of my new co-workers took me for a tour of the facilities I would be working on.  The station covered around 100 acres, plus the Navy side of the Airport and 1,500 units of Navy housing.  And my then it was quitting time, and I hadn’t picked up a tool all day.

As I was leaving, Ray gave me an organization chart of NPS from the Superintendent (a 2 Star Admiral) down to my assigned work center 30—outside Machinists.  Of course at the time having a 2 Star Flag Officer in charge didn’t mean much to me.  I was working for the Public Works Department, headed by Naval Officer, then the Civilian General Foreman, and then the line foreman of a work centers.  The work centers were by trades and included: Plumbers/Pipefitters, Outside Machinists, Electricians, Carpenters, Painters, Boiler Plant Operators, Auto & Heavy Equipment Mechanics, Equipment Operators &  and a Labor Crew.

 Looked like a pretty good place to work, and was sure I could handle anything I was asked to do. Remember thinking on the way home—I can handle it for a couple of years and see how things go, and if it doesn’t work out I can always find another job.  Little did I know it was the start of a 38 year career, and I would retire as the Superintendent of the NPS Public Works Department.

Housing Mechanic Events

We left off in NPS housing last week, and as I was involved with housing as a Mechanic, Line Foreman, General Foreman, and Superintendent, will continue with some more housing episodes.

Mechanic:

Last week we talked about replaced wall heaters and installing temporary kitchens. Some of the other occurrences were, as follows:

At one time, the engineers in their wisdom decided all the natural gas valves had to be replaced due to a manufacturing defect.  This require going into occupied homes, shutting of the gas, taking the cover of the heater, removing the burner complete with gas value, taking to the shop and installing the new valve, going back to the house, re-installing the valve, hooking the natural gas supply back up and re-lighting the heater.

My co-worker was always expecting someone to do his work or show him how to do.  It fact when I spoke to him, it was always prefaced with, “Come on Walter.”  On this day he had pissed me off about something.  And I had told him do your own, “God Dam work.”  So we both had burners and replaced the gas valves in them.  The tricky part was the valves were “universal” made to fit almost any burner.  So beside the inlet and outlet there were 3 or 4 other outlets with a plastic plug in the opening.

We took our burners make, re-installed them, and were in the process of re-lighting, when Walter’s heater went WOOSH and there was fire coming out the front and top of the heater, hitting the ceiling and part way down the other wall.

About that time the lady of house, opened the door from a room and very politely asked, “Is that supposed to be that way?”  I’m purported to have answered, “Fuck NO!”  After which I grabbed a 12” Crescent Wrench (adjustable jaw wrench to picky folks), ran outside, around to the back looking for the master natural gas valves.  As the unit was a tri-plex there were 3 sets of natural gas valves, which I quickly turned off, some of which had been moved since the day they were installed.  I thought I was going to pull the gas lines out of the ground, before the valves closed.

Went back inside to determine what happened, only to discover Walter had not replaced the plastic plugs with a steel plugs.  Which had soon melted and let natural gas flow to the lit burner.  Send him back to the shop to do the valve installation correctly, while I try to figure out what to do with this ladies soot covered walls and ceiling. 

I knew the shop’s painters were working nearby, so went and begging a couple of them, to come to the fire site and re-paint the scorched walls.  Which they did, when they could stand up again after laughing so hard.

We thought we had dodged a bullet or least a reprimand, until the lady of house wrote the Public Works Officer (PWO) a very nice letter of commendation, for not burning down her house, and re-painting it the same day.  Fortunately, the PWO had a sense of humor and we only received a world class ass chewing.

On another occasion another co-worker and I went to answer a warm refrigerator call. Now the other chap was a Mormon and very shy.  One of our black co-workers once said, “He wouldn’t lick a hair pie, if you drug him through it face first.”  And little crude, but pretty accurate assessment of him.

The lady of the house was a fairly attractive big bosom lady wearing a house coat in midafternoon.  We opened the door to the refrigerator and were going to remove the items to work on it.  My co-worker was kneeled down with head against the door, when the lady of the house offered to help remove the times, and promptly pinned his head to the door with her tits.  I nearly choked trying to keep from laughing out loud.  He finally squirmed out and we checked out the reefer.  It was an older refrigerator with the freezer evaporator (the cold part) on top and depended on gravity for the cold air to cool the lower part of the refrigerator.  The shelves in the refrigerator when open wire type to allow the cold air to flow.  The lady of the house had neatly wrapped each shelve in aluminum foil, and the cold air couldn’t flow.

I knelt down on the floor with my head against the door, to explain to the lady of house why her vegetable bins were too hot.  But dang, I didn’t get by head pinned to door with tits.  But I still helped her take the foil off the shelves.

Received a call one weekend that a full Commander’s (big deal in the Navy) refrigerator wasn’t working and they had just bought two weeks’ worth of food which was spoiling. At the time there was a goofy policy that required the Housing Manager’s approval before a refrigerator could be re-placed.  Not that Housing Manager knew anything about refrigerators and/or refrigeration.

I decided to re-place it, as there was no guarantee I could repair it, and it was loaded with spoiling food.  Went to the warehouse, picked up a replacement 18 cubic foot refrigerator for a replacement.

Wheeled the dolly in, disconnected the non –working reefer, loaded on the dolly to remove it.  The kitchen had two doors—one to front hall way and one to carport.  The front hall has so much stuff in; there was not room to wheel the reefer out.  I opened the door to carport, and there was a car under a car cover.  I asked the officer 3 times to move the car while I moved the old refrigerator out and the new on in.  He insisted there was room to move the refrigerators without moving the car.

By this time I’m hot and tired and been wrestling 18’ reefers and dolly around by myself. So told him I try it.  While moving the old reefer out the dolly wheels hung up on the threshold, so I gave it an extra push and it got away from me.  To keep it from falling backward into the kitchen, I shoved up and out as hard as I could.  At that time I hear an ear-splitting wail of, “Oh MY GOD, Oh My God.”  I literally jumped over the refrigerator and dolly thinking I pinned a child under the reefer. 

What he was screaming about, was the reefer had hit the car.  How did I know it was a 911 Porsche, and I had asked him to move it 3 times?  So now he moves it, I take away the non-working unit and installed the new one—saving their two weeks of food.  As I was leaving he informed me, I was on report.  And I informed him I was a civilian and he could engage in an atomically impossibility with his report.

Of course he filed a complaint, and off to the Public Works Officer’s office again.  However, when the PWO hear I asked the chap to move his vehicle 3 times, the PWO excused me and had some very harsh words with the complaining officer. i.e. He had to pay for fixing his own car.

More Dog Encounters

Think I’ve already mentioned the Irish Setter Hound who wet me down, because I wouldn’t play with him.  Of course with 5,000 units and the assorted pets, and 50 to 75 mechanics working on and in the houses, there was no shortage of dog happenings.

JP and I were working furnace replacements, and had parked in the service alleyway in back of unit.  The unit had 3 foot or so picket fence surrounding the back yard.  The picket fence has 2 x 4’s for top and bottom rails.  I was facing the house working on the furnace lying in the back of the house.  JP was facing me on the other side of truck with his back to the picket fence.

The lady of the house opened the door and let out this pony sized St. Bernard dog.  He was a friendly curious sort, and without making a sound, wandered over and stood up with his front paws on the top rail of the picket fence.  Then he let a loud and very deep WOOF right in JP’s ear. You may find it hard to believe, but that 50ish mechanic cleared the bed of a ½ ton pickup in a single bound, and was standing shaking by me on my side of the truck.  I was laughing so hard I had to hang on to the truck to keep from falling down.  Of course JP is cussing me in his slow Tennessee drawl.  Of course all this set the dog off—who joined the fun by barking and howling—which would have made a good fog horn warning.

The lady of the house turned up and wanted to know, “What were we doing to her dog?”  By then I was laughing so hard, I could hardly get in the truck and drive away.

On another occasion, I went on a service call for a refrigerator to one of the newer units. These units when entered from the front door, had the living/dining room straight ahead, the kitchen off to the left, and a hallway with the bathrooms and bedrooms to the right.  I thought I had hear a dog growl, so told the lady of the house, secure your dog before I come in. She assured me, he was locked in a bedroom and besides he was a very friendly dog.

About that instant I heard scratching sounds, and look over my shoulder to see this Doberman Pinscher running full blast and slipping on the vinyl flooring.  The lady of the house starts screaming, “he won’t bite!”  Luckily I had a four pound ball peen hammer on my tool belt.  And when he leap for my throat showing at least 100 4 inch fangs, I slapped him in the ear, with the hammer.  Down he went—out like a blown blub.  I thought I had killed the dam dog for sure.  And of course losing conscious he had void shit and urine all over her floor. 

She is so shocked she can’t speak, and I’m so pissed off and scared, I wanted to pound the dog’s head into a pulp.  When she could speak the lady of the house kept insisting, “I told you he wouldn’t bite!”  And I kept assuring her, he wasn’t going to bite me.

After a few minutes the dog starting moaning, and quivering, and finally stood up, and skulked back down the hall.  While she cleaning up after her dog, I checked out her refrigerator (which had nothing major wrong with it) and told her due to its age and condition, I would recommend to the housing management that it be replaced with a new one.  Which was always, one of the big wishes of military wives.  We had reached a silent agreement to pretend her dog had not tried to rip my throat out, and I had not tried to kill it with one hammer blow.

Dog Events when a Line Foreman

My first supervisory job was as the line foreman for the Emergencies Services Work Center.  Basically, we were the first responders to anything that went wrong.  Our first priority was to secure any threat to life and/or property.  If the problem could be fixed in 2 hours or less, we fixed it, if not we referred to the trade shop (electric, plumbing, carpenter, painting, etc).

This shop was located on the main station of the Naval Postgraduate School, and included handling the Senior Officer Housing service calls.  Senior Officers in the Navy are Commanders O-5, Captains O-6, and Flag Officers O-7 and up. The housing units had been “cottages” attached to the Del Monte Hotel.

We had one resident, who absolutely refused to keep his dog secured.  Either locking in a room of the house when expecting a service call, or in his fenced yard at other times.  It was a black lab, with a bad temper, usual in its self.  This dog had put at least 3 of mechanics either on top of, or in their service truck, to keep from being attacked.

Lo and beholden, while standing on the ramp in front of my shop building, here comes that bad dog wandering through the parking lot.  I whistled at him and waived a roast beef sandwich, while leading him into the building, and then locking him into a storage room. I then call Base Security to tell that I had found a stray dog wandering through the parking lot and had it secured. 

In due time they sent someone to check it out, complete with a person from the County Pound to take possession of the dog.  Of course, the Security Officer recognized the dog, as their department had experienced the same problems with it.  Lacking much of back bone the Head of Security, call the Commander who owned the dog, and asked him to come pick it up.

The chap had steam coming out of his ears when he arrived.  How were we to know he was in a meeting with the Admiral-Superintendent of the School?  Apparently, the Admiral was a little un-happy about having to stop a meeting so a subordinate could tend to a pet problem.  I managed to assure the Commander, I had NO IDEA it was his dog, as it didn’t have a collar or any other ID.  With us both knowing full well, I knew whose dog it was, and I was sending him a message.  The Naval Officer did get the message, after that his dog was secured at all times.

As mentioned before our shop loading dock, faced one of NPS’s parking lots.  And needless to say parking was always a problem.  I was continuously having to have POV’s (Privately Owned Vehicle) removed from my clearly marked service truck parking area. The major offender was a chap who worked in the school’s print shop which was across the street in the main building.  This chap was about 2 clicks above a functional illiterate and working in the print shop. Another story.

Besides parking in my Service Truck spots, he brought his two Rhodesian Ridgeback Dogs to work with and left them in his old Dodge Station wagon all day.   He would come back at lunch time and walk and water them.  I had a hose bib on the corner of my building and that’s where he watered them.  Not in a pan or bucket, but by turning on the hose bib, and encouraging the dogs to drink from the gushing water.  Of course they ended up lapping up the water that ran on the ground.  I solved that by have the hose bid removed, I did have two plumbers working for me.  Jerk was going to file a grievance, but didn’t after the squirrel incident.

Of course the dogs did their business (number 1 & 2) all over the lawn in back of the Enlisted Club.  It goes without saying he never picked up after them.  So one day the dogs had both taken a major dump, and the owner was leading them back to his vehicle.  When a squirrel ran down an Oak tree, which caught the dogs attention.  They promptly took off on the dead run, jerked their owner on to his back and are dragging him across the lawn.  And they drug him right through the two piles of dog shit, and into the tree knocking him semi-conscious.  I saw this all from my shop’s office window, and when I could stop laughing enough to speak, call Security. Poetic Justice, Karma, PayBack, whatever, it was working.

Needless, to say, the dogs were NOT licensed, only dogs of residents are allowed on the station, and his station pass on his vehicle was out of date.  Long story short he had to take a bus to work and the dogs were put up for adoption.

The reason only resident dogs were allowed on station was because of a Contractor’s pit bulls.  Seem like you couldn’t be a federal contractor unless you had one or more pit bull dogs in the back of your pickup at all times.  The Admiral’s wife was walking her mid-size poodle across the lawn next to the main building. Of course out of pickup the dog the pit bulls came, the Admiral’s wife snatched up the poodle and ran for her house.  She made the house but only got the screen door closed, which the pit bull crashed through.

She called Emergency Services (my work center) rather than Security from the top of her washer dryer combo.  We found the dog’s owner, got them removed, and the Admiral’s wife off the top of her appliances.  When I asked her, “Why did you call Emergency Services instead of Security?”  She informed me, “that my number was on the back of the station phone directory in 3 inches letters and it WAS A GOD DAM EMERGENCY!!!”

This all occurred around 1500 (3:00 PM civilian time) on Friday. Monday morning at 0800 there was a new station instruction restricting dogs on station.  Henceforth, only station residents dogs could be present on station.  And they required a special highly visible tag, available from the Security Department.

From Dogs to Peacocks

NPS had a large flock of Peacocks left over from when it was a major resort hotel ran by a railroad.  The original railroad stop was still in place, when I started at NPS in 1968.

Granted Peacocks are beautiful birds, but most people don’t realize they shit like a horse (that’s a whole lot), and their call is unique and loud.  The most apt description is: their screech could raise the dead.

One of their favorite roosting places was above the portico at the front of the main building.  So course every morning the front steps were liberally covered with peacock droppings.  We had a standing job order, to wash the steps, every day before 0700. Now who does it on weekends?  Normally, the boiler plant operators handled all weekend and holiday calls, but boiler tending came first.

After much study, we covered the top of the portico with basically barbed wire, and the peacocks found a less visible roosting place.  One where the droppings only had to be cleaned up once a week.

During the mating season the males becomes very vocal and aggressive, and it is also when they stroll around with their tail feathers displayed.  On one occasion a fully displayed male bird was strolling through the main front parking lot.  When he saw his reflection from a brand new silver metallic painted Mercedes, he promptly attacked it.  He clawed and pecked at it, until he fell down exhausted.  Sounds pretty funny eh?  Tell it to the owner of Mercedes—the Provost of the School.  It cost over $2,000 to have the car repainted and this is in the early 70’s.

As I’ve mentioned before the main building, is the old hotel building.  It has a large entry way and lobby with a hallway to the ballroom.  The ceilings in these spaces are at least 30 feet high.  So, one Monday morning we get a call the drapes in the Ballroom hallway are falling down. The hallway had floor to ceiling opening windows looking out at the sunken gardens on either side, or the drapes where floor to ceiling in between.

About 50% of drapes where off or ready to fall off the hangers plus they were covered with peacock shit.  After twisting arms to find out what happened—we discovered two peacocks had wandered in from the front.  And the Quarterdeck personnel had tried to shoo they out, without opening the windows. Of course the birds when cornered flew around and were lighting on the hangers and drapes and shitting all over everything.

The drapes all had to come down, and when sent out for dry cleaning, it was discovered they were at least 50 years old, and the material was rotten.  When put in the dry cleaning fluid they promptly dissolved.  All new drapes had to be purchased and installed, and we had to check all the hangers to make sure they were still secured to the wall.  I never did find out what that little episode cost.

With some Navy personnel being slow learners, shortly afterwards another peacock wandered in the front door, and was strolling around the lobby.  In the attempt to shoo it out, it flew into the huge window (20 feet by 40 feet) over-looking the lawn and cracked it down the middle.  This window was installed when the hotel was build, about the mid 1880’s.  Where does one find a 20’ x 40’ sheet of 1” glass?  NOWHERE, the glass replacement was poured in England and air freighted to Monterey.  And when the new glass received, it was found to be 6” shorter on each side.  OK, now the glass doesn’t fill the hole.  We had to build new framing to fill the space of the original glass size to the glass size received.

And then pay a contractor to install the new glass.  Let me tell you it was a major hassle!  The total cost of that window replacement was in excess of $50,000, and that was in the 80’s.

After that incident a decision was made to remove the Peacocks.  The only hitch to that is catching them.  Luckily, that job went to the Seabees. I don’t know how they caught them, but they needed guidance on how to transport them.

The shops had built a holding pen, and the Seabees were collecting and delivering the Peacocks to the pen.  Of course, they just held them tightly to chest and climbed in the back and front of a pickup.  Of course by the time they arrived they were covered in Peacock Shit!  I had to sit down I was laughing so hard.  Their Chief Petty Officer nearly had a stroke.  He made them strip and washed them and their clothes off with cold water from a fire hose.  I pointed out to him that the government pickup was still covered in shit.  The chief then had the Seabees clean and washed the pickup, while shivering in their skivvies.

Thirty years later, I’m laughing so hard, I have to stop for this week.

Swimming Pool

For many years NPS had a functioning pool, which was larger than an Olympic Pool.  The water was heated at the main Boiler Plant and pumped to the pool and back.  The Pool was part of the original resort hotel facilities.  The pipes that carried the water back and forth to the pool were made out of 2” thick redwood strips shaped in an octagon and banded with copper strands.  The biggest diameter was about 18”.  The water was also pumped through a chlorinator to keep the water sanitary for swimming.  Of course with 100 plus small children using the pool, it took over 100 cu ft. per day to keep the readings in the required zone. So the bottles had to be changed out every day.  The dam bottles stood about 5 ft. tall and weighted around 150 pounds.  Of course taking one bottle out and putting another in always allowed the escape of some Chlorine gas—this is the stuff they killed people within World War I.

We always wore respirators and had a meter than sounded an alarm if the concentration went to high.  On one of those occasions our genius supervisor decided we should have our change out procedures checked out. (I could and will write several chapters of the bone-head things that chap did over the years).  But to sum it up in advance, you had to be on the highest lookout for your own safety at ALL TIMES.

The bottle to chlorinator fittings was brass and could not be oiled.  Oil and chlorine make something else very nasty.  The fitting were binding, so my genius boss take a 24” pipe wrench to the bottle value, and promptly cracked it.  We now have a Chlorine Gas leak. The crack was small and barely leaked, but any leak has the potential to be fatal, and the pressure could make the leak worse.

My 125 pound boss wrapped a “red shop rag,” around the value, picked it up by himself and threw in the back of the service truck.   I drove the truck down to the shore of the pond on station, and he threw the leaking bottle into the pond. Then we went to the Boiler Plant and stood under the “Drench Shower,” until the meter said, “No Chlorine Present.”  During that period, the boss informed us NOTHING HAPPENED!  Hell, I was still on probation, so I promptly zipped my lip.

However, the next morning on the way to work I pasted the pond, and it was a sea of white.  The white being the bellies of dead fish, turtles, birds, and anything else that was in that pond.  The PWO call for investigation by Army Medical Staff, to determine what caused the die off. They never found the bottle, and I never said a word until today.
 

Safety & Injuries

In our line of work safety is paramount, after all day and day out you are working with electricity, high pressure steam and water, in tunnels and/or vaults, on top of multi- story buildings, exposed to hazardous fumes and vapor, slippery work surfaces, rotating equipment, and just plain dangerous conditions.  Then add in someone who is careless and clueless like my first foreman, you develop a high regard for safe working conditions.

A couple of examples of my supervisors clueless beside the leaking chorine bottle mentioned last week were:

We were on the fifth deck (floor to non-navy personnel) on an apron, surrounding the sixth deck.  We had set up a scaffold to drill into cement beams at the top of sixth deck, to hang a new set of stairs.  My supervisor had spelled me on the drill, and was pushing on it so hard, the roll around scaffold was tipping backwards.  The height of scaffold was higher than the width of building apron, so if the scaffold did tip over we were going to fall five stories.  I fairly calmly reached over and pull the power cord to the drill, and when it stopped, he stopped pushing so hard and the scaffold came back to vertical.  Told the boss it was me or me running the drill, and it was against union contract rules for him to work. And before I went back up the scaffold I secured it to the building.

On another occasion we were working on a ventilation fan that the lubrication had failed and scoured the bearings.  This fan had a 4 inch by 12 foot shaft and blower wheel was about 12 feet in diameter.  Of course that fan provides exhaust to the chemistry labs and had to run when classes were in session.

I had the brainstorm to pull the shaft and reverse it, as that would put un-touched shaft surfaces in the new bearing blocks.  Our supervisor agree, and then wanted to stand that humungous fan and shaft upright and using a jack to push the shaft out of the fan.  Now we are in a room with about 4 foot of clearance between the fan housing and the walls.  And we are all mincemeat if that and shaft tip over while we are jacking on the shaft.  Finally convinced the boss to use a couple of chain fall and pull the fan off the shaft while in a vertical position.

