My First Day On The Job At A Substation In Texas Was Nothing Short Of Terrifying

Flickr / Shannon Ramos
Flickr / Shannon Ramos

I’ve had a lot of shit jobs. Most of them have been hard labor either in the sun or in close proximity to large and hot equipment. I’ve been a grill man, a hot tar roofer, a construction hard hat, and a slew of other temporary jobs that seemed to be my style. I’ve never been the type for a sit-down, 9-5 office job. I tried once — working for a call center and having my mind and ass go numb for eight hours straight. I couldn’t take it any longer than a week. My friends found that odd from someone who can shovel dirt or work a jackhammer for a whole day and not seem fazed. I always figured it was my nature, and I accepted a “normal” job would never suit me.

So, when I heard of an opening for an electrical substation in the middle of nowhere, it seemed right up my alley. I’d gotten tired of working for my asshole of a boss at the plastic factory. I didn’t mind the massively heavy sheets of plastic I had to lug, the crazy-hot and dangerous melting and molding equipment, or the poisonous fumes that we had to safeguard ourselves against extensively to keep from inhaling (and those safeguards weren’t exactly foolproof). But what really got to me was the way my boss would clap his hands at us when he would shout orders. Like we were fucking dogs. Yeah, I’ve found a lot of stupid reasons to leave a job, but again, I think it’s just my nature.

I applied online for a few jobs, and like everything I’ve signed up for online, it incurred a whole lot of junk emails to flood my inbox. This time, it was a slew of job offers from all over. Most were offices, AKA immediately deleted emails. A few were for more physical jobs, but none of them paid any better than what I had at the time. Finally, I was up late one night wasting time on the internet when I randomly decided to check my email. I saw I had one new message in my inbox from a company called Electric Solutions Of Texas. I’d never heard of them before. The email was a job offer for an entry-level electrician to work third shift hours at a substation. The details stated that the applicant had to be ready for “long weary hours” and “isolation” — two things I had no problem with. In fact, I rather like isolation. I responded to the email with my eclectic resume and received a reply within the hour. I thought that was a little odd at 2-in-the-morning, but I couldn’t have been the only night owl reading emails, I suppose. I was to have an interview/orientation tomorrow night at 8PM. The address was out of town by about 30 minutes, and it was in a patch of deadlands I’d hardly even heard of, let alone been to. Wasn’t the first time I’d have a long commute to a job, the way I saw it.

beetlejuice

I drove out to the location through the Texas flatlands. I saw a few dried up fields and a whole lot of dirt and rock as far as the eye could see. I hadn’t seen a car for at least 15 minutes. I drove with my windows down on my old Chevy truck and I saw that the moon was unusually bright and noted the lack of clouds in the sky. The light of the night sky made the world glow a dim hue of white, like I was driving alone on the moon. As I neared the dirt road referenced in the email, I was haunted by John Fogerty and his 14-minute rendition of “Heard It Through The Grapevine”. The dirt road was another 20 slow minutes of a bumpy ride. I’d gotten so far down the road, I couldn’t see the highway in my rearview, despite there being nothing but level land between it and my tail lights.

Finally, I came up on a single building, sitting all by its lonesome in the middle of the wide open dirt and dust. It wasn’t quite a shack, but not much better. There was a fenced-off section connected to the concrete building with humming breakers and transformers. No power lines to speak of, so I had to assume it was all routed underground. I parked next to an old, dirty, and dented Bronco out front. I glanced inside the Bronco as I got out of my truck. There was an old leather suitcase on the passenger seat, and a very detailed and gloomy crucifix hanging from the mirror.

As I headed for the front door, about five feet from reaching it, it opened. Out stepped a lanky man standing a little over 6 feet, with a bad combover and a goofy grin full of protruding upper teeth. He looked to be in his mid-to-late 50s. I was taken aback just a little by the fact he opened the door before I even had a chance to knock. He must’ve noticed, because he addressed it as he reached out to shake my hand with his skinny fingers that reminded me of spider legs.

“Sorry to startle you there, young fella’. Saw yer’ Chevy heading up on the cameras,” he said, motioning his head up to the corner of the building. There was a tiny black camera attached to the top left corner of the building, slowly panning side to side. “The name’s Walter. You must be Billy. Come on in and I’ll show ya’ the ropes.”

His handshake was limp and moist, and a little cold to the touch. Like shaking hands with a dead fish. It gave me some uncomfortable goose bumps, but I grinned and took it. He motioned me to head through the big steel reinforced door, and I did so with a tiny shiver running up my spine. The front room was a tiny reception area with two fold out metal chairs sitting against the tanned oak wall. The floors were a drab grey that reminded me of the color of ticks my dog sometimes gets. It made my stomach turn just a little. The idea of a reception room seemed weird for an electric substation, but I didn’t give it too much thought.

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