I sure hope you are having a fabulous day today on your side of the globe!? As I shared before, I have been working on journals, sketchbooks, planners, etc. that are now on Amazon. I am sharing my latest, two podcasts that I released for The Verbally Disastrous Podcast via links for +20 podcast platforms and YouTube. Here is the written transcript for the Verbally Disastrous Podcast Episode #36: Donny’s High Voltage Career Stories- Part B. I know some terms are technical. Therefore, I am offering the written/audio version of the transcript.
Ladies, gentlemen, and disappointments. We are coming to you live from the woman caves in New York and Connecticut. My name is Leslie and my name is Melissa and we are Verbally Disastrous.
Hello everyone, this is your host Leslie M. Jasper of the Verbally Disastrous Podcast that can be found on over 20 podcast platforms and YouTube. For this episode, this is Part B on the discussion with my lifelong pal Donny as we cover his 40-year career as a high voltage splicer in New York. If for some reason you missed Part A, go back into the podcast platform of your choice and go find it so you can listen to the beginning of the discussion. Now, let’s go listen and see what other kinds of random stuff and questions that I can hit Donny with. Alright, let’s take a listen. Check it out. Did you have a mentor in the business that inspired you? Whether it be splicing or electrical? Somebody that you looked up to when you first started? Harry Clifford. How did he inspire you? Splicing. Okay, so he was a seasoned guy and did you interact with him on a particular project or was that in the classroom? He took me under his wing and we went by for months at a time. Oh! Okay. So you guys were lucky because you had the buddy system so to speak, right? Yup. So he was your pimp outside the hole? He was a splicer. He was an inside wireman. He was a splicer like I do. Okay. So, I’m envisioning you were able to work with him on projects because there were multiple manholes?
Yeah. Okay, ’cause I’m envisioning say one man hole and one person in the hole and one person’s got to be out of the hole. I was working for a contractor I running the job for him and it wasn’t going well ’cause they didn’t like the way I was doing things. I was general foreman and Harry called me up and says, “I have a proposition for ya.” What ya got? He says, “I got splicing to do on the railroad”. I said, “how long do you think we will be there?” He said, “I don’t know. About six months”. I said, “I’m in!” I’m called the guy up and said, “Listen. I gotta go splice”. Farting over there? Stop farting!
Now, how many people would you say, as far as contractors are concerned, ’cause they knew? Say they hire you for an electrical contractor to say to do regular electrical work. How many of them and moaned when they knew that you had to drop what you’re doing to go do a splice? Really none of them because they all. That’s how they got me. Oh! Okay. Okay, so that worked out well for you because their hand was in. A percentage going to them. I never left ’em in a lurch. If I had to finish something with them, I do what I gotta do. Then I go to the other contractor. Gotcha. I wouldn’t just leave.
So you’re saying that you were working in the middle of something. But you never ran into a time where there were two emergencies at once? I’d do ’em in the afternoon. It’s safe to say that there was not a lot of sleep during this era? No. Sometimes. When I was out of work , back in the 90’s, I didn’t get called at all for splices.
No, no calls at all? Solid for 3-1/2 years? None. No, of course, you had to do roofing. Didn’t you share you did roofing? You did some carpeting? I started with appliances. Would you say selling appliances? No, fixing. Oh, fixing appliances. A+ AC Service. Ah, okay. So then the family plumbing background was helpful, right? Yeah, and I never fixed a washer/dryer before. I figured how hard is it? Do you think? I got a company name. I got all paperwork. In the Yellow Pages. No way. I was the first one in the Yellow Pages. A+ AC Service. That was the name of your company? Yup. I did air conditioners too. Now, did you like that work or are you just like, that’s putting food on the table? I liked it.
I was working for myself, you know. People would call. They would look through the Yellow Pages. They would see the first one and there I was, right? Because of the ‘A’ in the list. Very smart. So is that what you thought about ahead of time or it just happened to be a name you came up with? I knew that I’d be the first one in the Yellow Pages. Perfect! Now, do you think with that experience, back in the 90s when you were repairing washers and dryers, do you think that the dryers and washers that they have out today you’d throw your hands in the air? Or you think it would be even easier because you can hook up a diagnostics to it electronically and fix it directly? Yeah, you could probably hook up. I mean everything’s computerized now. I think my question is more so, which one do you think is easier? Today? Or the old days? Old days. Just like the cars, right? I used to get into a car and change the oil. That you can’t find the oil filter. Yeah, right. The ‘olden era.’ There was less parts to have to contend with. Less electronics. Computers are more expensive. They don’t make anything to last, right? Yeah, it ends up more cost effective to just trash it and buy a new one. Up in Rhinebeck, $10, I was at a flee market and some guy had a 1948 washer. Wringer washer. That thing worked great!