I still laugh about the next incident, even if it was only hazardous to my boss.  The station sewers emptied into sewer vault and a set of sewer lift pumps pumped the sewage across the road and up a small hill to the city of Monterey sewage plant.

We had a call sewage was running out the door of pump shed.  When we got there, we found the pumps running, but the level in vault just kept going up, and the pumps never stopped running.  We quickly discovered the check values on the output lines were not closing, which allowed the sewage to flow back into the vault.  We took the top off the check values and found the flappers of both were being held open by condoms that had gotten tangled around the flapper part of the value. I had paused go to the service truck to get some rubber gloves and to figure out how to remove the condoms. When I went back into the pump house, I saw my boss had taken a pair of channel locks and was pulling on the condoms, you wouldn’t believe how far they will stretch.  About that time they pulled lose, and promptly wrapped around his face and neck. And then he un-wraps them from face and neck with his bare hands.

Now remember these our used condoms that have been through the station sewage system.  God only know what diseases they were or could have been carrying.  Of course the good lord looks out for idiots and he didn’t develop anything from having his face and neck wrapped in used condoms.

Now who writes the instruction requesting randy young Naval Officers to put their used condoms in the trash and not down the toilet!

Don’t ask me how I got the covers back on the check values, as I was laughed so hard I could hardly see.

One of more serious work injuries occurred one of my employees, when I was the Foreman of Emergency Services.  This chap was working as a temporary truck driver. He was driving a dump truck with a gravity back gate.  i. e. When you raised the bed of the truck the gate opened at the top, and the load slid out, and when you lowered the truck bed the gate closed—with a bang.

On this occasion he had started to lower the bed, when he noticed part of load was hung up and not coming out of the bed.  So the genius reached under the gate and pulled the obstruction clear. By that time the bed had cross the tipping point and down came the gate. It MASHED not cut his thumb off. 

I was close by and hear the call on our radio.  Shot over to scene, got a tourniquet on his arm, and Para-medics had arrived to take him to the hospital. Being government employees the Par-medics didn’t think to look for severed member.  So my leader and I jumped in the dumpster and routed around until we found the mashed off thumb.  Which we put in an ice filled jar and took to the hospital.

Long story short, they re-attached his thumb, and he regained about 76% usage.

When I was the Public Works Superintendent, the Admiral congrulated me on our shops safety record.  At the time I thought I was being witty and told him, “Safety is like liberty, it take eternal vigilance to keep it.” Now I firmly believe there was more truth than humor in the remark.

More Injuries

One of the stranger employee injuries occurred when a Wood Craftsman was running a planner in the shop. He pushed a piece of wood over the planning surface, and cut off the tips of 6 fingers about a 1/64th of an inch. Of course there was enough blood splashed around to look like he had cut his finders off! The planner blades spun at over 10,000 rpm and are sharper than a razor blade.  The employee didn’t even realize it had planned his fingers until the blood covered his safety glasses to the point he couldn’t see.  There was blood everywhere, including 30 feet in the air on the ceiling. Guess it goes without saying there was a labeled “pusher” device available at the machine.

Pressure bandages stopped the bleeding, but the employee was off work for several weeks. Not much a mechanic can do with 6 fingers in bandages and hyper sensitive to touch. When asked why he hadn’t used the “pusher” he stated he was in a hurry to get the piece of wood to fit what he was working on.  Maybe that’s how the old saying, “Haste makes Waste,” got started.  Of course under the worker compensation regulations he drew full pay until he could work again.

One of my electricians “Crazy George” by name was working on the street lighting.  He had not secured the power, as he was only going to check the blub.  These street lights were more than 50 years old and the power voltage is 2,200 volts.  Instead of setting up his step ladder next to the fixture to check the blub, he leaned his ladder against the light fixture and climbed up the ladder.  At the time the 50 plus year old rusted out light fixture gave way and fell over and separated into its separate cast iron sections.  Since he had NOT secured the power, he is now lying in a pile with fixture section and a skinned 2,200 volt power line ready to zap any and everything within touch.  Somehow he didn’t get shocked.

But of course the old street lights where a series circuit (like your Christmas lights) and with one location out, the whole section was out.   And you don’t buy 50 year old light fixture parts at the local supply store.  To restore the street light to the Senior Officer section, we remove the light, cut the wiring and spliced in across the crumbled light fixture spot.

This is only one of “Crazy George’s” adventures.  Later on there will be whole chapters of this chaps activities.

Of course in the spirit of full disclosure, I must relate the facts of my own on the job injury. There had been a breakage of a 8” sewer pipe in the basement of main administration building—The Old Del Monte Hotel. There was about 6’’ of water and sewer trout (our polite term for chucks of shits and other good stuff) floating around in the area.  Normally, not a hassle, but the Electrical Distribution Panels were in the same space, and some were only a foot of the floor.  I had just reached the decision to bring in some generator driven lift pumps to keep the sewage from getting into the electrical panels, when I slipped and started to fall.  Normally, I would just duck and roll into the fall, but didn’t want to dive into the sewer trout, so jerked and yanked myself to keep from falling—and tore the cartilage in my right knee.

Being an on the job injury, permission was required before the surgery could be scheduled, and that only took about 4 months, while I hobbled around on a cane at work.  The surgery was a success according to Doctor—they removed all the cartilage. Post op he told me I would probably experience some pain.  He was correct—just 27 years of it.

And that’s not all folks, 14 days after the operation I experienced a pulmonary embolism and live through, even though ¾ of my lungs were covered with blood clots.  10 days after getting out of intensive care for that, was back in intensive care for warfarin poisoning—over dose of blood thinners.

So after about 6 weeks I’m back to work and everything is going swell, until I get a Letter from the Bureau of Labor (the folks who pay for federal on the job injuries and lost time pay).  The letter informed me my claim was denied, as heart attacks are not covered under federal on the job injuries regulations. Let me tell you, I dam near had one!

I wasn’t having much success dealing with BOL (Bureau of Labor), so asked my boss (The Public Works Office) to try explain the difference between a heart attack and a pulmonary embolism to the BOL GS-7 Claims Examiner.  The Public Works Officer was an O-6 (a 6 on a scale of 10) Commander lost his patience with the person and did raise his voice, at which time the GS-7 promptly hung up on him.  It was worth to see the look on his face.

It finally took a letter from the surgeon with a cover letter from the Admiral to the Regional Head of BOL to get it straighten out and have my claim approved. 

More Hazardous Work

One of the most dangerous jobs I and a co-worker and friend ever accomplished was cap off a leaking chlorine bottle.  One of the clerks, who worked in supply yard, came into the office and complained about a terrible odor in the yard.

Of course as soon as we got close enough to smell it, we realized it was chlorine.  We called our fire department, who didn’t have the slightest on how to handle the leak.  They tripped the mutual aid button, and shortly we had ever Fire Department on the Monterey Peninsula–NPS Fire, Monterey Fire, Seaside Fire, Carmel Fire, Pacific Grove Fire, Del Rey Oaks Fire, Marine Public Safety, Ft. Ord Fire, Presidio of Monterey Fire, and California Forestry on the way or on the scene.

 All that Fire Power and no one had any idea what to do.  It fact they were discussing an evacuation the station until the gas dissipated.  Only problem, the 150 cubic foot bottle had a very small leak seep, which turned to gas when the bottle pressure was removed and it was going to take a month of Sundays before the bottle leaked out.

 While all that was going Bob and I had gone to Swimming Pool Chlorinator building, as we knew there were Chlorine rated respirators available there.  In the same closest as the respirators there was a big wooden box labeled Chlorine Capping Kit, so we took it with us, back to the scene of the leak.

Apparently, 99.9% of Chlorine bottle leaks occur where the value screws into the bottle. The brass value and the steel bottle don’t play well together, and the electrical/chemical reaction causes pin-hole leaks. Sure enough that was the problem in this case.  However, none of fire departments wanted to try capping the bottle, as “they hadn’t been trained and it was their equipment.”  Lack of guts was my personal belief!

So Bob and I put on the respirators and haz-mat suits, took the capping kit and capped off the leak.  The kit was just a steel cup with a gasket on the bottom that fit over the value and rested on bottle.  The steel cup had loops on each side with chains that fasted to the plate the bottle was placed in.  That way the cap was chained down into one piece, and even if it fell over, the cover would stay in place.

The assorted Fire Departments turned out their lights and sirens and went back to their stations (to polish their brass I assume), and we threw away the haz-mat suits, took a cold shower and went to lunch.  Just another day in Public Works!

One of the major friction points in my marriage was the fact I would not wear a wedding ring.  Of course I did not wear any kind of jewelry, not even a wrist watch. When you put your hands in small spaces with electricity, hot gases, and hot liquids, you DO NOT want anything on them that is such a good conductor as gold or silver.

This was my MO even before what happened to Bob one day.  We were installing some new copper refrigerate lines.  And had reached the place where we had to install a piece of copper pipe into a T fitting from below.  For the un-aware, soldering a joint from below is the one of the difficult types of soldering one can do.  And since this was a refrigerate line under high pressure, the joint had to be soldered with silver solder.  That type of solder flows around 1500 degree F.

Bob was holding the pipe into the T and soldering the joint, when a drop of solder fell out, hit his hand, and promptly flowed around and under his wedding ring. Of course he is screaming in pain, but we had a bucket of water on hand for a fire watch.  I stuck his hand in the water, but the band was still hot enough to burn, in fact it had seared its self to his finger.

I snatched up a pair of “dikes,” (wire cutting pliers) and cut the ring on either side. Of course by then the ring was seared to his finger.  I had to take a pocket knife and cutting the ring pieces off.  He hasn’t worn a wedding ring since, but then he has a nice band of scar tissues in place of ring.  Needless, to say neither have I woren a ring even after I retired.

Building Problems

While working at NPS, I was involved with the construction, putting into service, and maintenance of 4 major buildings. One of the oddities of Navy Facilities procedures is the Facilities Command labels’ all buildings and structures by a building number, while the folks in the building refer to it by name. You can imagine what a hassle this is for the folks on the trouble desk, when taking the calls and dispatching the workers.

The first building I was involved with, was Ingersoll Hall, better know to Public Works as Building 330. Please remember all these building were built under contract.  The first major problem was all the steam lines inside the building were not insulated by the builder.  Someone left the requirement off the specifications in the contract.  Of course the steam vault was right next to the electrical vault where all the building controls were located, and the high temperature from the steam lines caused all the controls to trip out.

The solution was to insulate the steam lines, sounds simple eh. Of course the lines were a maze and next to the walls.  JP and I built cardboard forms around the lines and values and then mixed and poured a liquid solution into them, which turned into foam insulation when cured. Sounds simple, but we spent over a month completing that job, and most of the time the temperature was over a 100 degrees F.

Now the building would stay on line we got a call from the head of the Computer Department informing us his computers had arrived and needed to be hooked up. This was the first week of December and they needed to be functional by the second week of January the beginning of the new academic quarter.

I was a fine foreman at the time, but all of the Air Conditioning Mechanics worked for me, so we went over to take a look.  UNBELIVEABLE, there was nothing but a football sized empty room, and bunch of car size cartons on the loading dock.  There was no dedicated electrical service for computers and no air conditioning equipment.  Luckily the room did have a raised floor for computer installation and one wall was glass windows. After the engineers read all the specifications and determined what the electrical power requirement for the IBM 300 series computers, lo and behold the electrical transformers installed with the building did not have enough capacity to run the computers.

So for power transformers we checked other Navy bases, and found transformers at Navy Weapons Station China Lake. Sent a crew to pick up the transformers and contacted PG & E (the local utility) to arrange a service drop to the new transformers, and started the wiring work from the transformers to the computers.

Now to the air conditioning, the engineers had determined the computers would need 25 to 30 ton of air conditioning capacity to keep the computers from tripping out due to heat.  That’s a lot of air conditioning when you consider the average house has about a 3 or less ton capacity air conditioning unit.  After much head scratching we decided to use 5 ton self-contained commercial roof top units. We set them on the ground and had the cold air discharge into and under the computer room flooring. This was accomplished by removing the windows and using a short run of duct to discharge under the raised flooring. Oh by the way there were six of these installations.  Six 5 ton units equal 30 tons of required cooling air requirement.

We worked on this project 14 hours a day, seven days a week, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.  Many of the employees had scheduled leave cancelled and were ordered to work on the holidays.  Under civil service rules working on a holiday, gets you regular pay scale, plus the holiday pay. I recall talking to a grocery checker on New Years Day who was been paid triple time.

To make a long story shorter, we did get all the support equipment installed and the computers online for the start of next academic quarter.  Now the best part, Public Works did NOT receive even a thank you note from the department head. 

My personal belief is, he didn’t want to acknowledge he had dropped the ball, by not including the power and cooling requirements in the building specifications—what hell it was just one of the major computer centers in the Navy at the time.

More building tales next week!!

 

EEO (EQUAL EMPLOYEMENT OPPORTUNITY) 

Sorry about last week folks, but we were at my son’s and wife’s home for an early Thanksgiving.  He is also a federal civil servant (Custom and Border Protection Agent) stationed at the Sacramento airport. And of course knew he would have to work on Thanksgiving Day and weekend.

Due to all the items in the news last week regarding alleged sexual harassment, I’m doing a story on that, this week instead of building problems.

During most of my career I was an EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) Counselor, a Class Action EEO Counselor, and chairperson of the EEO Committee.

One of my first case’s as a Counselor was an allegation of sexual discrimination.

An employee of the Navy Exchange (the Navy’s Wal Mart) stopped, and stated that the Cashiers Department Manager had offered her a supervisory position in exchange for sex on demand. Not just once, but any time he desired!

I found it hard to believe, at that time frame (Top Gun Sex Scandal period) any Navy employee would even think of such actions.

Scheduled an appointment with the chap and advised of the allegation made against him.  Ask him if he had anything to say.  And he promptly told me it that basically the allegations were true—he expected sex in return for the promotion to supervisory cashier.  I’m sure my jaw hit the table, this chap is admitting to sexual discrimination.

But then he smugly told me but the offer was NOT sexual discrimination.  When I could speak again, I ask him why not?  He confidently explained to me, that: since all the applicants were female and he had made the same demand to all, it couldn’t be sexual discrimination.

I didn’t even bother to try and explain the facts of life, much sexual discrimination facts to him. But returned to my office and called the Supply Officer, the person in charge of the Navy Exchange. Relayed the facts of the case to him and suggested he separate the chap ASAP.  I had previously cleared Separation as satisfactory resolution with the complainant.

Fortunately for resolution purposes, as a Navy Exchange employee he did not have federal civil service status, and could be separated (fired) at will.  The Supply Officer called him in and discharged and escorted him off the station that day.

However, it still perturbs me to this day, that he could see nothing wrong with his actions.

More EEO

Under the federal system there are (where) 7 classes or certifications than could qualify for discrimination status.  If you, were a green 3 armed green 4 foot tall person, you were out of luck.  You had to fit one of the classes.  I’m having trouble remember the class’s  as I’m writing this, but hopeful they will all come back, as I put down some of details of the cases I worked on.  Race, national origin, age, sex, and religion are the ones I can recall off the top of my head.  National origin is the code word for Hispanic.  Plus there were several programs that the EEO officials oversaw and supported: Federal Women Program, Hispanic Surname Program, Asian Pacific Program, Black History Program, and the EEO Employee, EEO Supervisor, EEO Military Supervisor, EEO Manager, and the EEO Official of the Year Program.  I was awarded everything but the Military Supervisor award, during the years I was involved in the assorted EEO programs. There was also a standing committee that reviewed merit promotions list (i.e. job selection lists) for EEO compliance, that I served on until that program was changed to full time EEO officials oversight.

In any event, we had one lady who was active in the various EEO programs, but had the odd habit of changing her status every year.  Oh, guess I forget to mention—one could self-certify that they were a member of a protected group. She changed her certification from Hispanic Surname to America Indian every other year.  The interesting part was her married name was Dixon and she blonde and blue eyed.  The lady was also married to a retired Army Master Sergeant who was Hispanic.

Her son named Jesus Dixon applied for a job with Dole Foods, one of the major employers in Salinas, CA.   The applicant asked if he was bi-lingual and he checked Yes, and was hired for a trainee Supervisor position.  The third day on the job, it was obvious he wasn’t functional in Spanish.  The second level supervisor and the Personnel Office call him in, and were criticizing him for taking a bi-lingual position when he could not speak Spanish. At that time he pointed out to the hiring officials the application asked if he was bi-lingual, but did NOT ask in what languages.  The young man was fluent in spoken and written German.  The family had been stationed in Germany over 10 years and he had attended German Schools.

I was pleased to learn that not only government personnel ASSUME things with un-desired results, but big industry commit the same error.

More EEO

The pointless case that aggravated me the most, went like this:

The Federal Police Chief was a black chap (that was before the African-American term came into use). One of his poorest employees (a Patrolman,) was a white chap.  It was my personal opinion if you looked up useless in the dictionary, it would display his picture.

Every time he was reprimanded or even hollered at for poor job performance, he would file a reverse discrimination case. This particular time he was being suspended without pay for 3 days for sleeping on the job.  There were two witness from outside the police department, that stated he had been asleep in his patrol car.

After I informed him, he could not file a discrimination case resulting in disciplinary actions due to job performance, he asked what his appeal rights were.  Being aggravated at the time I told him, “You can appeal it to the Secretary of the Navy, if you want to waste your time and everyone else’s.”  He said, “Oh!” and went off to serve his unpaid suspension.  Please note, he could have been fired not just suspended.

About 30 days later I got called up to the Superintendent’s Office to explain, why I had advised an employee to file an appeal on non-appealable action with the Secretary of Navy.  Of course I had no idea of what had occurred, until I was shown his appeal file, and in it, he stated that the EEO Counselor (Me) had advised him to file an appeal with the Secretary of Navy.  If he had been present, I would have torn him apart with my bare hands.

Fortunately, having some time in civil service, I was in the habit of keeping written record of my EEO cases.  And in this case I had the closing summary in writing that contained my actual statement to him about the Secretary of the Navy.  And the employee had even signed off on it.  Gives you some idea of his IQ.

At the point, I would like to blow my own horn, regarding EEO and various employees:

During my watch:

Hired the first female laborer.

Hired the first female truck driver.

Hired the first female craft journeyperson.

Hired the first female-minority production controller.

Hired the first female supervisor.

Hired the first minority supervisor.

Conceived and implement a laborer to craft journeyman training program.

Recommend hiring the first female EEO Officer.

I was raised that everyone should have an equal chance in life, and applied that belief during my working career.  Not preference, just a chance, and if you didn’t or couldn’t perform to standard, I would be the first to correct and/or separate you.

 

Holiday & Other Events

My apologies to my faithful readers, but son came to visit the week before Christmas and then I got busy with other holiday events.  But back on the wagon and will try to do an episode a week in the future.

Reading about Christmas bonuses in the business section of local newspaper, gave me a rueful laugh.  Because in 38 years of service and saving Uncle and you millions of dollars over the year, the total amount of Christmas bonuses I received was ZERO.  And I was not discriminated against.  The U.S. Government does NOT award Christmas bonuses.  It might have something to do with Christmas being a religious holiday, and the government adhering to the first amendment.

In any event, it was one of the reasons the civilian Public Works supervisors held a holiday and other party for their employees.  These events were paid for by the supervisors and what funds we could raise with a raffle. One of our employees was a big time wild hog hunter, and usually provided a pig or two for the Christmas party.  We also had turkey and all the fixings including all the deviled eggs you could eat.

I mention the eggs because over time the deviled eggs became the Seabee’s job.  And it is a job to cook, peal, mix, and stuff 20 dozen eggs.  Sound like a lot, until you know the events were free to the employees and their families.  Of course after a couple of years, every other department on station, started showing up for the Christmas party.

I recall one year I found the City of Monterey fire fighters in the food line.  When questioned they assured me they had been invited by the Naval Postgraduate School Fire Fighters.

During the early years, drinking (alcohol) was tolerated.  However, after some near disasters, I put my foot down and pointed out the liability we were incurring, drinking was no longer tolerated and/or allowed.  Some of near disasters included:

Finding an employee nearly comatose, and taking home in my car, and having his mother ask me, “What did you do to him?”

A spur of the moment drag race around the buildings, and nearly running over the Navy Captain, in charge of Facilities management.

One of the painters holding another painter by ankles and shaking him up and down, while hollering, “I know you took my candy cane and I want it back.”

One of the electricians insisting on giving me his whole pay check (in cash), to help out with the party.  And on Monday morning, wondering what happened to his pay check.  I let him worry until Wednesday morning. 

And then the topper, the duty boiler operator left the plant (drunk) and went home, without didn’t notify anyone.  The plant was operating at 90% firing rate on two 25,000 pounds of steam per hour.  Don’t ask me why I stopped at the plant on my way home and found it un-attended.

So drinking was banned, before we all lost our houses!!!

Over the years it became an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) process.   Nearly everyone had the same job each year and carried it out.  All line supervisors baked a turkey at home and brought it the day of the event.  The Seabees did the eggs, the office folks did the setup and clean up, and etc.

