I ARE A PROFESSIONAL
Mar 1, 2002 12:00 PM, By Steve Filippini
NO ONE APPRECIATES THEAWKWARD POSITIONS WE field technicians often find ourselves in. No oneappreciates the opportunities for looking bad that we go up against. Onthe road several years ago, I was trying to assist an installation teamduring a rather stressful job. We were at the home of a very goodfriend of one of the board members at the company I represented. It wasan expensive home, and it proved to be a challenge for us to do a goodjob. The walls were full of insulation, and the floors had minimalcarpeting. There was no basement, and the attic only covered one roomof the home. Yet, in spite of having no room to run hidden wires, thecustomer had requested — demanded — that not a single wirewas to be seen anywhere once the system was installed.
It was slow going, and my patience was running thin. I was due homethree days before, and I had already missed my youngest daughter'sbirthday party. We were approaching the final wire runs to complete thejob, and all I needed was to have a heat detector installed in thekitchen area.
So there I was, standing in the kitchen. The installer was in asecond-floor closet directly above me, and he had already pulled thecarpet back to allow himself freedom to move around when he started todrill down to me. My job was to pound my fist on the ceiling to givehim a general idea where he needed to drill. This is something I amgood at and, in all modesty, I excel at ceiling pounding.
I was doing my best pounding when the customer entered the kitchen.She had been very nice to me, but she had also grown tired of seeingour faces. She asked me how we were doing without even saying a word:She raised an eyebrow and tilted her head to one side while shruggingher shoulders. I assured her, also without words, that this was ourlast day and everything was under control by leaning back anddisplaying the okay sign with my right hand while nodding my head.Right above me was the sound of a drill motor and its attached drillbit boring its way down to the location of the last device that neededto be installed.
Except, it didn't sound quite right. I was hearing the hollow soundof spinning metal meeting sheet metal. The fluorescent light fixtureabove me started to rattle and shake. Then, suddenly, the clear plasticsheet that covered the fluorescent bulbs popped open and swung down. Ifelt the sheet swing past me, and I swear it moved my hair.
There was the drill bit, sticking out of the ballast, and wobblingin the air above us. The bit reversed direction and spun back into thehole it came from. Almost immediately, a bright red wire startedspooling out of the hole towards me. I could see all of this through amirror that was in front of me in the dining room.
I didn't blink. I didn't flinch. I never looked up. I calmly statedto Mrs. Customer that everything was under control. I watched her asshe looked back and forth between the growing red wire and me. Shestarted to walk away, hesitated, then kept going. I saw her shouldersdroop as she turned the corner. I slowly made my way to the upstairscloset (successfully fighting the urge to run) and helped the installerpull the carpet back and re-drill the hole. As it turned out, we neededto be about 3 feet to the right of the original hole.
The experience only confirmed my belief that I wasn't being paidenough.
Steve Filippini is a regular columnist for S&VC and a seniorsecurity technician with over 20 years of experience in the securityinstallation industry. This column is an excerpt from his unpublishedcollection of anecdotes. Watch this space for more in the future.E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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