1948 washer? Yeah, a wringer washer. What year did you buy it? Now you’re asking too many questions. Just roughly. I didn’t ask for the day. Like the eighties? Nineties? Yeah, probably 90’s. Okay. I left it at the house. What am I gonna do with it now? I remember switching from an old, top load washer. When you have a septic, it uses 40 gallons of water. I bought a front loader LG and it went to 8 gallons but it would sense the load. Yeah, it would sense the load and go less than 8 gallons depending on how heavy it was and it was so great if you have a septic problem. Using an old washer/dryer ends up you with septic problems. So, you’re better off buying the new equipment. Paying for the water. When you have a well and septic, you’re not paying for it. But if you have problems where your septic overfills, then you’re like damn it! I should have spent the money and bought modern machine. what you can afford. Agreed. Agreed. Do you have a coworker, other than Lucky, that you really hated working with? No. He’s literally the worst!? Yeah, he’s the worst.
Yeah, there’s nobody else. There’s no like running second? Second to him? You may have to edit this one out. One time I got called to contractor and we had to work under a tent. Remember I told you a story eating dinner the other day? Remind me. Anyway. We got to work with the city guys. I said okay. So I looked at him. I looked at him up and down and I says to him before we went in the hole. Before we went in under the tent. I said, “you’re not a fag?” He says, “what?” “You’re not gay or nothing are ya?” He says, “why?” “I go under the tent, I don’t want you to grab me”. He says, “You know, first of all, you don’t even know my * name, right?”
“I’m just hoping you can answer that”. Okay, because it’s a simple. A simple yes or no answer. So he said, “No! Absolutely not”. I said, “Okay, cool”. So we walk under the tent, I slapped his ass! You should have seen this guy jump.
He didn’t want to work with me. That was it.
But you were messing with.
He said, “what did you do that for?” I just wanted to make sure you weren’t gonna reciprocate.
That one’s not a bad story to tell. Actually a funny story to tell. Now, do you actually miss working? I loved it. Yeah I do. I see these guys on the poles and in the manholes. Now I’m bored. High voltage. High voltage. Yes. Do you miss the routine of working? Or what exactly about it do you miss? I miss guys calling me up and saying, “listen. Can you turn the power on for me? Can you fix it?” Say someone has this sense of urgency and they need you over there right now and then. Did you ever feel some form of pressure you were able to block it out? You ready for this one? Yep, go ahead. I was at the Ravin’s Clam Bake and I got a call from BOCES, Yorktown Heights. He says, “Donny, I got your name from Con Ed”. “What can I do for you?” He said the power went down. I’m sorry. I got your name from New York State Gas and Electric. He said, “New York State Gas and Electric like turned off my power”. He said, “the transformer was no good”. okay, I’ll be up there tomorrow”. “No! No! No! You have to come up today! I have no power in the whole place”. I said, “Right now, I’m on an emergency”. As I’m eating another shrimp. So I says, “I can come tomorrow, right? Yeah. I called Advanced Testing. Sent at Pat up there. Checked out the transformer. It was fine. Checked out the switch. It was fine. I have two gloves? two gloves? I says, “Here’s what turned off your power off”. I pulled out a woodchuck. Oh! A woodchuck went up there and got fried up. Nice! said, “not only I did I fix your problem, I’ve got lunch for you too guys”.
He said, “What about a generator?” I said, “You don’t need generator.” I had him powered up in about an hour. He was freaking the **** out. You know, people freak out because they have no power, right? Ok, so you were able to just turn it off? I know damn well, I’d go there and fix it.
You One time I did a job in Staten Island. Well, here we go again. New York City.
It was 35K down at the vaults. Con Ed guy says, “Have you ever done these kind of splices before?” “Yeah, I’ve done 100’s of ’em.” So we high potted 115,000 volts, alright. DC. I said, “how did I do?” He said, “Don, you did a great job”. I said, “Good. That was my first one”. “What!?” I said, “I never did none of those splices before.” I didn’t. So you told them that you did and then you went and did it and then after afterwards you told him, “nah, I didn’t do that?” Can’t be scared.
I know what you’re saying. You gotta get rid of that fear because it impedes your performance. The only time I got scared was one time I was at Playland. There was a splice that was tied to the ceiling for some reason. I didn’t put it up there. I’m down there doing a splice in the man hole. This commercial break is brought to you courtesy of yours truly, author Leslie M. Jasper. I am the author of the book, Construction Tales: Volume One: A Woman’s Journey To Become An Electrician. I also have available for Kindle Vella some short stories to check out in the Kindle Vella library that can be found on Amazon. For more information, head over to my website at http://www.constructiontales.com
Now, let’s go back to that story and see what Don also has to say. You’re listening to the Verbally Disastrous Podcast. This thing came down and hit me in the neck, Right? Oh, the splice hit you in the neck? Hit me in the neck and it was still alive. Yeah. So I crawled up like a baby into the corner. I was waiting for this thing to blow up. Thank God it never did. What do I do? I tied it back up to the ceiling. Gosh! It literally hit your neck. Oh gosh! That was live?! It was live. wow. God was watching you. I got called up to the old Union Carbide. Which is Regeneron now? Yes. and he said, “You gotta go in that hole in the floor and pull cables”. said to my partner, “measure that man hole.” 20 inches wide, right? Moe, measure my shoulders- no way! No way I’m going in that manhole. What are we gonna do? We gotta take the top off. We gotta take top off. I gotta take the chiminey off and I gotta chip it up to 3 foot and then I’ll go in there. Well, we gotta talk about that. It’s okay. You can talk all you want. I’m not going in there. So, came back to where I did it, right? I chopped it out to three foot. I climbed down there. All of a sudden. I have one set of cables on my belly. This is how tight it was. One set of cables on my butt my back. I said to the guys, “Listen. You guys gotta give me that ladder”. “Why?” So I got out of there. All the cables were vibrating. Yeah. I mean they’re gonna go soon.