The last ten years or so we even jollied the military officers into serving the food.  Up to and including the Superintendent a two star Admiral.  At one time we had one of the first female Admirals as our Superintendent. At the time the Chief of Naval Operations was receiving a lot of publicity about being the Sailor’s Admiral!  So I had plaque made up and presented it to her at the Christmas party.  The Plaque cited her as the Employee’ Admiral, and therein is one of my claims to fame.  It actually brought tears to her eyes.  Not everyone can make an Admiral cry.

We also gave an expensive gift to the raffle winner every year.  For two years my blind administrative assistant won the 25” color TV.  She was the spouse of an officer student and it was only after they had transferred, I discovered she had been punching braille symbols on to her raffle tickets, so she could locate it by touch while drawing the tickets.

And we had her draw the tickets because she was blind!

In October of 1994 the Navy took over base operations of Fort Ord and the Presidio of the Monterey, due to base closures.  My work force went from around 150 employees to over 350 on October 1st of 1995, with a corresponding increase in supervisory personnel.  Came time for the Christmas party, most of the new supervisors were un-accustomed to doing anything for the employees, and were reluctant to pay for the party.

At a planning meeting one of new supervisors even suggested that we take a vote on whether we would even hold the party.  I agreed on the spot, however, I did point out I voted last, and my vote was the only one that would be counted.

Command Events—Graduations, Change of Commands, Military Balls, Conferences (NATO), Award Ceremonies, Concerts in the Park, etc.

My first supervisory job (line foreman) was over the Emergencies Services (ES) Work Center 30.  Basically, I had one or more of each of the trades, and we were the first responders to any trouble calls received by phone.  We either resolved the problem or secured it and referred it to the trade shop required.  If you are wondering how Command Event setups were an emergencies, all I can tell you is—fail to have a graduation or change of command ready—and you had a world class emergency on your hands.

The Naval Postgraduate School operates on the ‘quarter basis,’ and accordingly had four graduations per year.  A time I took over ES Work Center, three graduations per year were held outside and the fourth inside in an auditorium—King Hall or Blg. 237 to PW.

The graduations were held in plaza between two of the academic buildings. There is a wide sidewalk next to the street, with about 6 steps down to the plaza level.  So the platform setup was placed on the sidewalk, and participants and guests were seated faced them.

Sounds simply, until you realized that a mimum of 1,500 folding chairs had to be moved from storage, setup as requested—3 main blocks with rows of 20 chairs each.  And oh by the way, the chairs had to be aligned perfectly straight.  I was shocked to find out the chairs were moved by hand to a truck, taken off by hand, and placed in position by hand.  There was also a graduation rehearsal, which resulted in the chairs being moved out of place.  So after the rehearsal the chairs all had to be re-set to their perfect alignment.  And since there is usual morning fog in Monterey, the day of graduation all the chairs had to be hand wiped, to assure they were dry and alignment maintained.

After graduation the chairs were picked up by hand, put on a truck, and re-loaded back into the holding facility.  I and my Mover Leader, sat down and designed a folding chair holder.  It was simply some pipe welded together with ends on it, so the chair legs fit over the pipe runners and ends held them in place and with 4” casters welded on the bottom so they could be rolled around.  Each device would hold 25 chairs compared to the 4 or 5 a person could carry by hand.

Prior to the design and use of the chair holders, it took around 500 hours to setup and tear down graduation.  Approximately 100 hours of that time was overtime.  The graduation were always held at 1500 (3 PM civilian time) on Friday afternoon.  So picking up the chairs and other gear and returning to storage was automatically an overtime event.  The standard shift hours were 0800 to 1630.  By using the chair holders the total time was cut in half and the overtime to a couple of hours, instead of the 4 to 5 hours required for hand handling.  We built and started using the chair carts in 1972, and the same chair carts are still in use today.

The platform setup consisted of “Captain’s Chairs,” the lecterns, the US, Navy, and other appropriate Flags and stands and public address system. We also installed a waist high steel pipe fencing around the platform area and draped it with a blue bunting for wind protection.  The wind comes up at 1500 like clockwork in Monterey.

And as a backup, the auditorium had to have a duplicate setup, in case of rain.

After 23 years of 3 times a year of outside graduations, when I became Superintendent, I finally convinced the Academic Council to hold all the graduations inside King Hall. The major factor being, the Council had to start paying for the graduation expenses rather than being borne by Public Works funding.

June graduation was always the largest event, with friends, family, and peers from all over the world attending.  65 degrees F. is a warm day in Monterey in the summer time and wind comes up just as the event starts.

The female attendees would be in frilly low cut summer dresses and big floppy hats.  We often wondered if that was an east coast graduation uniform.  I stationed several people at the back of seating every time, to catch the hats that were blown off.

My help and I used to joke, we could fund our retirement, if we ran a coat rental service nearby, rather than a coat check service.  Just remember blue collar humor is a little different and earthy that most.

 Customer Service

At one time we operated 4 trouble desks.  i.e. A phone number and a dispatcher to answer call for service.  Theoretically, trouble calls were for emergencies only-loss or danger to life and/or property. Two of the trouble desks were strictly for housing calls, and the other two were for facilities problem, excepting the Presidio of Monterey which handled both types of calls. The two housing trouble desk calls serviced over 2,500 military housing units.  Tenant’s grade ranged from Lt. General-Vice Admiral to E-1.

Housing problems and responses may well rate a separate book.

One of the facilities calls that always gave me a chuckle, went like this:  Received a call from a professor at NPS regarding painting his office.  Not an emergency so the call had to be transferred to the planning and scheduling person.  He was trying to set a date to paint his office, but the professor/customer refused to pick a date, until he had a chance to look at the color samples.  Slight problem, government office, no color choices, all office spaces were painted off-white.

However, the professor insisted on seeing color samples.  Master Scheduler asked me what to do?   So I had the Paint Shop Foreman make up 6 different samples of the off white paint we used—using the various trade names—but all the same color.  The foreman took the samples over to the chap, and lo and behold he picked out one.  So we painted his office his color of choice—OFF WHITE.  Often wondered if he realize we were screwing with him or not.

I frequently stayed after quitting time, to sign purchaser orders, check email, and chat with my supervisors.  One evening approximately 30 to 45 after base quitting time, the trouble desk number was ringing.  Lacking good sense I picked it up, just to make sure there was NOT a major problem on station.

A frantic lady informed me her car battery was dead on her POV (privately owned vehicle).  I try to explain to her that the number she was calling was for facility problems and she should call AAA.

She immediately informed me, she was in her office, and the station phone book had the number of the trouble desk in bold 2 inches letters on the front of it—and she had TROUBLE—her car wouldn’t start.  I forget all the reasons, it was such a major problem for her.  In any event I took my POV and jumper cables over to her office’s parking lot and jumped started her car for her.  She thanked and drove away, and I drove off to home, just smiling all the way.

Water and its Problems

I watched the show Semper Fi TV show this week, about the water contamination at Camp Le June Marine Corp Base.  I was disgusted, amazed, and ashamed.  During my years in Public Works we maintained, repaired, and operated domestic water systems for numerous DOD facilities. At one time we were supplying water to over 3,000 military housing units.

CLEAN SAFE DRINKING WATER WAS A GIVEN!!

We had a head start, since we received our water for most of our customers via a Water Public Utility, which had to meet California State Water Safety Standards.   Our major function was fluoridation of the water. Nasty stuff, we received it in concentrated solution in 30 gallon plastic drums, and handled it as hazardous material. We used water driven metering pumps to add it to the water in thousands of milligrams per gallon.  The DOD standard called for a weekly check of the metering and delivery pumps.  Under my watch as a Foreman, General Foreman, and Superintendent, it was checked daily.  We also had (another) metering pump in place in case the on-line pump developed problems.  The metering pumps were also checked for calibration per the manufacturer’s directions and re-calibrated if required.

When the domestic water lines were opened for service, we had a 3 page check list to complete after service to assure the lines were sanitized and flushed.

The only time I know of the water being contaminated occurred when the indicator float on one of the 200,000 gallons water tanks came loose.  The float which controlled the pumps had detached from the line and floated away from the top of the tank opening.

The tank was full and we were in the midst of the seven year drought on the Monterey Peninsula If we emptied the tank we had no way to reach the inside bottom of the 40 foot high tank.  I asked my co-worker, “can you Swim?”  When he replied, “Yes.”  I informed him he was IT.  He stripped down to shorts, dropped in the tank, swam over and recovered the float and fastened it back in place, and went on to the next call.

Of course I did promise the chap I would cut his dick off, if he pissed in the tank!!

Now Ft. Ord, when the Navy took over base operations was another story.  Ft. Ord’s water supply was via wells.  The first week I discovered they had only been testing it monthly, and no one knew the last time the Fluoride metering pump had been checked for calibration.

I promptly contracted with the Water Utility to daily test the water for compliance with California State Standards, and assigned the fluoride metering pump check out and operation to my Navy Public Works people.

While we were in the Water treatment station, it seem too quiet to me, and I noticed there seemed to be pieces parts of pumps and motors scattered all over the place.  I asked the former Army employee if there were any major problems.  I was really surprised to learn that there was one operational water pump for the water system servicing 13,000 acres, 2500 housing units, and un-counted office buildings.  One of the buildings was the Defense Accounting System for the western United States—the folks that wrote our pay checks.

When I could speak again, I asked, “Why, they had let the system get in such bad condition.  Seemed they had been under closure study for five years, and the Commanding General would not authorize any capital repairs. Fortunately, for the General he had left before the water system failed completely.

Back to the Marine Base, the TV show stated that a Marine Major knew about the problem, but declined to take any action.  That may well be true, as the Marine Officers assigned to station facilities management and maintenance are basically Infantry Officers.  On the other hand Navy Public Works Officers are required to be certified engineers.

However, there was a senior civilian manager (Utilities Superintendent?) who had to have knowledge of the problems and took no corrective action.  The un-written major job of Senior Civilian Managers, is to keep their Military bosses out of trouble.  Protection of life and property is the reason for the existence of Facility Managers.

Whoever that person was, he is a disgrace to Public Servants everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SILLY SERVICE

Ivan E Gillis

Silly Service is a weekly episode (to be compiled into an ebook) my of years as a federal civil servant. As noted below, I started my civil service career on March 4th 1968 and retired October 1, 2005, with 38 years service.  I know the numbers don’t equal 37 years, but at the time one could add accrued sick leave to your years of service calculation, which gave me 38 years service.

I started as a Journeyman Maintenance Machinist and retired as the Public Works Superintendent.

March 4th 1968 was a Monday, and the day I started my Civil Service Career.  I was told to report to the CPO (Civilian Personnel Office) at 0800 to check in. It was also the day I started learning the 24 hours time system and bureaucratese a language of and for Civil Service and Military personnel.

 At the time we lived in Aptos, CA, about 20 miles south of Santa Cruz, CA.  Monterey, the home of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School was about 40 miles around the bay.  I left early and found it a much easier commute that going over the hill is San Jose.

Various clerks explained my benefits to me, took my fingerprints, my photo, and etc.

Then came the oath to support and defend the constitution.  Since I was a birth right Quaker I asked to ‘affirm’ the oath, rather than swearing to it.  The CPO office was not familiar with that procedure, and had to get approval from the JAG (Judge Advocate General) officer—the Navy’s lawyer.  He found it pretty humorous that a Quaker was going to work for the Navy.  But I had 2 children and wife to support, and $3.25 per hour looked pretty good that morning.  It was a whole .15 per hour more that I was making at the previous job.

Escorted to shops and introduced to the General Foreman, and Work Center Foreman, who was my new immediate supervisor.  Found it interesting that all the supervisors and most of the workers were mostly retired military with the majority being Navy Chiefs retirees. Also most were 10 t 15 years older than me and I was 35 at the time.

Asked Ray (the new boss) when I should bring my car around and unloaded my hand tools and welder’s equipment.  Much to my surprise, I learned that the Navy furnished all the hand tools and equipment.  Of course the welding gear appeared to be left over from WWII.  The fact that no one in any of shops could weld, might have had something to do with it.

One of my new co-workers took me for a tour of the facilities I would be working on.  The station covered around 100 acres, plus the Navy side of the Airport and 1,500 units of Navy housing.  And my then it was quitting time, and I hadn’t picked up a tool all day.

As I was leaving, Ray gave me an organization chart of NPS from the Superintendent (a 2 Star Admiral) down to my assigned work center 30—outside Machinists.  Of course at the time having a 2 Star Flag Officer in charge didn’t mean much to me.  I was working for the Public Works Department, headed by Naval Officer, then the Civilian General Foreman, and then the line foreman of a work centers.  The work centers were by trades and included: Plumbers/Pipefitters, Outside Machinists, Electricians, Carpenters, Painters, Boiler Plant Operators, Auto & Heavy Equipment Mechanics, Equipment Operators &  and a Labor Crew.

 Looked like a pretty good place to work, and was sure I could handle anything I was asked to do. Remember thinking on the way home—I can handle it for a couple of years and see how things go, and if it doesn’t work out I can always find another job.  Little did I know it was the start of a 38 year career, and I would retire as the Superintendent of the NPS Public Works Department.

Housing Mechanic Events

We left off in NPS housing last week, and as I was involved with housing as a Mechanic, Line Foreman, General Foreman, and Superintendent, will continue with some more housing episodes.

Mechanic:

Last week we talked about replaced wall heaters and installing temporary kitchens. Some of the other occurrences were, as follows:

At one time, the engineers in their wisdom decided all the natural gas valves had to be replaced due to a manufacturing defect.  This require going into occupied homes, shutting of the gas, taking the cover of the heater, removing the burner complete with gas value, taking to the shop and installing the new valve, going back to the house, re-installing the valve, hooking the natural gas supply back up and re-lighting the heater.

My co-worker was always expecting someone to do his work or show him how to do.  It fact when I spoke to him, it was always prefaced with, “Come on Walter.”  On this day he had pissed me off about something.  And I had told him do your own, “God Dam work.”  So we both had burners and replaced the gas valves in them.  The tricky part was the valves were “universal” made to fit almost any burner.  So beside the inlet and outlet there were 3 or 4 other outlets with a plastic plug in the opening.

We took our burners make, re-installed them, and were in the process of re-lighting, when Walter’s heater went WOOSH and there was fire coming out the front and top of the heater, hitting the ceiling and part way down the other wall.

About that time the lady of house, opened the door from a room and very politely asked, “Is that supposed to be that way?”  I’m purported to have answered, “Fuck NO!”  After which I grabbed a 12” Crescent Wrench (adjustable jaw wrench to picky folks), ran outside, around to the back looking for the master natural gas valves.  As the unit was a tri-plex there were 3 sets of natural gas valves, which I quickly turned off, some of which had been moved since the day they were installed.  I thought I was going to pull the gas lines out of the ground, before the valves closed.

Went back inside to determine what happened, only to discover Walter had not replaced the plastic plugs with a steel plugs.  Which had soon melted and let natural gas flow to the lit burner.  Send him back to the shop to do the valve installation correctly, while I try to figure out what to do with this ladies soot covered walls and ceiling. 

I knew the shop’s painters were working nearby, so went and begging a couple of them, to come to the fire site and re-paint the scorched walls.  Which they did, when they could stand up again after laughing so hard.

We thought we had dodged a bullet or least a reprimand, until the lady of house wrote the Public Works Officer (PWO) a very nice letter of commendation, for not burning down her house, and re-painting it the same day.  Fortunately, the PWO had a sense of humor and we only received a world class ass chewing.

On another occasion another co-worker and I went to answer a warm refrigerator call. Now the other chap was a Mormon and very shy.  One of our black co-workers once said, “He wouldn’t lick a hair pie, if you drug him through it face first.”  And little crude, but pretty accurate assessment of him.

The lady of the house was a fairly attractive big bosom lady wearing a house coat in midafternoon.  We opened the door to the refrigerator and were going to remove the items to work on it.  My co-worker was kneeled down with head against the door, when the lady of the house offered to help remove the times, and promptly pinned his head to the door with her tits.  I nearly choked trying to keep from laughing out loud.  He finally squirmed out and we checked out the reefer.  It was an older refrigerator with the freezer evaporator (the cold part) on top and depended on gravity for the cold air to cool the lower part of the refrigerator.  The shelves in the refrigerator when open wire type to allow the cold air to flow.  The lady of the house had neatly wrapped each shelve in aluminum foil, and the cold air couldn’t flow.

I knelt down on the floor with my head against the door, to explain to the lady of house why her vegetable bins were too hot.  But dang, I didn’t get by head pinned to door with tits.  But I still helped her take the foil off the shelves.

Received a call one weekend that a full Commander’s (big deal in the Navy) refrigerator wasn’t working and they had just bought two weeks’ worth of food which was spoiling. At the time there was a goofy policy that required the Housing Manager’s approval before a refrigerator could be re-placed.  Not that Housing Manager knew anything about refrigerators and/or refrigeration.

I decided to re-place it, as there was no guarantee I could repair it, and it was loaded with spoiling food.  Went to the warehouse, picked up a replacement 18 cubic foot refrigerator for a replacement.

Wheeled the dolly in, disconnected the non –working reefer, loaded on the dolly to remove it.  The kitchen had two doors—one to front hall way and one to carport.  The front hall has so much stuff in; there was not room to wheel the reefer out.  I opened the door to carport, and there was a car under a car cover.  I asked the officer 3 times to move the car while I moved the old refrigerator out and the new on in.  He insisted there was room to move the refrigerators without moving the car.

By this time I’m hot and tired and been wrestling 18’ reefers and dolly around by myself. So told him I try it.  While moving the old reefer out the dolly wheels hung up on the threshold, so I gave it an extra push and it got away from me.  To keep it from falling backward into the kitchen, I shoved up and out as hard as I could.  At that time I hear an ear-splitting wail of, “Oh MY GOD, Oh My God.”  I literally jumped over the refrigerator and dolly thinking I pinned a child under the reefer. 

What he was screaming about, was the reefer had hit the car.  How did I know it was a 911 Porsche, and I had asked him to move it 3 times?  So now he moves it, I take away the non-working unit and installed the new one—saving their two weeks of food.  As I was leaving he informed me, I was on report.  And I informed him I was a civilian and he could engage in an atomically impossibility with his report.

Of course he filed a complaint, and off to the Public Works Officer’s office again.  However, when the PWO hear I asked the chap to move his vehicle 3 times, the PWO excused me and had some very harsh words with the complaining officer. i.e. He had to pay for fixing his own car.

More Dog Encounters

Think I’ve already mentioned the Irish Setter Hound who wet me down, because I wouldn’t play with him.  Of course with 5,000 units and the assorted pets, and 50 to 75 mechanics working on and in the houses, there was no shortage of dog happenings.

JP and I were working furnace replacements, and had parked in the service alleyway in back of unit.  The unit had 3 foot or so picket fence surrounding the back yard.  The picket fence has 2 x 4’s for top and bottom rails.  I was facing the house working on the furnace lying in the back of the house.  JP was facing me on the other side of truck with his back to the picket fence.

The lady of the house opened the door and let out this pony sized St. Bernard dog.  He was a friendly curious sort, and without making a sound, wandered over and stood up with his front paws on the top rail of the picket fence.  Then he let a loud and very deep WOOF right in JP’s ear. You may find it hard to believe, but that 50ish mechanic cleared the bed of a ½ ton pickup in a single bound, and was standing shaking by me on my side of the truck.  I was laughing so hard I had to hang on to the truck to keep from falling down.  Of course JP is cussing me in his slow Tennessee drawl.  Of course all this set the dog off—who joined the fun by barking and howling—which would have made a good fog horn warning.

The lady of the house turned up and wanted to know, “What were we doing to her dog?”  By then I was laughing so hard, I could hardly get in the truck and drive away.

On another occasion, I went on a service call for a refrigerator to one of the newer units. These units when entered from the front door, had the living/dining room straight ahead, the kitchen off to the left, and a hallway with the bathrooms and bedrooms to the right.  I thought I had hear a dog growl, so told the lady of the house, secure your dog before I come in. She assured me, he was locked in a bedroom and besides he was a very friendly dog.

About that instant I heard scratching sounds, and look over my shoulder to see this Doberman Pinscher running full blast and slipping on the vinyl flooring.  The lady of the house starts screaming, “he won’t bite!”  Luckily I had a four pound ball peen hammer on my tool belt.  And when he leap for my throat showing at least 100 4 inch fangs, I slapped him in the ear, with the hammer.  Down he went—out like a blown blub.  I thought I had killed the dam dog for sure.  And of course losing conscious he had void shit and urine all over her floor. 

She is so shocked she can’t speak, and I’m so pissed off and scared, I wanted to pound the dog’s head into a pulp.  When she could speak the lady of the house kept insisting, “I told you he wouldn’t bite!”  And I kept assuring her, he wasn’t going to bite me.

After a few minutes the dog starting moaning, and quivering, and finally stood up, and skulked back down the hall.  While she cleaning up after her dog, I checked out her refrigerator (which had nothing major wrong with it) and told her due to its age and condition, I would recommend to the housing management that it be replaced with a new one.  Which was always, one of the big wishes of military wives.  We had reached a silent agreement to pretend her dog had not tried to rip my throat out, and I had not tried to kill it with one hammer blow.

Dog Events when a Line Foreman

My first supervisory job was as the line foreman for the Emergencies Services Work Center.  Basically, we were the first responders to anything that went wrong.  Our first priority was to secure any threat to life and/or property.  If the problem could be fixed in 2 hours or less, we fixed it, if not we referred to the trade shop (electric, plumbing, carpenter, painting, etc).

This shop was located on the main station of the Naval Postgraduate School, and included handling the Senior Officer Housing service calls.  Senior Officers in the Navy are Commanders O-5, Captains O-6, and Flag Officers O-7 and up. The housing units had been “cottages” attached to the Del Monte Hotel.

We had one resident, who absolutely refused to keep his dog secured.  Either locking in a room of the house when expecting a service call, or in his fenced yard at other times.  It was a black lab, with a bad temper, usual in its self.  This dog had put at least 3 of mechanics either on top of, or in their service truck, to keep from being attacked.

Lo and beholden, while standing on the ramp in front of my shop building, here comes that bad dog wandering through the parking lot.  I whistled at him and waived a roast beef sandwich, while leading him into the building, and then locking him into a storage room. I then call Base Security to tell that I had found a stray dog wandering through the parking lot and had it secured. 

In due time they sent someone to check it out, complete with a person from the County Pound to take possession of the dog.  Of course, the Security Officer recognized the dog, as their department had experienced the same problems with it.  Lacking much of back bone the Head of Security, call the Commander who owned the dog, and asked him to come pick it up.

The chap had steam coming out of his ears when he arrived.  How were we to know he was in a meeting with the Admiral-Superintendent of the School?  Apparently, the Admiral was a little un-happy about having to stop a meeting so a subordinate could tend to a pet problem.  I managed to assure the Commander, I had NO IDEA it was his dog, as it didn’t have a collar or any other ID.  With us both knowing full well, I knew whose dog it was, and I was sending him a message.  The Naval Officer did get the message, after that his dog was secured at all times.

As mentioned before our shop loading dock, faced one of NPS’s parking lots.  And needless to say parking was always a problem.  I was continuously having to have POV’s (Privately Owned Vehicle) removed from my clearly marked service truck parking area. The major offender was a chap who worked in the school’s print shop which was across the street in the main building.  This chap was about 2 clicks above a functional illiterate and working in the print shop. Another story.

Besides parking in my Service Truck spots, he brought his two Rhodesian Ridgeback Dogs to work with and left them in his old Dodge Station wagon all day.   He would come back at lunch time and walk and water them.  I had a hose bib on the corner of my building and that’s where he watered them.  Not in a pan or bucket, but by turning on the hose bib, and encouraging the dogs to drink from the gushing water.  Of course they ended up lapping up the water that ran on the ground.  I solved that by have the hose bid removed, I did have two plumbers working for me.  Jerk was going to file a grievance, but didn’t after the squirrel incident.

Of course the dogs did their business (number 1 & 2) all over the lawn in back of the Enlisted Club.  It goes without saying he never picked up after them.  So one day the dogs had both taken a major dump, and the owner was leading them back to his vehicle.  When a squirrel ran down an Oak tree, which caught the dogs attention.  They promptly took off on the dead run, jerked their owner on to his back and are dragging him across the lawn.  And they drug him right through the two piles of dog shit, and into the tree knocking him semi-conscious.  I saw this all from my shop’s office window, and when I could stop laughing enough to speak, call Security. Poetic Justice, Karma, PayBack, whatever, it was working.

Needless, to say, the dogs were NOT licensed, only dogs of residents are allowed on the station, and his station pass on his vehicle was out of date.  Long story short he had to take a bus to work and the dogs were put up for adoption.

The reason only resident dogs were allowed on station was because of a Contractor’s pit bulls.  Seem like you couldn’t be a federal contractor unless you had one or more pit bull dogs in the back of your pickup at all times.  The Admiral’s wife was walking her mid-size poodle across the lawn next to the main building. Of course out of pickup the dog the pit bulls came, the Admiral’s wife snatched up the poodle and ran for her house.  She made the house but only got the screen door closed, which the pit bull crashed through.

She called Emergency Services (my work center) rather than Security from the top of her washer dryer combo.  We found the dog’s owner, got them removed, and the Admiral’s wife off the top of her appliances.  When I asked her, “Why did you call Emergency Services instead of Security?”  She informed me, “that my number was on the back of the station phone directory in 3 inches letters and it WAS A GOD DAM EMERGENCY!!!”

This all occurred around 1500 (3:00 PM civilian time) on Friday. Monday morning at 0800 there was a new station instruction restricting dogs on station.  Henceforth, only station residents dogs could be present on station.  And they required a special highly visible tag, available from the Security Department.

From Dogs to Peacocks

NPS had a large flock of Peacocks left over from when it was a major resort hotel ran by a railroad.  The original railroad stop was still in place, when I started at NPS in 1968.

Granted Peacocks are beautiful birds, but most people don’t realize they shit like a horse (that’s a whole lot), and their call is unique and loud.  The most apt description is: their screech could raise the dead.

One of their favorite roosting places was above the portico at the front of the main building.  So course every morning the front steps were liberally covered with peacock droppings.  We had a standing job order, to wash the steps, every day before 0700. Now who does it on weekends?  Normally, the boiler plant operators handled all weekend and holiday calls, but boiler tending came first.

After much study, we covered the top of the portico with basically barbed wire, and the peacocks found a less visible roosting place.  One where the droppings only had to be cleaned up once a week.

During the mating season the males becomes very vocal and aggressive, and it is also when they stroll around with their tail feathers displayed.  On one occasion a fully displayed male bird was strolling through the main front parking lot.  When he saw his reflection from a brand new silver metallic painted Mercedes, he promptly attacked it.  He clawed and pecked at it, until he fell down exhausted.  Sounds pretty funny eh?  Tell it to the owner of Mercedes—the Provost of the School.  It cost over $2,000 to have the car repainted and this is in the early 70’s.

As I’ve mentioned before the main building, is the old hotel building.  It has a large entry way and lobby with a hallway to the ballroom.  The ceilings in these spaces are at least 30 feet high.  So, one Monday morning we get a call the drapes in the Ballroom hallway are falling down. The hallway had floor to ceiling opening windows looking out at the sunken gardens on either side, or the drapes where floor to ceiling in between.

About 50% of drapes where off or ready to fall off the hangers plus they were covered with peacock shit.  After twisting arms to find out what happened—we discovered two peacocks had wandered in from the front.  And the Quarterdeck personnel had tried to shoo they out, without opening the windows. Of course the birds when cornered flew around and were lighting on the hangers and drapes and shitting all over everything.

The drapes all had to come down, and when sent out for dry cleaning, it was discovered they were at least 50 years old, and the material was rotten.  When put in the dry cleaning fluid they promptly dissolved.  All new drapes had to be purchased and installed, and we had to check all the hangers to make sure they were still secured to the wall.  I never did find out what that little episode cost.

With some Navy personnel being slow learners, shortly afterwards another peacock wandered in the front door, and was strolling around the lobby.  In the attempt to shoo it out, it flew into the huge window (20 feet by 40 feet) over-looking the lawn and cracked it down the middle.  This window was installed when the hotel was build, about the mid 1880’s.  Where does one find a 20’ x 40’ sheet of 1” glass?  NOWHERE, the glass replacement was poured in England and air freighted to Monterey.  And when the new glass received, it was found to be 6” shorter on each side.  OK, now the glass doesn’t fill the hole.  We had to build new framing to fill the space of the original glass size to the glass size received.

And then pay a contractor to install the new glass.  Let me tell you it was a major hassle!  The total cost of that window replacement was in excess of $50,000, and that was in the 80’s.

After that incident a decision was made to remove the Peacocks.  The only hitch to that is catching them.  Luckily, that job went to the Seabees. I don’t know how they caught them, but they needed guidance on how to transport them.

The shops had built a holding pen, and the Seabees were collecting and delivering the Peacocks to the pen.  Of course, they just held them tightly to chest and climbed in the back and front of a pickup.  Of course by the time they arrived they were covered in Peacock Shit!  I had to sit down I was laughing so hard.  Their Chief Petty Officer nearly had a stroke.  He made them strip and washed them and their clothes off with cold water from a fire hose.  I pointed out to him that the government pickup was still covered in shit.  The chief then had the Seabees clean and washed the pickup, while shivering in their skivvies.

Thirty years later, I’m laughing so hard, I have to stop for this week.

Swimming Pool

For many years NPS had a functioning pool, which was larger than an Olympic Pool.  The water was heated at the main Boiler Plant and pumped to the pool and back.  The Pool was part of the original resort hotel facilities.  The pipes that carried the water back and forth to the pool were made out of 2” thick redwood strips shaped in an octagon and banded with copper strands.  The biggest diameter was about 18”.  The water was also pumped through a chlorinator to keep the water sanitary for swimming.  Of course with 100 plus small children using the pool, it took over 100 cu ft. per day to keep the readings in the required zone. So the bottles had to be changed out every day.  The dam bottles stood about 5 ft. tall and weighted around 150 pounds.  Of course taking one bottle out and putting another in always allowed the escape of some Chlorine gas—this is the stuff they killed people within World War I.

We always wore respirators and had a meter than sounded an alarm if the concentration went to high.  On one of those occasions our genius supervisor decided we should have our change out procedures checked out. (I could and will write several chapters of the bone-head things that chap did over the years).  But to sum it up in advance, you had to be on the highest lookout for your own safety at ALL TIMES.

The bottle to chlorinator fittings was brass and could not be oiled.  Oil and chlorine make something else very nasty.  The fitting were binding, so my genius boss take a 24” pipe wrench to the bottle value, and promptly cracked it.  We now have a Chlorine Gas leak. The crack was small and barely leaked, but any leak has the potential to be fatal, and the pressure could make the leak worse.

My 125 pound boss wrapped a “red shop rag,” around the value, picked it up by himself and threw in the back of the service truck.   I drove the truck down to the shore of the pond on station, and he threw the leaking bottle into the pond. Then we went to the Boiler Plant and stood under the “Drench Shower,” until the meter said, “No Chlorine Present.”  During that period, the boss informed us NOTHING HAPPENED!  Hell, I was still on probation, so I promptly zipped my lip.

However, the next morning on the way to work I pasted the pond, and it was a sea of white.  The white being the bellies of dead fish, turtles, birds, and anything else that was in that pond.  The PWO call for investigation by Army Medical Staff, to determine what caused the die off. They never found the bottle, and I never said a word until today.
 

Safety & Injuries

In our line of work safety is paramount, after all day and day out you are working with electricity, high pressure steam and water, in tunnels and/or vaults, on top of multi- story buildings, exposed to hazardous fumes and vapor, slippery work surfaces, rotating equipment, and just plain dangerous conditions.  Then add in someone who is careless and clueless like my first foreman, you develop a high regard for safe working conditions.

A couple of examples of my supervisors clueless beside the leaking chorine bottle mentioned last week were:

We were on the fifth deck (floor to non-navy personnel) on an apron, surrounding the sixth deck.  We had set up a scaffold to drill into cement beams at the top of sixth deck, to hang a new set of stairs.  My supervisor had spelled me on the drill, and was pushing on it so hard, the roll around scaffold was tipping backwards.  The height of scaffold was higher than the width of building apron, so if the scaffold did tip over we were going to fall five stories.  I fairly calmly reached over and pull the power cord to the drill, and when it stopped, he stopped pushing so hard and the scaffold came back to vertical.  Told the boss it was me or me running the drill, and it was against union contract rules for him to work. And before I went back up the scaffold I secured it to the building.

On another occasion we were working on a ventilation fan that the lubrication had failed and scoured the bearings.  This fan had a 4 inch by 12 foot shaft and blower wheel was about 12 feet in diameter.  Of course that fan provides exhaust to the chemistry labs and had to run when classes were in session.

I had the brainstorm to pull the shaft and reverse it, as that would put un-touched shaft surfaces in the new bearing blocks.  Our supervisor agree, and then wanted to stand that humungous fan and shaft upright and using a jack to push the shaft out of the fan.  Now we are in a room with about 4 foot of clearance between the fan housing and the walls.  And we are all mincemeat if that and shaft tip over while we are jacking on the shaft.  Finally convinced the boss to use a couple of chain fall and pull the fan off the shaft while in a vertical position.

I still laugh about the next incident, even if it was only hazardous to my boss.  The station sewers emptied into sewer vault and a set of sewer lift pumps pumped the sewage across the road and up a small hill to the city of Monterey sewage plant.

We had a call sewage was running out the door of pump shed.  When we got there, we found the pumps running, but the level in vault just kept going up, and the pumps never stopped running.  We quickly discovered the check values on the output lines were not closing, which allowed the sewage to flow back into the vault.  We took the top off the check values and found the flappers of both were being held open by condoms that had gotten tangled around the flapper part of the value. I had paused go to the service truck to get some rubber gloves and to figure out how to remove the condoms. When I went back into the pump house, I saw my boss had taken a pair of channel locks and was pulling on the condoms, you wouldn’t believe how far they will stretch.  About that time they pulled lose, and promptly wrapped around his face and neck. And then he un-wraps them from face and neck with his bare hands.

Now remember these our used condoms that have been through the station sewage system.  God only know what diseases they were or could have been carrying.  Of course the good lord looks out for idiots and he didn’t develop anything from having his face and neck wrapped in used condoms.

Now who writes the instruction requesting randy young Naval Officers to put their used condoms in the trash and not down the toilet!

Don’t ask me how I got the covers back on the check values, as I was laughed so hard I could hardly see.

One of more serious work injuries occurred one of my employees, when I was the Foreman of Emergency Services.  This chap was working as a temporary truck driver. He was driving a dump truck with a gravity back gate.  i. e. When you raised the bed of the truck the gate opened at the top, and the load slid out, and when you lowered the truck bed the gate closed—with a bang.

On this occasion he had started to lower the bed, when he noticed part of load was hung up and not coming out of the bed.  So the genius reached under the gate and pulled the obstruction clear. By that time the bed had cross the tipping point and down came the gate. It MASHED not cut his thumb off. 

I was close by and hear the call on our radio.  Shot over to scene, got a tourniquet on his arm, and Para-medics had arrived to take him to the hospital. Being government employees the Par-medics didn’t think to look for severed member.  So my leader and I jumped in the dumpster and routed around until we found the mashed off thumb.  Which we put in an ice filled jar and took to the hospital.

Long story short, they re-attached his thumb, and he regained about 76% usage.

When I was the Public Works Superintendent, the Admiral congrulated me on our shops safety record.  At the time I thought I was being witty and told him, “Safety is like liberty, it take eternal vigilance to keep it.” Now I firmly believe there was more truth than humor in the remark.

More Injuries

One of the stranger employee injuries occurred when a Wood Craftsman was running a planner in the shop. He pushed a piece of wood over the planning surface, and cut off the tips of 6 fingers about a 1/64th of an inch. Of course there was enough blood splashed around to look like he had cut his finders off! The planner blades spun at over 10,000 rpm and are sharper than a razor blade.  The employee didn’t even realize it had planned his fingers until the blood covered his safety glasses to the point he couldn’t see.  There was blood everywhere, including 30 feet in the air on the ceiling. Guess it goes without saying there was a labeled “pusher” device available at the machine.

Pressure bandages stopped the bleeding, but the employee was off work for several weeks. Not much a mechanic can do with 6 fingers in bandages and hyper sensitive to touch. When asked why he hadn’t used the “pusher” he stated he was in a hurry to get the piece of wood to fit what he was working on.  Maybe that’s how the old saying, “Haste makes Waste,” got started.  Of course under the worker compensation regulations he drew full pay until he could work again.

One of my electricians “Crazy George” by name was working on the street lighting.  He had not secured the power, as he was only going to check the blub.  These street lights were more than 50 years old and the power voltage is 2,200 volts.  Instead of setting up his step ladder next to the fixture to check the blub, he leaned his ladder against the light fixture and climbed up the ladder.  At the time the 50 plus year old rusted out light fixture gave way and fell over and separated into its separate cast iron sections.  Since he had NOT secured the power, he is now lying in a pile with fixture section and a skinned 2,200 volt power line ready to zap any and everything within touch.  Somehow he didn’t get shocked.

But of course the old street lights where a series circuit (like your Christmas lights) and with one location out, the whole section was out.   And you don’t buy 50 year old light fixture parts at the local supply store.  To restore the street light to the Senior Officer section, we remove the light, cut the wiring and spliced in across the crumbled light fixture spot.

This is only one of “Crazy George’s” adventures.  Later on there will be whole chapters of this chaps activities.

Of course in the spirit of full disclosure, I must relate the facts of my own on the job injury. There had been a breakage of a 8” sewer pipe in the basement of main administration building—The Old Del Monte Hotel. There was about 6’’ of water and sewer trout (our polite term for chucks of shits and other good stuff) floating around in the area.  Normally, not a hassle, but the Electrical Distribution Panels were in the same space, and some were only a foot of the floor.  I had just reached the decision to bring in some generator driven lift pumps to keep the sewage from getting into the electrical panels, when I slipped and started to fall.  Normally, I would just duck and roll into the fall, but didn’t want to dive into the sewer trout, so jerked and yanked myself to keep from falling—and tore the cartilage in my right knee.

Being an on the job injury, permission was required before the surgery could be scheduled, and that only took about 4 months, while I hobbled around on a cane at work.  The surgery was a success according to Doctor—they removed all the cartilage. Post op he told me I would probably experience some pain.  He was correct—just 27 years of it.

And that’s not all folks, 14 days after the operation I experienced a pulmonary embolism and live through, even though ¾ of my lungs were covered with blood clots.  10 days after getting out of intensive care for that, was back in intensive care for warfarin poisoning—over dose of blood thinners.

So after about 6 weeks I’m back to work and everything is going swell, until I get a Letter from the Bureau of Labor (the folks who pay for federal on the job injuries and lost time pay).  The letter informed me my claim was denied, as heart attacks are not covered under federal on the job injuries regulations. Let me tell you, I dam near had one!

I wasn’t having much success dealing with BOL (Bureau of Labor), so asked my boss (The Public Works Office) to try explain the difference between a heart attack and a pulmonary embolism to the BOL GS-7 Claims Examiner.  The Public Works Officer was an O-6 (a 6 on a scale of 10) Commander lost his patience with the person and did raise his voice, at which time the GS-7 promptly hung up on him.  It was worth to see the look on his face.

It finally took a letter from the surgeon with a cover letter from the Admiral to the Regional Head of BOL to get it straighten out and have my claim approved. 

More Hazardous Work

One of the most dangerous jobs I and a co-worker and friend ever accomplished was cap off a leaking chlorine bottle.  One of the clerks, who worked in supply yard, came into the office and complained about a terrible odor in the yard.

Of course as soon as we got close enough to smell it, we realized it was chlorine.  We called our fire department, who didn’t have the slightest on how to handle the leak.  They tripped the mutual aid button, and shortly we had ever Fire Department on the Monterey Peninsula–NPS Fire, Monterey Fire, Seaside Fire, Carmel Fire, Pacific Grove Fire, Del Rey Oaks Fire, Marine Public Safety, Ft. Ord Fire, Presidio of Monterey Fire, and California Forestry on the way or on the scene.

 All that Fire Power and no one had any idea what to do.  It fact they were discussing an evacuation the station until the gas dissipated.  Only problem, the 150 cubic foot bottle had a very small leak seep, which turned to gas when the bottle pressure was removed and it was going to take a month of Sundays before the bottle leaked out.

 While all that was going Bob and I had gone to Swimming Pool Chlorinator building, as we knew there were Chlorine rated respirators available there.  In the same closest as the respirators there was a big wooden box labeled Chlorine Capping Kit, so we took it with us, back to the scene of the leak.

Apparently, 99.9% of Chlorine bottle leaks occur where the value screws into the bottle. The brass value and the steel bottle don’t play well together, and the electrical/chemical reaction causes pin-hole leaks. Sure enough that was the problem in this case.  However, none of fire departments wanted to try capping the bottle, as “they hadn’t been trained and it was their equipment.”  Lack of guts was my personal belief!

So Bob and I put on the respirators and haz-mat suits, took the capping kit and capped off the leak.  The kit was just a steel cup with a gasket on the bottom that fit over the value and rested on bottle.  The steel cup had loops on each side with chains that fasted to the plate the bottle was placed in.  That way the cap was chained down into one piece, and even if it fell over, the cover would stay in place.

The assorted Fire Departments turned out their lights and sirens and went back to their stations (to polish their brass I assume), and we threw away the haz-mat suits, took a cold shower and went to lunch.  Just another day in Public Works!

One of the major friction points in my marriage was the fact I would not wear a wedding ring.  Of course I did not wear any kind of jewelry, not even a wrist watch. When you put your hands in small spaces with electricity, hot gases, and hot liquids, you DO NOT want anything on them that is such a good conductor as gold or silver.

This was my MO even before what happened to Bob one day.  We were installing some new copper refrigerate lines.  And had reached the place where we had to install a piece of copper pipe into a T fitting from below.  For the un-aware, soldering a joint from below is the one of the difficult types of soldering one can do.  And since this was a refrigerate line under high pressure, the joint had to be soldered with silver solder.  That type of solder flows around 1500 degree F.

Bob was holding the pipe into the T and soldering the joint, when a drop of solder fell out, hit his hand, and promptly flowed around and under his wedding ring. Of course he is screaming in pain, but we had a bucket of water on hand for a fire watch.  I stuck his hand in the water, but the band was still hot enough to burn, in fact it had seared its self to his finger.

I snatched up a pair of “dikes,” (wire cutting pliers) and cut the ring on either side. Of course by then the ring was seared to his finger.  I had to take a pocket knife and cutting the ring pieces off.  He hasn’t worn a wedding ring since, but then he has a nice band of scar tissues in place of ring.  Needless, to say neither have I woren a ring even after I retired.

Building Problems

While working at NPS, I was involved with the construction, putting into service, and maintenance of 4 major buildings. One of the oddities of Navy Facilities procedures is the Facilities Command labels’ all buildings and structures by a building number, while the folks in the building refer to it by name. You can imagine what a hassle this is for the folks on the trouble desk, when taking the calls and dispatching the workers.

The first building I was involved with, was Ingersoll Hall, better know to Public Works as Building 330. Please remember all these building were built under contract.  The first major problem was all the steam lines inside the building were not insulated by the builder.  Someone left the requirement off the specifications in the contract.  Of course the steam vault was right next to the electrical vault where all the building controls were located, and the high temperature from the steam lines caused all the controls to trip out.

The solution was to insulate the steam lines, sounds simple eh. Of course the lines were a maze and next to the walls.  JP and I built cardboard forms around the lines and values and then mixed and poured a liquid solution into them, which turned into foam insulation when cured. Sounds simple, but we spent over a month completing that job, and most of the time the temperature was over a 100 degrees F.

Now the building would stay on line we got a call from the head of the Computer Department informing us his computers had arrived and needed to be hooked up. This was the first week of December and they needed to be functional by the second week of January the beginning of the new academic quarter.

I was a fine foreman at the time, but all of the Air Conditioning Mechanics worked for me, so we went over to take a look.  UNBELIVEABLE, there was nothing but a football sized empty room, and bunch of car size cartons on the loading dock.  There was no dedicated electrical service for computers and no air conditioning equipment.  Luckily the room did have a raised floor for computer installation and one wall was glass windows. After the engineers read all the specifications and determined what the electrical power requirement for the IBM 300 series computers, lo and behold the electrical transformers installed with the building did not have enough capacity to run the computers.

So for power transformers we checked other Navy bases, and found transformers at Navy Weapons Station China Lake. Sent a crew to pick up the transformers and contacted PG & E (the local utility) to arrange a service drop to the new transformers, and started the wiring work from the transformers to the computers.

Now to the air conditioning, the engineers had determined the computers would need 25 to 30 ton of air conditioning capacity to keep the computers from tripping out due to heat.  That’s a lot of air conditioning when you consider the average house has about a 3 or less ton capacity air conditioning unit.  After much head scratching we decided to use 5 ton self-contained commercial roof top units. We set them on the ground and had the cold air discharge into and under the computer room flooring. This was accomplished by removing the windows and using a short run of duct to discharge under the raised flooring. Oh by the way there were six of these installations.  Six 5 ton units equal 30 tons of required cooling air requirement.

We worked on this project 14 hours a day, seven days a week, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.  Many of the employees had scheduled leave cancelled and were ordered to work on the holidays.  Under civil service rules working on a holiday, gets you regular pay scale, plus the holiday pay. I recall talking to a grocery checker on New Years Day who was been paid triple time.

To make a long story shorter, we did get all the support equipment installed and the computers online for the start of next academic quarter.  Now the best part, Public Works did NOT receive even a thank you note from the department head. 

My personal belief is, he didn’t want to acknowledge he had dropped the ball, by not including the power and cooling requirements in the building specifications—what hell it was just one of the major computer centers in the Navy at the time.

More building tales next week!!

 

EEO (EQUAL EMPLOYEMENT OPPORTUNITY) 

Sorry about last week folks, but we were at my son’s and wife’s home for an early Thanksgiving.  He is also a federal civil servant (Custom and Border Protection Agent) stationed at the Sacramento airport. And of course knew he would have to work on Thanksgiving Day and weekend.

Due to all the items in the news last week regarding alleged sexual harassment, I’m doing a story on that, this week instead of building problems.

During most of my career I was an EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) Counselor, a Class Action EEO Counselor, and chairperson of the EEO Committee.

One of my first case’s as a Counselor was an allegation of sexual discrimination.

An employee of the Navy Exchange (the Navy’s Wal Mart) stopped, and stated that the Cashiers Department Manager had offered her a supervisory position in exchange for sex on demand. Not just once, but any time he desired!

I found it hard to believe, at that time frame (Top Gun Sex Scandal period) any Navy employee would even think of such actions.

Scheduled an appointment with the chap and advised of the allegation made against him.  Ask him if he had anything to say.  And he promptly told me it that basically the allegations were true—he expected sex in return for the promotion to supervisory cashier.  I’m sure my jaw hit the table, this chap is admitting to sexual discrimination.

But then he smugly told me but the offer was NOT sexual discrimination.  When I could speak again, I ask him why not?  He confidently explained to me, that: since all the applicants were female and he had made the same demand to all, it couldn’t be sexual discrimination.

I didn’t even bother to try and explain the facts of life, much sexual discrimination facts to him. But returned to my office and called the Supply Officer, the person in charge of the Navy Exchange. Relayed the facts of the case to him and suggested he separate the chap ASAP.  I had previously cleared Separation as satisfactory resolution with the complainant.

Fortunately for resolution purposes, as a Navy Exchange employee he did not have federal civil service status, and could be separated (fired) at will.  The Supply Officer called him in and discharged and escorted him off the station that day.

However, it still perturbs me to this day, that he could see nothing wrong with his actions.

More EEO

Under the federal system there are (where) 7 classes or certifications than could qualify for discrimination status.  If you, were a green 3 armed green 4 foot tall person, you were out of luck.  You had to fit one of the classes.  I’m having trouble remember the class’s  as I’m writing this, but hopeful they will all come back, as I put down some of details of the cases I worked on.  Race, national origin, age, sex, and religion are the ones I can recall off the top of my head.  National origin is the code word for Hispanic.  Plus there were several programs that the EEO officials oversaw and supported: Federal Women Program, Hispanic Surname Program, Asian Pacific Program, Black History Program, and the EEO Employee, EEO Supervisor, EEO Military Supervisor, EEO Manager, and the EEO Official of the Year Program.  I was awarded everything but the Military Supervisor award, during the years I was involved in the assorted EEO programs. There was also a standing committee that reviewed merit promotions list (i.e. job selection lists) for EEO compliance, that I served on until that program was changed to full time EEO officials oversight.

In any event, we had one lady who was active in the various EEO programs, but had the odd habit of changing her status every year.  Oh, guess I forget to mention—one could self-certify that they were a member of a protected group. She changed her certification from Hispanic Surname to America Indian every other year.  The interesting part was her married name was Dixon and she blonde and blue eyed.  The lady was also married to a retired Army Master Sergeant who was Hispanic.

Her son named Jesus Dixon applied for a job with Dole Foods, one of the major employers in Salinas, CA.   The applicant asked if he was bi-lingual and he checked Yes, and was hired for a trainee Supervisor position.  The third day on the job, it was obvious he wasn’t functional in Spanish.  The second level supervisor and the Personnel Office call him in, and were criticizing him for taking a bi-lingual position when he could not speak Spanish. At that time he pointed out to the hiring officials the application asked if he was bi-lingual, but did NOT ask in what languages.  The young man was fluent in spoken and written German.  The family had been stationed in Germany over 10 years and he had attended German Schools.

I was pleased to learn that not only government personnel ASSUME things with un-desired results, but big industry commit the same error.

More EEO

The pointless case that aggravated me the most, went like this:

The Federal Police Chief was a black chap (that was before the African-American term came into use). One of his poorest employees (a Patrolman,) was a white chap.  It was my personal opinion if you looked up useless in the dictionary, it would display his picture.

Every time he was reprimanded or even hollered at for poor job performance, he would file a reverse discrimination case. This particular time he was being suspended without pay for 3 days for sleeping on the job.  There were two witness from outside the police department, that stated he had been asleep in his patrol car.

After I informed him, he could not file a discrimination case resulting in disciplinary actions due to job performance, he asked what his appeal rights were.  Being aggravated at the time I told him, “You can appeal it to the Secretary of the Navy, if you want to waste your time and everyone else’s.”  He said, “Oh!” and went off to serve his unpaid suspension.  Please note, he could have been fired not just suspended.

About 30 days later I got called up to the Superintendent’s Office to explain, why I had advised an employee to file an appeal on non-appealable action with the Secretary of Navy.  Of course I had no idea of what had occurred, until I was shown his appeal file, and in it, he stated that the EEO Counselor (Me) had advised him to file an appeal with the Secretary of Navy.  If he had been present, I would have torn him apart with my bare hands.

Fortunately, having some time in civil service, I was in the habit of keeping written record of my EEO cases.  And in this case I had the closing summary in writing that contained my actual statement to him about the Secretary of the Navy.  And the employee had even signed off on it.  Gives you some idea of his IQ.

At the point, I would like to blow my own horn, regarding EEO and various employees:

During my watch:

Hired the first female laborer.

Hired the first female truck driver.

Hired the first female craft journeyperson.

Hired the first female-minority production controller.

Hired the first female supervisor.

Hired the first minority supervisor.

Conceived and implement a laborer to craft journeyman training program.

Recommend hiring the first female EEO Officer.

I was raised that everyone should have an equal chance in life, and applied that belief during my working career.  Not preference, just a chance, and if you didn’t or couldn’t perform to standard, I would be the first to correct and/or separate you.

 

Holiday & Other Events

My apologies to my faithful readers, but son came to visit the week before Christmas and then I got busy with other holiday events.  But back on the wagon and will try to do an episode a week in the future.

Reading about Christmas bonuses in the business section of local newspaper, gave me a rueful laugh.  Because in 38 years of service and saving Uncle and you millions of dollars over the year, the total amount of Christmas bonuses I received was ZERO.  And I was not discriminated against.  The U.S. Government does NOT award Christmas bonuses.  It might have something to do with Christmas being a religious holiday, and the government adhering to the first amendment.

In any event, it was one of the reasons the civilian Public Works supervisors held a holiday and other party for their employees.  These events were paid for by the supervisors and what funds we could raise with a raffle. One of our employees was a big time wild hog hunter, and usually provided a pig or two for the Christmas party.  We also had turkey and all the fixings including all the deviled eggs you could eat.

I mention the eggs because over time the deviled eggs became the Seabee’s job.  And it is a job to cook, peal, mix, and stuff 20 dozen eggs.  Sound like a lot, until you know the events were free to the employees and their families.  Of course after a couple of years, every other department on station, started showing up for the Christmas party.

I recall one year I found the City of Monterey fire fighters in the food line.  When questioned they assured me they had been invited by the Naval Postgraduate School Fire Fighters.

During the early years, drinking (alcohol) was tolerated.  However, after some near disasters, I put my foot down and pointed out the liability we were incurring, drinking was no longer tolerated and/or allowed.  Some of near disasters included:

Finding an employee nearly comatose, and taking home in my car, and having his mother ask me, “What did you do to him?”

A spur of the moment drag race around the buildings, and nearly running over the Navy Captain, in charge of Facilities management.

One of the painters holding another painter by ankles and shaking him up and down, while hollering, “I know you took my candy cane and I want it back.”

One of the electricians insisting on giving me his whole pay check (in cash), to help out with the party.  And on Monday morning, wondering what happened to his pay check.  I let him worry until Wednesday morning. 

And then the topper, the duty boiler operator left the plant (drunk) and went home, without didn’t notify anyone.  The plant was operating at 90% firing rate on two 25,000 pounds of steam per hour.  Don’t ask me why I stopped at the plant on my way home and found it un-attended.

So drinking was banned, before we all lost our houses!!!

Over the years it became an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) process.   Nearly everyone had the same job each year and carried it out.  All line supervisors baked a turkey at home and brought it the day of the event.  The Seabees did the eggs, the office folks did the setup and clean up, and etc.

The last ten years or so we even jollied the military officers into serving the food.  Up to and including the Superintendent a two star Admiral.  At one time we had one of the first female Admirals as our Superintendent. At the time the Chief of Naval Operations was receiving a lot of publicity about being the Sailor’s Admiral!  So I had plaque made up and presented it to her at the Christmas party.  The Plaque cited her as the Employee’ Admiral, and therein is one of my claims to fame.  It actually brought tears to her eyes.  Not everyone can make an Admiral cry.

We also gave an expensive gift to the raffle winner every year.  For two years my blind administrative assistant won the 25” color TV.  She was the spouse of an officer student and it was only after they had transferred, I discovered she had been punching braille symbols on to her raffle tickets, so she could locate it by touch while drawing the tickets.

And we had her draw the tickets because she was blind!

In October of 1994 the Navy took over base operations of Fort Ord and the Presidio of the Monterey, due to base closures.  My work force went from around 150 employees to over 350 on October 1st of 1995, with a corresponding increase in supervisory personnel.  Came time for the Christmas party, most of the new supervisors were un-accustomed to doing anything for the employees, and were reluctant to pay for the party.

At a planning meeting one of new supervisors even suggested that we take a vote on whether we would even hold the party.  I agreed on the spot, however, I did point out I voted last, and my vote was the only one that would be counted.

Command Events—Graduations, Change of Commands, Military Balls, Conferences (NATO), Award Ceremonies, Concerts in the Park, etc.

My first supervisory job (line foreman) was over the Emergencies Services (ES) Work Center 30.  Basically, I had one or more of each of the trades, and we were the first responders to any trouble calls received by phone.  We either resolved the problem or secured it and referred it to the trade shop required.  If you are wondering how Command Event setups were an emergencies, all I can tell you is—fail to have a graduation or change of command ready—and you had a world class emergency on your hands.

The Naval Postgraduate School operates on the ‘quarter basis,’ and accordingly had four graduations per year.  A time I took over ES Work Center, three graduations per year were held outside and the fourth inside in an auditorium—King Hall or Blg. 237 to PW.

The graduations were held in plaza between two of the academic buildings. There is a wide sidewalk next to the street, with about 6 steps down to the plaza level.  So the platform setup was placed on the sidewalk, and participants and guests were seated faced them.

Sounds simply, until you realized that a mimum of 1,500 folding chairs had to be moved from storage, setup as requested—3 main blocks with rows of 20 chairs each.  And oh by the way, the chairs had to be aligned perfectly straight.  I was shocked to find out the chairs were moved by hand to a truck, taken off by hand, and placed in position by hand.  There was also a graduation rehearsal, which resulted in the chairs being moved out of place.  So after the rehearsal the chairs all had to be re-set to their perfect alignment.  And since there is usual morning fog in Monterey, the day of graduation all the chairs had to be hand wiped, to assure they were dry and alignment maintained.

After graduation the chairs were picked up by hand, put on a truck, and re-loaded back into the holding facility.  I and my Mover Leader, sat down and designed a folding chair holder.  It was simply some pipe welded together with ends on it, so the chair legs fit over the pipe runners and ends held them in place and with 4” casters welded on the bottom so they could be rolled around.  Each device would hold 25 chairs compared to the 4 or 5 a person could carry by hand.

Prior to the design and use of the chair holders, it took around 500 hours to setup and tear down graduation.  Approximately 100 hours of that time was overtime.  The graduation were always held at 1500 (3 PM civilian time) on Friday afternoon.  So picking up the chairs and other gear and returning to storage was automatically an overtime event.  The standard shift hours were 0800 to 1630.  By using the chair holders the total time was cut in half and the overtime to a couple of hours, instead of the 4 to 5 hours required for hand handling.  We built and started using the chair carts in 1972, and the same chair carts are still in use today.

The platform setup consisted of “Captain’s Chairs,” the lecterns, the US, Navy, and other appropriate Flags and stands and public address system. We also installed a waist high steel pipe fencing around the platform area and draped it with a blue bunting for wind protection.  The wind comes up at 1500 like clockwork in Monterey.

And as a backup, the auditorium had to have a duplicate setup, in case of rain.

After 23 years of 3 times a year of outside graduations, when I became Superintendent, I finally convinced the Academic Council to hold all the graduations inside King Hall. The major factor being, the Council had to start paying for the graduation expenses rather than being borne by Public Works funding.

June graduation was always the largest event, with friends, family, and peers from all over the world attending.  65 degrees F. is a warm day in Monterey in the summer time and wind comes up just as the event starts.

The female attendees would be in frilly low cut summer dresses and big floppy hats.  We often wondered if that was an east coast graduation uniform.  I stationed several people at the back of seating every time, to catch the hats that were blown off.

My help and I used to joke, we could fund our retirement, if we ran a coat rental service nearby, rather than a coat check service.  Just remember blue collar humor is a little different and earthy that most.

 

More EEO Stuff

Seeing the national president of NOW (National Organization of Women) on the news reminded me of other EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) type incidents.  As I have mentioned previously, for many years of I was chairperson of the Naval Postgraduate School’s EEO Committee. This committee was charged with over-sight of ALL EEO activities.

The Federal Women’s Program Coordinator proposed a chapter of NOW for NPS, and since it would be within my purview as EEO Committee Chairperson, I also joined the chapter as a charter member of the NPS chapter.  The second year the chapter was having a difficult time finding folks willing to serve as officers.  Basically, joking I told the sitting president “Maybe I should run for President!”  To which she promptly replied, “You can’t you’re not a woman.”

So I had to explain to her under Federal Law Title  7, no organizations could discriminate on the basis of gender. The irony of it all was that I had:

Hired the first female laborer for NPS Public Works

Hired the first female truck driver at NPS Public Works

Hired the first trade (Electrician) apprentice at NPS Public Works

Hired the first female Journeyperson at NPS Public Works

Hired the first female Supervisor at NPS Public Works

Hired the first female trades Planner & Estimator for NPS Public Works

Headed the committee that proposed and effected upgrading all Sectaries from GS-3/5 to Administrative Assistants GS-7/9/11.

Mentored the first female Assistant Public Works Officer at NPS Public Works

i.e. Didn’t let the older timers try and sabotage her.

 

So thought I was well qualified to be President of NPS’s NOW chapter, without a sex change operation.

But must admit, while working as a mechanic, I was standing in the hall of an academic building reading the new blue collar wage schedule.  Along came the head clerk (female) of the academic department and after reading the wage schedule for blue collar workers, complained bitterly how overpaid we were, in her opinion.

Several minutes later she came out of the office carrying an IBM typewriter, and promptly asked me to carry it up two flights of stairs to another office.

To her surprise I informed her, if she wanted blue collar pay, she had to be able to do the heavy lifting, and she should carry her own fucking typewriter up two flights of stairs.

Of course later I had to insist, she mis-understood the verb I used describing her typewriter.

Customer Service

At one time we operated 4 trouble desks.  i.e. A phone number and a dispatcher to answer call for service.  Theoretically, trouble calls were for emergencies only-loss or danger to life and/or property. Two of the trouble desks were strictly for housing calls, and the other two were for facilities problem, excepting the Presidio of Monterey which handled both types of calls. The two housing trouble desk calls serviced over 2,500 military housing units.  Tenant’s grade ranged from Lt. General-Vice Admiral to E-1.

Housing problems and responses may well rate a separate book.

One of the facilities calls that always gave me a chuckle, went like this:  Received a call from a professor at NPS regarding painting his office.  Not an emergency so the call had to be transferred to the planning and scheduling person.  He was trying to set a date to paint his office, but the professor/customer refused to pick a date, until he had a chance to look at the color samples.  Slight problem, government office, no color choices, all office spaces were painted off-white.

However, the professor insisted on seeing color samples.  Master Scheduler asked me what to do?   So I had the Paint Shop Foreman make up 6 different samples of the off white paint we used—using the various trade names—but all the same color.  The foreman took the samples over to the chap, and lo and behold he picked out one.  So we painted his office his color of choice—OFF WHITE.  Often wondered if he realize we were screwing with him or not.

I frequently stayed after quitting time, to sign purchaser orders, check email, and chat with my supervisors.  One evening approximately 30 to 45 after base quitting time, the trouble desk number was ringing.  Lacking good sense I picked it up, just to make sure there was NOT a major problem on station.

A frantic lady informed me her car battery was dead on her POV (privately owned vehicle).  I try to explain to her that the number she was calling was for facility problems and she should call AAA.

She immediately informed me, she was in her office, and the station phone book had the number of the trouble desk in bold 2 inches letters on the front of it—and she had TROUBLE—her car wouldn’t start.  I forget all the reasons, it was such a major problem for her.  In any event I took my POV and jumper cables over to her office’s parking lot and jumped started her car for her.  She thanked and drove away, and I drove off to home, just smiling all the way.

Water and its Problems

I watched the show Semper Fi TV show this week, about the water contamination at Camp Le June Marine Corp Base.  I was disgusted, amazed, and ashamed.  During my years in Public Works we maintained, repaired, and operated domestic water systems for numerous DOD facilities. At one time we were supplying water to over 3,000 military housing units.

CLEAN SAFE DRINKING WATER WAS A GIVEN!!

We had a head start, since we received our water for most of our customers via a Water Public Utility, which had to meet California State Water Safety Standards.   Our major function was fluoridation of the water. Nasty stuff, we received it in concentrated solution in 30 gallon plastic drums, and handled it as hazardous material. We used water driven metering pumps to add it to the water in thousands of milligrams per gallon.  The DOD standard called for a weekly check of the metering and delivery pumps.  Under my watch as a Foreman, General Foreman, and Superintendent, it was checked daily.  We also had (another) metering pump in place in case the on-line pump developed problems.  The metering pumps were also checked for calibration per the manufacturer’s directions and re-calibrated if required.

When the domestic water lines were opened for service, we had a 3 page check list to complete after service to assure the lines were sanitized and flushed.

The only time I know of the water being contaminated occurred when the indicator float on one of the 200,000 gallons water tanks came loose.  The float which controlled the pumps had detached from the line and floated away from the top of the tank opening.

The tank was full and we were in the midst of the seven year drought on the Monterey Peninsula If we emptied the tank we had no way to reach the inside bottom of the 40 foot high tank.  I asked my co-worker, “can you Swim?”  When he replied, “Yes.”  I informed him he was IT.  He stripped down to shorts, dropped in the tank, swam over and recovered the float and fastened it back in place, and went on to the next call.

Of course I did promise the chap I would cut his dick off, if he pissed in the tank!!

Now Ft. Ord, when the Navy took over base operations was another story.  Ft. Ord’s water supply was via wells.  The first week I discovered they had only been testing it monthly, and no one knew the last time the Fluoride metering pump had been checked for calibration.

I promptly contracted with the Water Utility to daily test the water for compliance with California State Standards, and assigned the fluoride metering pump check out and operation to my Navy Public Works people.

While we were in the Water treatment station, it seem too quiet to me, and I noticed there seemed to be pieces parts of pumps and motors scattered all over the place.  I asked the former Army employee if there were any major problems.  I was really surprised to learn that there was one operational water pump for the water system servicing 13,000 acres, 2500 housing units, and un-counted office buildings.  One of the buildings was the Defense Accounting System for the western United States—the folks that wrote our pay checks.

When I could speak again, I asked, “Why, they had let the system get in such bad condition.  Seemed they had been under closure study for five years, and the Commanding General would not authorize any capital repairs. Fortunately, for the General he had left before the water system failed completely.

Back to the Marine Base, the TV show stated that a Marine Major knew about the problem, but declined to take any action.  That may well be true, as the Marine Officers assigned to station facilities management and maintenance are basically Infantry Officers.  On the other hand Navy Public Works Officers are required to be certified engineers.

However, there was a senior civilian manager (Utilities Superintendent?) who had to have knowledge of the problems and took no corrective action.  The un-written major job of Senior Civilian Managers, is to keep their Military bosses out of trouble.  Protection of life and property is the reason for the existence of Facility Managers.

Whoever that person was, he is a disgrace to Public Servants everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Water and its Problems

I watched the show Semper Fi TV show this week, about the water contamination at Camp Le June Marine Corp Base.  I was disgusted, amazed, and ashamed.  During my years in Public Works we maintained, repaired, and operated domestic water systems for numerous DOD facilities. At one time we were supplying water to over 3,000 military housing units.

CLEAN SAFE DRINKING WATER WAS A GIVEN!!

We had a head start, since we received our water for most of our customers via a Water Public Utility, which had to meet California State Water Safety Standards.   Our major function was fluoridation of the water. Nasty stuff, we received it in concentrated solution in 30 gallon plastic drums, and handled it as hazardous material. We used water driven metering pumps to add it to the water in thousands of milligrams per gallon.  The DOD standard called for a weekly check of the metering and delivery pumps.  Under my watch as a Foreman, General Foreman, and Superintendent, it was checked daily.  We also had (another) metering pump in place in case the on-line pump developed problems.  The metering pumps were also checked for calibration per the manufacturer’s directions and re-calibrated if required.

When the domestic water lines were opened for service, we had a 3 page check list to complete after service to assure the lines were sanitized and flushed.

The only time I know of the water being contaminated occurred when the indicator float on one of the 200,000 gallons water tanks came loose.  The float which controlled the pumps had detached from the line and floated away from the top of the tank opening.

The tank was full and we were in the midst of the seven year drought on the Monterey Peninsula If we emptied the tank we had no way to reach the inside bottom of the 40 foot high tank.  I asked my co-worker, “can you Swim?”  When he replied, “Yes.”  I informed him he was IT.  He stripped down to shorts, dropped in the tank, swam over and recovered the float and fastened it back in place, and went on to the next call.

Of course I did promise the chap I would cut his dick off, if he pissed in the tank!!

Now Ft. Ord, when the Navy took over base operations was another story.  Ft. Ord’s water supply was via wells.  The first week I discovered they had only been testing it monthly, and no one knew the last time the Fluoride metering pump had been checked for calibration.

I promptly contracted with the Water Utility to daily test the water for compliance with California State Standards, and assigned the fluoride metering pump check out and operation to my Navy Public Works people.

While we were in the Water treatment station, it seem too quiet to me, and I noticed there seemed to be pieces parts of pumps and motors scattered all over the place.  I asked the former Army employee if there were any major problems.  I was really surprised to learn that there was one operational water pump for the water system servicing 13,000 acres, 2500 housing units, and un-counted office buildings.  One of the buildings was the Defense Accounting System for the western United States—the folks that wrote our pay checks.

When I could speak again, I asked, “Why, they had let the system get in such bad condition.  Seemed they had been under closure study for five years, and the Commanding General would not authorize any capital repairs. Fortunately, for the General he had left before the water system failed completely.

Back to the Marine Base, the TV show stated that a Marine Major knew about the problem, but declined to take any action.  That may well be true, as the Marine Officers assigned to station facilities management and maintenance are basically Infantry Officers.  On the other hand Navy Public Works Officers are required to be certified engineers.

However, there was a senior civilian manager (Utilities Superintendent?) who had to have knowledge of the problems and took no corrective action.  The un-written major job of Senior Civilian Managers, is to keep their Military bosses out of trouble.  Protection of life and property is the reason for the existence of Facility Managers.

Whoever that person was, he is a disgrace to Public Servants everywhere.

Customer Service

At one time we operated 4 trouble desks.  i.e. A phone number and a dispatcher to answer call for service.  Theoretically, trouble calls were for emergencies only-loss or danger to life and/or property. Two of the trouble desks were strictly for housing calls, and the other two were for facilities problem, excepting the Presidio of Monterey which handled both types of calls. The two housing trouble desk calls serviced over 2,500 military housing units.  Tenant’s grade ranged from Lt. General-Vice Admiral to E-1.

Housing problems and responses may well rate a separate book.

One of the facilities calls that always gave me a chuckle, went like this:  Received a call from a professor at NPS regarding painting his office.  Not an emergency so the call had to be transferred to the planning and scheduling person.  He was trying to set a date to paint his office, but the professor/customer refused to pick a date, until he had a chance to look at the color samples.  Slight problem, government office, no color choices, all office spaces were painted off-white.

However, the professor insisted on seeing color samples.  Master Scheduler asked me what to do?   So I had the Paint Shop Foreman make up 6 different samples of the off white paint we used—using the various trade names—but all the same color.  The foreman took the samples over to the chap, and lo and behold he picked out one.  So we painted his office his color of choice—OFF WHITE.  Often wondered if he realize we were screwing with him or not.

I frequently stayed after quitting time, to sign purchaser orders, check email, and chat with my supervisors.  One evening approximately 30 to 45 after base quitting time, the trouble desk number was ringing.  Lacking good sense I picked it up, just to make sure there was NOT a major problem on station.

A frantic lady informed me her car battery was dead on her POV (privately owned vehicle).  I try to explain to her that the number she was calling was for facility problems and she should call AAA.

She immediately informed me, she was in her office, and the station phone book had the number of the trouble desk in bold 2 inches letters on the front of it—and she had TROUBLE—her car wouldn’t start.  I forget all the reasons, it was such a major problem for her.  In any event I took my POV and jumper cables over to her office’s parking lot and jumped started her car for her.  She thanked and drove away, and I drove off to home, just smiling all the way.

More EEO Stuff

Seeing the national president of NOW (National Organization of Women) on the news reminded me of other EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) type incidents.  As I have mentioned previously, for many years of I was chairperson of the Naval Postgraduate School’s EEO Committee. This committee was charged with over-sight of ALL EEO activities.

The Federal Women’s Program Coordinator proposed a chapter of NOW for NPS, and since it would be within my purview as EEO Committee Chairperson, I also joined the chapter as a charter member of the NPS chapter.  The second year the chapter was having a difficult time finding folks willing to serve as officers.  Basically, joking I told the sitting president “Maybe I should run for President!”  To which she promptly replied, “You can’t you’re not a woman.”

So I had to explain to her under Federal Law Title  7, no organizations could discriminate on the basis of gender. The irony of it all was that I had:

Hired the first female laborer for NPS Public Works

Hired the first female truck driver at NPS Public Works

Hired the first trade (Electrician) apprentice at NPS Public Works

Hired the first female Journeyperson at NPS Public Works

Hired the first female Supervisor at NPS Public Works

Hired the first female trades Planner & Estimator for NPS Public Works

Headed the committee that proposed and effected upgrading all Sectaries from GS-3/5 to Administrative Assistants GS-7/9/11.

Mentored the first female Assistant Public Works Officer at NPS Public Works

i.e. Didn’t let the older timers try and sabotage her.

 

So thought I was well qualified to be President of NPS’s NOW chapter, without a sex change operation.

But must admit, while working as a mechanic, I was standing in the hall of an academic building reading the new blue collar wage schedule.  Along came the head clerk (female) of the academic department and after reading the wage schedule for blue collar workers, complained bitterly how overpaid we were, in her opinion.

Several minutes later she came out of the office carrying an IBM typewriter, and promptly asked me to carry it up two flights of stairs to another office.

To her surprise I informed her, if she wanted blue collar pay, she had to be able to do the heavy lifting, and she should carry her own fucking typewriter up two flights of stairs.

Of course later I had to insist, she mis-understood the verb I used describing her typewriter.

Command Events—Graduations, Change of Commands, Military Balls, Conferences (NATO), Award Ceremonies, Concerts in the Park, etc.

My first supervisory job (line foreman) was over the Emergencies Services (ES) Work Center 30.  Basically, I had one or more of each of the trades, and we were the first responders to any trouble calls received by phone.  We either resolved the problem or secured it and referred it to the trade shop required.  If you are wondering how Command Event setups were an emergencies, all I can tell you is—fail to have a graduation or change of command ready—and you had a world class emergency on your hands.

The Naval Postgraduate School operates on the ‘quarter basis,’ and accordingly had four graduations per year.  A time I took over ES Work Center, three graduations per year were held outside and the fourth inside in an auditorium—King Hall or Blg. 237 to PW.

The graduations were held in plaza between two of the academic buildings. There is a wide sidewalk next to the street, with about 6 steps down to the plaza level.  So the platform setup was placed on the sidewalk, and participants and guests were seated faced them.

Sounds simply, until you realized that a mimum of 1,500 folding chairs had to be moved from storage, setup as requested—3 main blocks with rows of 20 chairs each.  And oh by the way, the chairs had to be aligned perfectly straight.  I was shocked to find out the chairs were moved by hand to a truck, taken off by hand, and placed in position by hand.  There was also a graduation rehearsal, which resulted in the chairs being moved out of place.  So after the rehearsal the chairs all had to be re-set to their perfect alignment.  And since there is usual morning fog in Monterey, the day of graduation all the chairs had to be hand wiped, to assure they were dry and alignment maintained.

After graduation the chairs were picked up by hand, put on a truck, and re-loaded back into the holding facility.  I and my Mover Leader, sat down and designed a folding chair holder.  It was simply some pipe welded together with ends on it, so the chair legs fit over the pipe runners and ends held them in place and with 4” casters welded on the bottom so they could be rolled around.  Each device would hold 25 chairs compared to the 4 or 5 a person could carry by hand.

Prior to the design and use of the chair holders, it took around 500 hours to setup and tear down graduation.  Approximately 100 hours of that time was overtime.  The graduation were always held at 1500 (3 PM civilian time) on Friday afternoon.  So picking up the chairs and other gear and returning to storage was automatically an overtime event.  The standard shift hours were 0800 to 1630.  By using the chair holders the total time was cut in half and the overtime to a couple of hours, instead of the 4 to 5 hours required for hand handling.  We built and started using the chair carts in 1972, and the same chair carts are still in use today.

The platform setup consisted of “Captain’s Chairs,” the lecterns, the US, Navy, and other appropriate Flags and stands and public address system. We also installed a waist high steel pipe fencing around the platform area and draped it with a blue bunting for wind protection.  The wind comes up at 1500 like clockwork in Monterey.

And as a backup, the auditorium had to have a duplicate setup, in case of rain.

After 23 years of 3 times a year of outside graduations, when I became Superintendent, I finally convinced the Academic Council to hold all the graduations inside King Hall. The major factor being, the Council had to start paying for the graduation expenses rather than being borne by Public Works funding.

June graduation was always the largest event, with friends, family, and peers from all over the world attending.  65 degrees F. is a warm day in Monterey in the summer time and wind comes up just as the event starts.

The female attendees would be in frilly low cut summer dresses and big floppy hats.  We often wondered if that was an east coast graduation uniform.  I stationed several people at the back of seating every time, to catch the hats that were blown off.

My help and I used to joke, we could fund our retirement, if we ran a coat rental service nearby, rather than a coat check service.  Just remember blue collar humor is a little different and earthy that most.

Holiday & Other Events

My apologies to my faithful readers, but son came to visit the week before Christmas and then I got busy with other holiday events.  But back on the wagon and will try to do an episode a week in the future.

Reading about Christmas bonuses in the business section of local newspaper, gave me a rueful laugh.  Because in 38 years of service and saving Uncle and you millions of dollars over the year, the total amount of Christmas bonuses I received was ZERO.  And I was not discriminated against.  The U.S. Government does NOT award Christmas bonuses.  It might have something to do with Christmas being a religious holiday, and the government adhering to the first amendment.

In any event, it was one of the reasons the civilian Public Works supervisors held a holiday and other party for their employees.  These events were paid for by the supervisors and what funds we could raise with a raffle. One of our employees was a big time wild hog hunter, and usually provided a pig or two for the Christmas party.  We also had turkey and all the fixings including all the deviled eggs you could eat.

I mention the eggs because over time the deviled eggs became the Seabee’s job.  And it is a job to cook, peal, mix, and stuff 20 dozen eggs.  Sound like a lot, until you know the events were free to the employees and their families.  Of course after a couple of years, every other department on station, started showing up for the Christmas party.

I recall one year I found the City of Monterey fire fighters in the food line.  When questioned they assured me they had been invited by the Naval Postgraduate School Fire Fighters.

During the early years, drinking (alcohol) was tolerated.  However, after some near disasters, I put my foot down and pointed out the liability we were incurring, drinking was no longer tolerated and/or allowed.  Some of near disasters included:

Finding an employee nearly comatose, and taking home in my car, and having his mother ask me, “What did you do to him?”

A spur of the moment drag race around the buildings, and nearly running over the Navy Captain, in charge of Facilities management.

One of the painters holding another painter by ankles and shaking him up and down, while hollering, “I know you took my candy cane and I want it back.”

One of the electricians insisting on giving me his whole pay check (in cash), to help out with the party.  And on Monday morning, wondering what happened to his pay check.  I let him worry until Wednesday morning. 

And then the topper, the duty boiler operator left the plant (drunk) and went home, without didn’t notify anyone.  The plant was operating at 90% firing rate on two 25,000 pounds of steam per hour.  Don’t ask me why I stopped at the plant on my way home and found it un-attended.

So drinking was banned, before we all lost our houses!!!

Over the years it became an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) process.   Nearly everyone had the same job each year and carried it out.  All line supervisors baked a turkey at home and brought it the day of the event.  The Seabees did the eggs, the office folks did the setup and clean up, and etc.

The last ten years or so we even jollied the military officers into serving the food.  Up to and including the Superintendent a two star Admiral.  At one time we had one of the first female Admirals as our Superintendent. At the time the Chief of Naval Operations was receiving a lot of publicity about being the Sailor’s Admiral!  So I had plaque made up and presented it to her at the Christmas party.  The Plaque cited her as the Employee’ Admiral, and therein is one of my claims to fame.  It actually brought tears to her eyes.  Not everyone can make an Admiral cry.

We also gave an expensive gift to the raffle winner every year.  For two years my blind administrative assistant won the 25” color TV.  She was the spouse of an officer student and it was only after they had transferred, I discovered she had been punching braille symbols on to her raffle tickets, so she could locate it by touch while drawing the tickets.

And we had her draw the tickets because she was blind!

In October of 1994 the Navy took over base operations of Fort Ord and the Presidio of the Monterey, due to base closures.  My work force went from around 150 employees to over 350 on October 1st of 1995, with a corresponding increase in supervisory personnel.  Came time for the Christmas party, most of the new supervisors were un-accustomed to doing anything for the employees, and were reluctant to pay for the party.

At a planning meeting one of new supervisors even suggested that we take a vote on whether we would even hold the party.  I agreed on the spot, however, I did point out I voted last, and my vote was the only one that would be counted.

More EEO

The pointless case that aggravated me the most, went like this:

The Federal Police Chief was a black chap (that was before the African-American term came into use). One of his poorest employees (a Patrolman,) was a white chap.  It was my personal opinion if you looked up useless in the dictionary, it would display his picture.

Every time he was reprimanded or even hollered at for poor job performance, he would file a reverse discrimination case. This particular time he was being suspended without pay for 3 days for sleeping on the job.  There were two witness from outside the police department, that stated he had been asleep in his patrol car.

After I informed him, he could not file a discrimination case resulting in disciplinary actions due to job performance, he asked what his appeal rights were.  Being aggravated at the time I told him, “You can appeal it to the Secretary of the Navy, if you want to waste your time and everyone else’s.”  He said, “Oh!” and went off to serve his unpaid suspension.  Please note, he could have been fired not just suspended.

About 30 days later I got called up to the Superintendent’s Office to explain, why I had advised an employee to file an appeal on non-appealable action with the Secretary of Navy.  Of course I had no idea of what had occurred, until I was shown his appeal file, and in it, he stated that the EEO Counselor (Me) had advised him to file an appeal with the Secretary of Navy.  If he had been present, I would have torn him apart with my bare hands.

Fortunately, having some time in civil service, I was in the habit of keeping written record of my EEO cases.  And in this case I had the closing summary in writing that contained my actual statement to him about the Secretary of the Navy.  And the employee had even signed off on it.  Gives you some idea of his IQ.

At the point, I would like to blow my own horn, regarding EEO and various employees:

During my watch:

Hired the first female laborer.

Hired the first female truck driver.

Hired the first female craft journeyperson.

Hired the first female-minority production controller.

Hired the first female supervisor.

Hired the first minority supervisor.

Conceived and implement a laborer to craft journeyman training program.

Recommend hiring the first female EEO Officer.

I was raised that everyone should have an equal chance in life, and applied that beleife during my working career.  Not preference, just a chance, and if you didn’t or couldn’t perform to standard, I would be the first to correct and/or separate you.

More EEO

Under the federal system there are (where) 7 classes or certifications than could qualify for discrimination status.  If you, were a green 3 armed green 4 foot tall person, you were out of luck.  You had to fit one of the classes.  I’m having trouble remember the class’s  as I’m writing this, but hopeful they will all come back, as I put down some of details of the cases I worked on.  Race, national origin, age, sex, and religion are the ones I can recall off the top of my head.  National origin is the code word for Hispanic.  Plus there were several programs that the EEO officials oversaw and supported: Federal Women Program, Hispanic Surname Program, Asian Pacific Program, Black History Program, and the EEO Employee, EEO Supervisor, EEO Military Supervisor, EEO Manager, and the EEO Official of the Year Program.  I was awarded everything but the Military Supervisor award, during the years I was involved in the assorted EEO programs. There was also a standing committee that reviewed merit promotions list (i.e. job selection lists) for EEO compliance, that I served on until that program was changed to full time EEO officials oversight.

In any event, we had one lady who was active in the various EEO programs, but had the odd habit of changing her status every year.  Oh, guess I forget to mention—one could self-certify that they were a member of a protected group. She changed her certification from Hispanic Surname to America Indian every other year.  The interesting part was her married name was Dixon and she blonde and blue eyed.  The lady was also married to a retired Army Master Sergeant who was Hispanic.

Her son named Jesus Dixon applied for a job with Dole Foods, one of the major employers in Salinas, CA.   The applicant asked if he was bi-lingual and he checked Yes, and was hired for a trainee Supervisor position.  The third day on the job, it was obvious he wasn’t functional in Spanish.  The second level supervisor and the Personnel Office call him in, and were criticizing him for taking a bi-lingual position when he could not speak Spanish. At that time he pointed out to the hiring officials the application asked if he was bi-lingual, but did NOT ask in what languages.  The young man was fluent in spoken and written German.  The family had been stationed in Germany over 10 years and he had attended German Schools.

I was pleased to learn that not only government personnel ASSUME things with un-desired results, but big industry commit the same error.

EEO (EQUAL EMPLOYEMENT OPPORTUNITY)  Sorry about last week folks, but we were at my son’s and wife’s home for an early Thanksgiving.  He is also a federal civil servant (Custom and Border Protection Agent) stationed at the Sacramento airport. And of course knew he would have to work on Thanksgiving Day and weekend.

Due to all the items in the news last week regarding alleged sexual harassment, I’m doing a story on that, this week instead of building problems.

During most of my career I was an EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) Counselor, a Class Action EEO Counselor, and chairperson of the EEO Committee.

One of my first case’s as a Counselor was an allegation of sexual discrimination.

An employee of the Navy Exchange (the Navy’s Wal Mart) stopped, and stated that the Cashiers Department Manager had offered her a supervisory position in exchange for sex on demand. Not just once, but any time he desired!

I found it hard to believe, at that time frame (Top Gun Sex Scandal period) any Navy employee would even think of such actions.

Scheduled an appointment with the chap and advised of the allegation made against him.  Ask him if he had anything to say.  And he promptly told me it that basically the allegations were true—he expected sex in return for the promotion to supervisory cashier.  I’m sure my jaw hit the table, this chap is admitting to sexual discrimination.

But then he smugly told me but the offer was NOT sexual discrimination.  When I could speak again, I ask him why not?  He confidently explained to me, that: since all the applicants were female and he had made the same demand to all, it couldn’t be sexual discrimination.

I didn’t even bother to try and explain the facts of life, much sexual discrimination facts to him. But returned to my office and called the Supply Officer, the person in charge of the Navy Exchange. Relayed the facts of the case to him and suggested he separate the chap ASAP.  I had previously cleared Separation as satisfactory resolution with the complainant.

Fortunately for resolution purposes, as a Navy Exchange employee he did not have federal civil service status, and could be separated (fired) at will.  The Supply Officer called him in and discharged and escorted him off the station that day.

However, it still perturbs me to this day, that he could see nothing wrong with his actions.   

Building Problems

While working at NPS, I was involved with the construction, putting into service, and maintenance of 4 major buildings. One of the oddities of Navy Facilities procedures is the Facilities Command labels’ all buildings and structures by a building number, while the folks in the building refer to it by name. You can imagine what a hassle this is for the folks on the trouble desk, when taking the calls and dispatching the workers.

The first building I was involved with, was Ingersoll Hall, better know to Public Works as Building 330. Please remember all these building were built under contract.  The first major problem was all the steam lines inside the building were not insulated by the builder.  Someone left the requirement off the specifications in the contract.  Of course the steam vault was right next to the electrical vault where all the building controls were located, and the high temperature from the steam lines caused all the controls to trip out.

The solution was to insulate the steam lines, sounds simple eh. Of course the lines were a maze and next to the walls.  JP and I built cardboard forms around the lines and values and then mixed and poured a liquid solution into them, which turned into foam insulation when cured. Sounds simple, but we spent over a month completing that job, and most of the time the temperature was over a 100 degrees F.

Now the building would stay on line we got a call from the head of the Computer Department informing us his computers had arrived and needed to be hooked up. This was the first week of December and they needed to be functional by the second week of January the beginning of the new academic quarter.

I was a fine foreman at the time, but all of the Air Conditioning Mechanics worked for me, so we went over to take a look.  UNBELIVEABLE, there was nothing but a football sized empty room, and bunch of car size cartons on the loading dock.  There was no dedicated electrical service for computers and no air conditioning equipment.  Luckily the room did have a raised floor for computer installation and one wall was glass windows. After the engineers read all the specifications and determined what the electrical power requirement for the IBM 300 series computers, lo and behold the electrical transformers installed with the building did not have enough capacity to run the computers.

So for power transformers we checked other Navy bases, and found transformers at Navy Weapons Station China Lake. Sent a crew to pick up the transformers and contacted PG & E (the local utility) to arrange a service drop to the new transformers, and started the wiring work from the transformers to the computers.

Now to the air conditioning, the engineers had determined the computers would need 25 to 30 ton of air conditioning capacity to keep the computers from tripping out due to heat.  That’s a lot of air conditioning when you consider the average house has about a 3 or less ton capacity air conditioning unit.  After much head scratching we decided to use 5 ton self-contained commercial roof top units. We set them on the ground and had the cold air discharge into and under the computer room flooring. This was accomplished by removing the windows and using a short run of duct to discharge under the raised flooring. Oh by the way there were six of these installations.  Six 5 ton units equal 30 tons of required cooling air requirement.

We worked on this project 14 hours a day, seven days a week, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.  Many of the employees had scheduled leave cancelled and were ordered to work on the holidays.  Under civil service rules working on a holiday, gets you regular pay scale, plus the holiday pay. I recall talking to a grocery checker on New Years Day who was been paid triple time.

To make a long story shorter, we did get all the support equipment installed and the computers online for the start of next academic quarter.  Now the best part, Public Works did NOT receive even a thank you note from the department head. 

My personal belief is, he didn’t want to acknowledge he had dropped the ball, by not including the power and cooling requirements in the building specifications—what hell it was just one of the major computer centers in the Navy at the time.

More building tales next week!!

 

More Hazardous Work

One of the most dangerous jobs I and a co-worker and friend ever accomplished was cap off a leaking chlorine bottle.  One of the clerks, who worked in supply yard, came into the office and complained about a terrible odor in the yard.

Of course as soon as we got close enough to smell it, we realized it was chlorine.  We called our fire department, who didn’t have the slightest on how to handle the leak.  They tripped the mutual aid button, and shortly we had ever Fire Department on the Monterey Peninsula–NPS Fire, Monterey Fire, Seaside Fire, Carmel Fire, Pacific Grove Fire, Del Rey Oaks Fire, Marine Public Safety, Ft. Ord Fire, Presidio of Monterey Fire, and California Forestry on the way or on the scene.

 All that Fire Power and no one had any idea what to do.  It fact they were discussing an evacuation the station until the gas dissipated.  Only problem, the 150 cubic foot bottle had a very small leak seep, which turned to gas when the bottle pressure was removed and it was going to take a month of Sundays before the bottle leaked out.

 While all that was going Bob and I had gone to Swimming Pool Chlorinator building, as we knew there were Chlorine rated respirators available there.  In the same closest as the respirators there was a big wooden box labeled Chlorine Capping Kit, so we took it with us, back to the scene of the leak.

Apparently, 99.9% of Chlorine bottle leaks occur where the value screws into the bottle. The brass value and the steel bottle don’t play well together, and the electrical/chemical reaction causes pin-hole leaks. Sure enough that was the problem in this case.  However, none of fire departments wanted to try capping the bottle, as “they hadn’t been trained and it was their equipment.”  Lack of guts was my personal belief!

So Bob and I put on the respirators and haz-mat suits, took the capping kit and capped off the leak.  The kit was just a steel cup with a gasket on the bottom that fit over the value and rested on bottle.  The steel cup had loops on each side with chains that fasted to the plate the bottle was placed in.  That way the cap was chained down into one piece, and even if it fell over, the cover would stay in place.

The assorted Fire Departments turned out their lights and sirens and went back to their stations (to polish their brass I assume), and we threw away the haz-mat suits, took a cold shower and went to lunch.  Just another day in Public Works!

One of the major friction points in my marriage was the fact I would not wear a wedding ring.  Of course I did not wear any kind of jewelry, not even a wrist watch. When you put your hands in small spaces with electricity, hot gases, and hot liquids, you DO NOT want anything on them that is such a good conductor as gold or silver.

This was my MO even before what happened to Bob one day.  We were installing some new copper refrigerate lines.  And had reached the place where we had to install a piece of copper pipe into a T fitting from below.  For the un-aware, soldering a joint from below is the one of the difficult types of soldering one can do.  And since this was a refrigerate line under high pressure, the joint had to be soldered with silver solder.  That type of solder flows around 1500 degree F.

Bob was holding the pipe into the T and soldering the joint, when a drop of solder fell out, hit his hand, and promptly flowed around and under his wedding ring. Of course he is screaming in pain, but we had a bucket of water on hand for a fire watch.  I stuck his hand in the water, but the band was still hot enough to burn, in fact it had seared its self to his finger.

I snatched up a pair of “dikes,” (wire cutting pliers) and cut the ring on either side. Of course by then the ring was seared to his finger.  I had to take a pocket knife and cutting the ring pieces off.  He hasn’t worn a wedding ring since, but then he has a nice band of scar tissues in place of ring.  Needless, to say neither have I worn a ring even after I retired.

More Injuries

One of the stranger employee injuries occurred when a Wood Craftsman was running a planner in the shop. He pushed a piece of wood over the planning surface, and cut off the tips of 6 fingers about a 1/64th of an inch. Of course there was enough blood splashed around to look like he had cut his finders off! The planner blades spun at over 10,000 rpm and are sharper than a razor blade.  The employee didn’t even realize it had planned his fingers until the blood covered his safety glasses to the point he couldn’t see.  There was blood everywhere, including 30 feet in the air on the ceiling. Guess it goes without saying there was a labeled “pusher” device available at the machine.

Pressure bandages stopped the bleeding, but the employee was off work for several weeks. Not much a mechanic can do with 6 fingers in bandages and hyper sensitive to touch. When asked why he hadn’t used the “pusher” he stated he was in a hurry to get the piece of wood to fit what he was working on.  Maybe that’s how the old saying, “Haste makes Waste,” got started.  Of course under the worker compensation regulations he drew full pay until he could work again.

One of my electricians “Crazy George” by name, was working on the street lighting.  He had not secured the power, as he was only going to check the blub.  These street lights were more than 50 years old and the power voltage is 2,200 volts.  Instead of setting up his step ladder next to the fixture to check the blub, he leaned his ladder against the light fixture and climbed up the ladder.  At the time the 50 plus year old rusted out light fixture gave way and fell over and separated into its separate cast iron sections.  Since he had NOT secured the power, he is now lying in a pile with fixture section and a skinned 2,200 volt power line ready to zap any and everything within touch.  Some how he didn’t get shocked.

But of course the old street lights where a series circuit (like your Christmas lights) and with one location out, the whole section was out.   And you don’t buy 50 year old light fixture parts at the local supply store.  To restore the street light to the Senior Officer section, we remove the light, cut the wiring and spliced in across the crumbled light fixture spot.

This is only one of “Crazy George’s” adventures.  Later on there will be a whole chapters of this chaps activities.

Of course in the spirit of full disclosure, I must relate the facts of my own on the job injury. There had been a breakage of a 8” sewer pipe in the basement of main administration building—The Old Del Monte Hotel. There was about 6’’ of water and sewer trout (our polite term for chucks of shits and other good stuff) floating around in the area.  Normally, not a hassle, but the Electrical Distribution Panels were in  the same space, and some were only a foot of the floor.  I had just reached the decision to bring in some generator driven lift pumps to keep the sewage from getting into the electrical panels, when I slipped and started to fall.  Normally, I would just duck and roll into the fall, but didn’t want to dive into the sewer trout, so jerked and yanked myself to keep from falling—and tore the cartilage in my right knee.

Being an on the job injury, permission was required before the surgery could be scheduled, and that only took about 4 months, while I hobbled around on a cane at work.  The surgery was a success according to Doctor—they removed all the cartilage. Post op he told me I would probably experience some pain.  He was correct—just 27 years of it.

And that’s not all folks, 14 days after the operation I experienced a pulmonary embolism and live through, even though ¾ of my lungs were covered with blood clots.  10 days after getting out of intensive care for that, was back in intensive care for warfarin poisoning—over dose of blood thinners.

So after about 6 weeks I’m back to work, and everything is going swell, until I get a Letter from the Bureau of Labor (the folks who pay for federal on the job injuries and lost time pay).  The letter informed me my claim was denied, as heart attacks are not covered under federal on the job injuries regulations. Let me tell you, I dam near had one!

I wasn’t having much success dealing with BOL (Bureau of Labor), so asked my boss (The Public Works Office) to try explain the difference between a heart attack and a pulmonary embolism to the BOL GS-7 Claims Examiner.  The Public Works Officer was a O-6 (a 6  on a scale of 10) Commander lost his patience with the person and did raise his voice, at which time the GS-7 promptly hung up on him.  It was worth to see the look on his face.

It finally took a letter from the surgeon with a cover letter from the Admiral to the Regional Head of BOL to get it straighten out and have my claim approved.   

Safety & Injuries

In our line of work safety is paramount, after all day and day out you are working with electricity, high pressure steam and water, in tunnels and/or vaults, on top of multi- story buildings, exposed to hazardous fumes and vapor, slippery work surfaces, rotating equipment, and just plain dangerous conditions.  Then add in someone who is careless and clueless like my first foreman, you develop a high regard for safe working conditions.

A couple of examples of my supervisors clueless beside the leaking chorine bottle mentioned last week were:

We were on the fifth deck (floor to non-navy personnel) on an apron, surrounding the sixth deck.  We had set up a scaffold to drill into cement beams at the top of sixth deck, to hang a new set of stairs.  My supervisor had spelled me on the drill, and was pushing on it so hard, the roll around scaffold was tipping backwards.  The height of scaffold was higher than the width of building apron, so if the scaffold did tip over we were going to fall five stories.  I fairly calmly reached over and pull the power cord to the drill, and when it stopped, he stopped pushing so hard and the scaffold came back to vertical.  Told the boss it was me or me running the drill, and it was against union contract rules for him to work. And before I went back up the scaffold I secured it to the building.

On another occasion we were working on a ventilation fan that the lubrication had failed and scoured the bearings.  This fan had a 4 inch by 12 foot shaft and blower wheel was about 12 feet in diameter.  Of course that fan provides exhaust to the chemistry labs and had to run when classes were in session.

I had the brainstorm to pull the shaft and reverse it, as that would put un-touched shaft surfaces in the new bearing blocks.  Our supervisor agree, and then wanted to stand that humungous fan and shaft upright and using a jack to push the shaft out of the fan.  Now we are in a room with about 4 foot of clearance between the fan housing and the walls.  And we are all mincemeat if that and shaft tip over while we are jacking on the shaft.  Finally convinced the boss to use a couple of chain fall and pull the fan off the shaft while in a vertical position.

I still laugh about the next incident, even if it was only hazardous to my boss.  The station sewers emptied into sewer vault and a set of sewer lift pumps pumped the sewage across the road and up a small hill to the city of Monterey sewage plant.

We had a call sewage was running out the door of pump shed.  When we got there, we found the pumps running, but the level in vault just kept going up, and the pumps never stopped running.  We quickly discovered the check values on the output lines were not closing, which allowed the sewage to flow back into the vault.  We took the top off the check values and found the flappers of both were being held open by condoms that had gotten tangled around the flapper part of the value. I had paused go to the service truck to get some rubber gloves and to figure out how to remove the condoms. When I went back into the pump house, I saw my boss had taken a pair of channel locks and was pulling on the condoms, you wouldn’t believe how far they will stretch.  About that time they pulled lose, and promptly wrapped around his face and neck. And then he un-wraps them from face and neck with his bare hands.

Now remember these our used condoms that have been through the station sewage system.  God only know what diseases they were or could have been carrying.  Of course the good lord looks out for idiots and he didn’t develop anything from having his face and neck wrapped in used condoms.

Now who writes the instruction requesting randy young Naval Officers to put their used condoms in the trash and not down the toilet!

Don’t ask me how I got the covers back on the check values, as I was laughed so hard I could hardly see.

One of more serious work injuries occurred one of my employees, when I was the Foreman of Emergency Services.  This chap was working as a temporary truck driver. He was driving a dump truck with a gravity back gate.  i. e. When you raised the bed of the truck the gate opened at the top, and the load slid out, and when you lowered the truck bed the gate closed—with a bang.

On this occasion he had started to lower the bed, when he noticed part of load was hung up and not coming out of the bed.  So the genius reached under the gate and pulled the obstruction clear. By that time the bed had cross the tipping point and down came the gate. It MASHED not cut his thumb off. 

I was close by and hear the call on our radio.  Shot over to scene, got a tourniquet on his arm, and Para-medics had arrived to take him to the hospital. Being government employees the Par-medics didn’t think to look for severed member.  So my leader and I jumped in the dumpster and routed around until we found the mashed off thumb.  Which we put in an ice filled jar and took to the hospital.

Long story short, they re-attached his thumb, and he regained about 76% usage.

When I was the Public Works Superintendent, the Admiral congrulated me on our shops safety record.  At the time I thought I was being witty and told him, “Safety is like liberty, it take eternal vigilance to keep it.” Now I firmly believe there was more truth than humor in the remark.

Swimming Pool

For many years NPS had a functioning pool, which was larger than an Olympic Pool.  The water was heated at the main Boiler Plant and pumped to the pool and back.  The Pool was part of the original resort hotel facilities.  The pipes that carried the water back and forth to the pool were made out of  2” thick redwood strips shaped in an octagon and banded with copper strands.  The biggest diameter was about 18”.  The water was also pumped through a chlorinator to keep the water sanitary for swimming.  Of course with 100 plus small children using the pool, it took over 100 cu ft per day to keep the readings in the required zone. So the bottles had to be changed out every day.  The dam bottles stood about 5 ft tall and weighted around 150 pounds.  Of course taking one bottle out and putting another in always allowed the escape of some Chlorine gas—this is the stuff they killed people within World War I.

We always wore respirators and had a meter than sounded an alarm if the concentration went to high.  On one of those occasions our genius supervisor decided we should have our change out procedures checked out. (I could and will write several chapters of the bone-head things that chap did over the years).  But to sum it up in advance, you had to be on the highest lookout for your own safety at ALL TIMES.

The bottle to chlorinator fittings were brass and could not be oiled.  Oil and chlorine make something else very nasty.  The fitting were binding, so my genius boss take a 24” pipe wrench to the bottle value, and promptly cracked it.  We now have a Chlorine Gas leak. The crack was small and barely leaked, but any leak has the potential to be fatal, and the pressure could make the leak worse.

My 125 pound boss wrapped a “red shop rag,” around the value, picked it up by himself and threw in the back of the service truck.   I drove the truck down to the shore of the pond on station, and he threw the leaking bottle into the pond. Then we went to the Boiler Plant and stood under the “Drench Shower,” until the meter said, “No Chlorine Present.”  During that period, the boss informed us NOTHING HAPPENED!  Hell, I was still on probation, so I promptly zipped my lip.

However, the next morning on the way to work I pasted the pond, and it was a sea of white.  The white being the bellies of dead fish, turtles, birds, and anything else that was in that pond.  The PWO call for investigation by Army Medical Staff, to determine what caused the die off. They never found the bottle, and I never said a word until today.
 

From Dogs to Peacocks

NPS had a large flock of Peacocks left over from when it was a major resort hotel ran by a railroad.  The original railroad stop was still in place, when I started at NPS in 1968.

Granted Peacocks are beautiful birds, but most people don’t realize they shit like a horse (that’s a whole lot), and their call is unique and loud.  The most apt description is: their screech could raise the dead.

One of their favorite roosting places was above the portico at the front of the main building.  So course every morning the front steps were liberally covered with peacock droppings.  We had a standing job order, to wash the steps, every day before 0700. Now who does it on weekends?  Normally, the boiler plant operators handled all weekend and holiday calls, but boiler tending came first.

After much study, we covered the top of the portico with basically barbed wire, and the peacocks found a less visible roosting place.  One where the their droppings only had to be cleaned up once a week.

During the mating season the males becomes very vocal and aggressive, and it is also when they stroll around with their tail feathers displayed.  On one occasion a fully displayed male bird was strolling through the main front parking lot.  When he saw his reflection from a brand new silver metallic painted Mercedes, he promptly attacked it.  He clawed and pecked at it, until he fell down exhausted.  Sounds pretty funny eh?  Tell it to the owner of Mercedes—the Provost of the School.  It cost over $2,000 to have the car repainted and this is in the early 70’s.

As I’ve mentioned before the main building, is the old hotel building.  It has a large entry way and lobby with a hallway to the ballroom.  The ceilings in these spaces are at least 30 feet high.  So, one Monday morning we get a call the drapes in the Ballroom hallway are falling down. The hallway had floor to ceiling opening windows looking out at the sunken gardens on either side, and the drapes where floor to ceiling in between.

About 50% of drapes where off or ready to fall off the hangers plus they were covered with peacock shit.  After twisting arms to find out what happened—we discovered two peacocks had wandered in from the front.  And the Quarterdeck personnel had try to shoo they out, without opening the windows. Of course the birds when cornered flew around and were lighting on the hangers and drapes and shitting all over everything.

The drapes all had to come down, and when sent out for dry cleaning, it was discovered they were at least 50 years old, and the material was rotten.  When put in the dry cleaning fluid they promptly dissolved.  All new drapes had to be purchased and installed, and we had to check all the hangers to make sure they were still secured to the wall.  I never did find out what that little episode cost.

With some Navy personnel being slow learners, shortly afterwards another peacock wandered in the front door, and was strolling around the lobby.  In the attempt to shoo it out, it flew into the huge window (20 feet by 40 feet) over-looking the lawn and cracked it down the middle.  This window was installed when the hotel was build, about the mid 1880’s.  Where does one find a 20’ x 40’ sheet of 1” glass.  NOWHERE, the glass replacement was poured in England and air freighted to Monterey.  And when the new glass received, it was found to be 6” shorter on each side.  OK, now the glass doesn’t fill the hole.  We had to build new framing to fill the space of the original glass size to the glass size received.

And then pay a contractor to install the new glass.  Let me tell you it was a major hassle!  The total cost of that window replacement was in excess of $50,000, and that was in the 80’s.

After that incident a decision was made to remove the Peacocks.  The only hitch to that is catching them.  Luckily, that job went to the Seabees. I don’t know how they caught them, but they needed guidance on how to transport them.

The shops had built a holding pen, and the Seabees were collecting and delivering the Peacocks to the pen.  Of course, they just held them tightly to chest and climbed in the back and front of a pickup.  Of course by the time they arrived they were covered in Peacock Shit!  I had to sit down I was laughing so hard.  Their Chief Petty Officer nearly had a stroke.  He made them strip and washed them and their clothes off with cold water from a fire hose.  I pointed out to him that the government pickup was still covered in shit.  The chief then had the Seabees clean and washed the pickup,  while shivering in their skivvies.

Thirty years later, I’m laughing so hard, I have to stop for this week.

Dog Events when a Line Foreman

My first supervisory job was as the line foreman for the Emergencies Services Work Center.  Basically, we were the first responders to anything that went wrong.  Our first priority was to secure any threat to life and/or property.  If the problem could be fixed in 2 hours or less, we fixed it, if not we referred to the trade shop (electric, plumbing, carpenter, painting, etc).

This shop was located on the main station of the Naval Postgraduate School, and included handling the Senior Officer Housing service calls.  Senior Officers in the Navy are Commanders O-5, Captains O-6, and Flag Officers O-7 and up. The housing units had been “cottages” attached to the Del Monte Hotel.

We had one resident, who absolutely refused to keep his dog secured.  Either locking in a room of the house when expecting a service call, or in his fenced yard at other times.  It was a black lab, with a bad temper, usual in its self.  This dog had put at least 3 of mechanics either on top of, or in their service truck, to keep from being attacked.

Lo and beholden, while standing on the ramp in front of my shop building, here comes that bad dog wandering through the parking lot.  I whistled at him and waived a roast beef sandwich, while leading him into the building, and then locking him into a storage room. I then call Base Security to tell that I had found a stray dog wandering through the parking lot and had it secured. 

In due time they sent someone to check it out, complete with a person from the County Pound to take possession of the dog.  Of course, the Security Officer recognized the dog, as their department had experienced the same problems with it.  Lacking much of back bone the Head of Security, call the Commander who owned the dog, and asked him to come pick it up.

The chap had steam coming out of his ears when he arrived.  How were we to know he was in a meeting with the Admiral-Superintendent of the School.  Apparently, the Admiral was a little un-happy about having to stop a meeting so a subordinate could tend to a pet problem.  I managed to assure the Commander, I had NO IDEA it was his dog, as it didn’t have a collar or any other ID.  With us both knowing full well, I knew whose dog it was, and I was sending him a message.  The Naval Officer did get the message, after that his dog was secured at all times.

As mentioned before our shop loading dock, faced one of NPS’s parking lots.  And needless to say parking was always a problem.  I was continuously having to have POV’s (Privately Owned Vehicle) removed from my clearly marked service truck parking area. The major offender was a chap who worked in the school’s print shop which was across the street in the main building.  This chap was about 2 clicks above a functional illiterate and working in the print shop. Another story.

Besides parking in my Service Truck spots, he brought his two Rhodesian Ridgeback Dogs to work with and left them in his old Dodge Station wagon all day.   He would come back at lunch time and walk and water them.  I had a hose bib on the corner of my building and that’s where he watered them.  Not in a pan or bucket, but by turning on the hose bib, and encouraging the dogs to drink from the gushing water.  Of course they ended up lapping up the water that ran on the ground.  I solved that by have the hose bid removed, I did have two plumbers working for me.  Jerk was going to file a grievance, but didn’t after the squirrel incident.

Of course the dogs did their business (number 1 & 2) all over the lawn in back of the Enlisted Club.  It goes without saying he never picked up after them.  So one day the dogs had both taken a major dump, and the owner was leading them back to his vehicle.  When a squirrel ran down an Oak tree, which caught the dogs attention.  They promptly took off on the dead run, jerked their owner on to his back and are dragging him across the lawn.  And they drug him right through the two piles of dog shit, and into the tree knocking him semi-conscious.  I saw this all from my shop’s office window, and when I could stop laughing enough to speak, call Security. Poetic Justice, Karma, PayBack, whatever, it was working.

Needless, to say, the dogs were NOT licensed, only dogs of residents are allowed on the station, and his station pass on his vehicle was out of date.  Long story short he had to take a bus to work and the dogs were put up for adoption.

The reason only resident dogs were allowed on station was because of a Contractor’s pit bulls.  Seem like you couldn’t be a federal contractor unless you had one or more pit bull dogs in the back of your pickup at all times.  The Admiral’s wife was walking her mid-size poodle across the lawn next to the main building. Of course out of pickup the dog the pit bulls came, the Admiral’s wife snatched up the poodle and ran for her house.  She made the house but only got the screen door closed, which the pit bull crashed through.

She called Emergency Services (my work center) rather than Security from the top of her washer dryer combo.  We found the dog’s owner, got them removed, and the Admiral’s wife off the top of her appliances.  When I asked her, “Why did you call Emergency Services instead of Security?”  She informed me, “that my number was on the back of the station phone directory in 3 inches letters and it WAS A GOD DAM EMERGENCY!!!”

This all occurred around 1500 (3:00 PM civilian time) on Friday. Monday morning at 0800 there was a new station instruction restricting dogs on station.  Hencefore, only station residents dogs could be present on station.  And they required a special highly visible tag, available from the Security Department.

More Dog Encounters

Think I’ve already mentioned the Irish Setter Hound who wet me down, because I wouldn’t play with him.  Of course with 5,000 units and the assorted pets, and 50 to 75 mechanics working on and in the houses, there was no shortage of dog happenings.

JP and I were working furnace replacements, and had parked in the service alleyway in back of unit.  The unit had 3 foot or so picket fence surrounding the back yard.  The picket fence has 2 x 4’s for top and bottom rails.  I was facing the house working on the furnace lying in the back of the house.  JP was facing me on the other side of truck with his back to the picket fence.

The lady of the house opened the door and let out this pony sized St. Bernard dog.  He was a friendly curious sort, and without making a sound, wandered over and stood up with his front paws on the top rail of the picket fence.  Then he let a loud and very deep WOOF right in JP’s ear. You may find it hard to believe, but that 50ish mechanic cleared the bed of a ½ ton pickup in a single bound, and was standing shaking by me on my side of the truck.  I was laughing so hard I had to hang on to the truck to keep from falling down.  Of course JP is cussing me in his slow Tennessee drawl.  Of course all this set the dog off—who joined the fun by barking and howling—which would have made a good fog horn warning.

The lady of the house turned up and wanted to know, “What were we doing to her dog?”  By then I was laughing so hard, I could hardly get in the truck and drive away.

On another occasion, I went on a service call for a refrigerator to one of the newer units. These units when entered from the front door, had the living/dining room straight ahead, the kitchen off to the left, and a hallway with the bathrooms and bedrooms to the right.  I thought I had hear a dog growl, so told the lady of the house, secure your dog before I come in. She assured me, he was locked in a bedroom and besides he was a very friendly dog.

About that instant I heard scratching sounds, and look over my shoulder to see this Doberman Pinscher running full blast and slipping on the vinyl flooring.  The lady of the house starts screaming, “he won’t bite!”  Luckily I had a four pound ball peen hammer on my tool belt.  And when he leap for my throat showing at least 100 4 inch fangs, I slapped him in the ear, with the hammer.  Down he went—out like a blown blub.  I thought I had killed the dam dog for sure.  And of course losing conscious he had void shit and urine all over her floor. 

She is so shocked she can’t speak, and I’m so pissed off and scared, I wanted to pound the dog’s head into a pulp.  When she could speak the lady of the house kept insisting, “ I told you he wouldn’t bite!”  And I kept assuring her, he wasn’t going to bite me.

After a few minutes the dog starting moaning, and quivering, and finally stood up, and skulked back down the hall.  While she cleaning up after her dog, I checked out her refrigerator (which had nothing major wrong with it) and told her due to its age and condition, I would recommend to the housing management that it be replaced with a new one.  Which was always, one of the big wishes of military wives.  We had reached a silent agreement to pretend her dog had not tried to rip my throat out, and I had not tried to kill it with one hammer blow.

 

Housing Mechanic Events

We left off in NPS housing last week, and as I was involved with housing as a Mechanic, Line Foreman, General Foreman, and Superintendent, will continue with some more housing episodes.

Mechanic:

Last week we talked about replaced wall heaters and installing temporary kitchens. Some of the other occurrences were, as follows:

At one time, the engineers in their wisdom decided all the natural gas valves had to be replaced due to a manufacturing defect.  This require going into occupied homes, shutting of the gas, taking the cover of the heater, removing the burner complete with gas value, taking to the shop and installing the new valve, going back to the house, re-installing the valve, hooking the natural gas supply back up and re-lighting the heater.

My co-worker was always expecting someone to do his work or show him how to do.  It fact when I spoke to him, it was always prefaced with, “Come on Walter.”  On this day he had pissed me off about something.  And I had told him do your own, “God Dam work.”  So we both had burners and replaced the gas valves in them.  The tricky part was the valves were “universal” made to fit almost any burner.  So beside the inlet and outlet there were 3 or 4 other outlets with a plastic plug in the opening.

We took our burners make, re-installed them, and were in the process of re-lighting, when Walter’s heater went WOOSH and there was fire coming out the front and top of the heater, hitting the ceiling and part way down the other wall.

About that time the lady of house, opened the door from a room and very politely asked, “Is that supposed to be that way?”  I’m purported to have answered, “Fuck NO!”  After which I grabbed a 12” Crescent Wrench (adjustable jaw wrench to picky folks), ran outside, around to the back looking for the master natural gas valves.  As the unit was a tri-plex there were 3 sets of natural gas valves, which I quickly turned off, some of which had been moved since the day they were installed.  I thought I was going to pull the gas lines out of the ground, before the valves closed.

Went back inside to determine what happened, only to discover Walter had not replaced the plastic plugs with a steel plugs.  Which had soon melted and let natural gas flow to the lit burner.  Send him back to the shop to do the valve installation correctly, while I try to figure out what to do with this ladies soot covered walls and ceiling. 

I knew the shop’s painters were working nearby, so went and begging a couple of them, to come to the fire site and re-paint the scorched walls.  Which they did, when they could stand up again after laughing so hard.

We thought we had dodged a bullet or least a reprimand, until the lady of house wrote the Public Works Officer (PWO) a very nice letter of commendation, for not burning down her house, and re-painting it the same day.  Fortunately, the PWO had a sense of humor and we only received a world class ass chewing.

On another occasion another co-worker and I went to answer a warm refrigerator call. Now the other chap was a Mormon and very shy.  One of our black co-workers once said, “He wouldn’t lick a hair pie, if you drug him through it face first.”  And little crude, but pretty accurate assessment of him.

The lady of the house was a fairly attractive big bosom lady wearing a house coat in midafternoon.  We opened the door to the refrigerator and were going to remove the items to work on it.  My co-worker was kneeled down with head against the door, when the lady of the house offered to help remove the times, and promptly pinned his head to the door with her tits.  I nearly choked trying to keep from laughing out loud.  He finally squirmed out and we checked out the reefer.  It was an older refrigerator with the freezer evaporator (the cold part) on top and depended on gravity for the cold air to cool the lower part of the refrigerator.  The shelves in the refrigerator when open wire type to allow the cold air to flow.  The lady of the house had neatly wrapped each shelve in aluminum foil, and the cold air couldn’t flow.

I knelt down on the floor with my head against the door, to explain to the lady of house why her vegetable bins were too hot.  But dang, I didn’t get by head pinned to door with tits.  But I still helped her take the foil off the shelves.

Received a call one weekend that a full Commander’s (big deal in the Navy) refrigerator wasn’t working and they had just bought two weeks’ worth of food which was spoiling. At the time there was a goofy policy that required the Housing Manager’s approval before a refrigerator could be re-placed.  Not that Housing Manager knew anything about refrigerators and/or refrigeration.

I decided to re-place it, as there was no guarantee I could repair it, and it was loaded with spoiling food.  Went to the warehouse, picked up a replacement 18 cubic foot refrigerator for a replacement.

Wheeled the dolly in, disconnected the non –working reefer, loaded on the dolly to remove it.  The kitchen had two doors—one to front hall way and one to carport.  The front hall has so much stuff in; there was not room to wheel the reefer out.  I opened the door to carport, and there was a car under a car cover.  I asked the officer 3 times to move the car while I moved the old refrigerator out and the new on in.  He insisted there was room to move the refrigerators without moving the car.

By this time I’m hot and tired and been wrestling 18’ reefers and dolly around by myself. So told him I try it.  While moving the old reefer out the dolly wheels hung up on the threshold, so I gave it an extra push and it got away from me.  To keep it from falling backward into the kitchen, I shoved up and out as hard as I could.  At that time I hear an ear-splitting wail of, “Oh MY GOD, Oh My God.”  I literally jumped over the refrigerator and dolly thinking I pinned a child under the reefer. 

What he was screaming about, was the reefer had hit the car.  How did I know it was a 911 Porsche, and I had asked him to move it 3 times?  So now he moves it, I take away the non-working unit and installed the new one—saving their two weeks of food.  As I was leaving he informed me, I was on report.  And I informed him I was a civilian and he could engage in an atomically impossibility with his report.

Of course he filed a complaint, and off to the Public Works Officer’s office again.  However, when the PWO hear I asked the chap to move his vehicle 3 times, the PWO excused me and had some very harsh words with the complaining officer. i.e. He had to pay for fixing his own car.

Mechanic

After several weeks and months, I adjusted to the new working conditions and requirements. My previous jobs required me to fix anything that quit in the plant or on the production line.

Work Center 30 Naval Postgraduate School Public Works worked mostly on boiler plant operations, steam distribution, and the heating and ventilating of numerous class room buildings.  So in the beginning my co-worker and I removed, washed, oiled, and re-installed a lot of building air intake filters.  Mighty boring, but it all paid the same.  My co-worker was a retired E-9 Navy Chief (the top rate for non-commissioned petty officers). He was a quiet, with drawn chap, and basically a loner, who went by J.P. He was an expert on steam lines and steam control devices, and was willing to share his knowledge.  Believe it or not that is not the usual with a lot of journeyman mechanics. I worked with him for 3 or 4 years and to this day; do not know what the J. P. stood for.

Poor guy had a lot of family problems, which is typical of sailors who spend most of life at sea, and then retire, to find out they and wife barely knew each other and might not even like each other.

When we weren’t washing filters, we worked in Navy Housing replacing natural gas fired wall heaters in the units.  You can imagine how happy the house wife was to see us show up with a new heater, tear out the old, and install the new complete with thermostats, patch the sheetrock and sweep up.  But then the Navy didn’t worry about how happy the dependents were.  J.P. frequently said what every sailor needed was: new car payments, newly married, and sea duty.

On the single story units installing the thermostat required climbing into the attic (navy term-overhead) to ‘fish’ the stat wire from the device to the heater.  These attics had all of 18 inches clearance at the highest point and about 6 inches above the outside wall. Did I mention at the time I was 5’11” and weighted in the 250 pound neighborhood. One day I was fishing the wires up from an outside wall, and both legs cramped up to point I could not turn around or back up. So I took my trusty hammer and knocked a hole in the ceiling sheet rock, and lowered myself into the kitchen.  That Navy wife may still have her mouth opened to her waist. To the point she nothing to say, which was unusual in its self.

On another occasion, we were unloading the heaters from our work truck and a Naval Officer—Lt. using his command tone of voice told me to move the Dam truck or my ass would be grass.  So I calmly picked him up, sat him on the edge of truck bed and was going to see what it took to improve his manners, when J.P. grabbed my arm and hollered, “Don’t hit him, it’s a federal offense and you’ll get fired!”  So I stood him back on his feet, and advise him that I was a civilian employee and didn’t appreciate his tone or verbiage.  For some reason he didn’t have much to say, as he got in his car and drove off.  Guess he didn’t report, as never hear anything more about it.

However, a couple of days later, while working on the same building, I had my head and shoulders stuck in a utility pit, trying to shut of the natural gas.  A very friendly Irish Setter came over to make friends.  When I shooed him off and stuck my head back in the pit, he promptly raised his leg and pissed all over my back.  Could never prove it, but still willing to bet it was that Lt’s dog.

Replacing the heaters was just a warm up for a project we worked on several years later.  Congress in its wisdom appropriated funds to upgrade the kitchens in Navy housing.  Did I mention these units were built in 1946 for low income housing, and we are now in the early seventies?

Of course no funds were provided to move the families out while the kitchens were being re-modeled.  Together with the engineers it was decided to move the stove in the dining room, install a portable surround with fan hood over the stove and vent it out a window. We also constructed a portable sink atop some cabinets and installed in the dining room.  So now we have the kitchen in what was the dining room and the kitchen closed off for contractors to work on.  One day I knocked on a unit’s door to start moving her kitchen.  When the young lady of house answered holding her robe closed, a kitten make a break out the door.  The young housewife promptly let go of the robe to catch the kitten.  Let’s just say it was my treat for the day.

Next week more adventures of housing maintenance and repair.

 

 

 

 

 

Reporting for Duty

March 4th 1968 was a Monday, and the day I started my Civil Service Career.  I was told to report to the CPO (Civilian Personnel Office) at 0800 to check in. It was also the day I started learning the 24 hours time system and bureaucrateze a language of and for Civil Service and Military personnel.

 At the time we lived in Aptos, CA, about 20 miles south of Santa Cruz, CA.  Monterey, the home of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School was about 40 miles around the bay.  I left early and found it a much easier commute that going over the hill is San Jose.

Various clerks explained my benefits to me, took my fingerprints, my photo, and etc.

Then came the oath to support and defend the constitution.  Since I was a birth right Quaker I asked to ‘affirm’ the oath, rather than swearing to it.  The CPO office was not  familiar with that procedure, and had to get approval from the JAG (Judge Advocate General) officer—the Navy’s lawyer.  He found it pretty humorous that a Quaker was going to work for the Navy.  But I had 2 children and wife to support, and $3.25 per hour looked pretty good that morning.  It was a whole .15 per hour more that I was making at the previous job.

Escorted to shops and introduced to the General Foreman, and Work Center Foreman, who was my new immediate supervisor.  Found it interesting that all the supervisors and most of the workers were mostly retired military with the majority being Navy Chiefs retirees. Also most were 10 t 15 years older than me and I was 35 at the time.

Asked Ray (the new boss) when I should bring my car around and unloaded my hand tools and welder’s equipment.  Much to my surprise, I learned that the Navy furnished all the hand tools and equipment.  Of course the welding gear appeared to be left over from WWII.  The fact that no one in any of shops could weld, might have had something to do with it.

One of my new co-workers took me for a tour of the facilities I would be working on.  The station covered around 100 acres, plus the Navy side of the Airport and 1,500 units of Navy housing.  And my then it was quitting time, and I hadn’t picked up a tool all day.

As I was leaving, Ray gave me an organization chart of NPS from the Superintendent (a 2 Star Admiral) down to my assigned work center 30—outside Machinists.  Of course at the time having a 2 Star Flag Officer in charge didn’t mean much to me.  I was working for the Public Works Department, headed by Naval Officer, then the Civilian General Foreman, and then the line foreman of a work centers.  The work centers were by trades and included: Plumbers/Pipefitters, Outside Machinists, Electricians, Carpenters, Painters, Boiler Plant Operators, Auto & Heavy Equipment Mechanics, Equipment Operators &  and a Labor Crew.

 Looked like a pretty good place to work, and was sure I could handle anything I was asked to do. Remember thinking on the way home—I can handle it for a couple of years and see how things go, and if it doesn’t work out I can always find another job.  Little did I know it was the start of a 38 year career, and I would retire as the Superintendent of the NPS Public Works Department.

Silly Service is the title of a book, I have been considering writing for years.  As a method of getting started, I will try and add something weekly, and then gather those articles into a book form.

In the Beginning

At the time I was a journeyman Maintenance Machinist/Millwright, and had been working at Green Giant Cannery in Watsonville, CA.  Their safety programs didn’t meet my standards (asked to weld on moving conveyor belt with water running down it), so was looking for another job.   And one that wouldn’t require commuting over the hill from Aptos to San Jose, CA.

Saw an ad in the San Jose Mercury News for a Maintenance Machinist at a firm in Monterey, CA, so took a day off and drove to Monterey to check it out.  Couldn’t find the place, so went to State Employment Office to get the location.  Which they kindly gave me, and also told me that the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School was also looking for a Machinist. 

 While driving out Del Monte Avenue, there was the gate to NPS, so turned in (nice Campus–beat hell out of some dirty smoky old factory), found the Personnel Office, who sent me down to the Public Works Shops to speak to the Director and the Outside Machinist (Navy Term) Foreman.  They both looked at my Journeyman card, nodded their heads wisely, and sent me back to the Personnel Office.  Where much to my surprise I was asked if I could start the next Monday.   I say “Sure,” after all the Journeyman pay in March of 1968 was $3.26 per hour and a whole 11 cents per hour more than I was making on the other job.

Found out years later, that while I was walking down to the shops, the Personnel Office had called the shops and told them to–“hire this guy or lose the billet.”  The magic of a journeyman card.  However, the supervisors and managers in the shops were sure I was an NIS (Naval Investigative Service Agent).

So Monday March 4, 1968 I reported for duty.

3 thoughts on “Silly Service

  1. Ivan, so many of us can relate to the ups and downs of being a civil servant and how it impacted our life. Keep up the great stories.

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