So, what are we gonna do? We gotta shut down. Shut down this whole complex. The one I gotta work on is one underneath all these ones that are vibrating. I said, “I’m not doing it”. He said, “We’ll call this other company”. “They’re going to call me and I’m not going to do it”.
At one point, I was the only one doing it in Westchester. Have you seen anybody that you worked with that ended up having an accident while in a manhole? No. Thank goodness. I remember working at Yonkers Raceway with Richie and he sends me outside with this other guy. The guy wanted to go in the hole without sniffing it, without a tri-stand, without a harness. I was just like, “you’re not * doing it!” He and I got into this whole argument. He goes, “I’m only going to be in there for a couple of seconds.” I’m like, “that’s all it takes to get overcome and die in the hole and then now I gotta explain to everybody why the **** I let you go in that hole”. He was all ****** *** right? I go back in and Richie was “that’s why I sent you out there ’cause I knew you weren’t gonna let him to go in there and do anything stupid”. Now I think someone went up in the bucket truck with that girl. Oh! Yes, and I don’t remember exactly what it was that happened. I think they was in a rush. The bucket went on its side, ’cause the way they had it positioned. It wasn’t level. There were no outriggers. Yes, they didn’t use outriggers and it was like going to uneven surface. She had to get out of the business. I heard her face had to be reconstructed because when the bucket went down it landed on its side. Yeah, for people who don’t know that, you oftentimes you get a lot of pressure to perform a job and get it done. So you gotta remove that pressure off of you and then do the work. I do know somebody that got burnt up. Oh. It was at the airport. Remember that guy that worked for Verde? Oh the guy Joe (edit). Yeah, it’s a shame. It’s a shame that something happened to him because it sounded like he was like a guy just like my other buddy used to call me, “The Girl.” He was wild, John
P. It sounded like they were along the same lines where the guy would put his tongue on on a live wire and you’re like, “why the **** are you doing that?” He’s like, “you know, I’ve done this for years. Basically nothing has happened”. So, he’d literally put it on his tongue to test it. I couldn’t believe it. Yes, something happened. Look at how stupid you are. Yeah. Yeah. Unfortunately he was close to retiring too, right? Actually, yeah. He put his papers in already, you know. Oh, he put his papers in and he was still working and he was almost ready to go out? Ready to go in a couple of weeks. Oh my gosh! That makes it even worse. Somebody told me the story that it was towards the end of the day. It was the end the day. He saw something off and he went into. Do you remember the airport? Did those runway lights. For the signs. I just remember some trench work. I don’t recall being at a location where I was like close to the runway. Everything 5,000 volts. The signs are 110 with a transformer right? No, I’m sorry. The signs are 277 (volts) with a step down transformer and the lights are 110 (volts) step down transformer. Those connections are so shitty. All you do is push them together. It’s a really crappy set up, you know. It’s easy for them to to short out? All these hand holes. They’re really short. They’re not only short. It fills with water, right? So, you don’t put your hands in there when it’s hot. No. Oh, that’s what he did? He put his hand in there and he blasted on 5,000 volts? Word is that he was on fire. Oh, I didn’t hear that part. They saw him from the tower burning. Ah! He was out there by himself? I Remember that girl lineman? Girl lineman. Can’t remember her name. Susie? Oh, she’s a lineman. Blonde girl. Anyway, she was there but she was in another man hole. She didn’t know what was going on. She couldn’t get to him fast enough anyway. Yeah, yeah. Tuck and roll. Yeah, yeah. Damn. That’s a shame. The real downsides of not being careful, right? I’ll pose the question again. The three lessons, knowing what you know now, the three lessons that you would extend to people, say electricians,
would be what? Don’t trust anyone. Okay. Don’t believe it’s dead. Don’t believe ’em. I found out when I was a 1st year apprentice. First job. My first pair of side cutters. Joe Valente. Old man Joe Valente. 277 lights up on the Galleria in White Plains. Joe says, “they’re dead”. “Are you sure they’re dead Joe?” “Yeah, they’re dead”. Stupid me. I didn’t cut one at a time. I cut both. Well, my pliers went over, over top and off to Main Street. So, that was the last time I trusted anybody. Yeah, definitely, definitely no. Don’t trust anybody. I remember Dave (edit) years ago he came screaming. We’re in this cubicle space and unoccupied and it was a retrofit. He comes in screaming at somebody because they told him that something was dead and he just decided to cut it and he got blasted. So, of course we’re all breaking his chops. Saying whether or not we could put our hand over the top of his head and feel some sort of static. Now, what is your advice to young people who want to get into the Union? Do it because you enjoy it. Agreed. If you’re doing it for the money, forget about it. Do it because you enjoyed it. Enjoy the work. Otherwise, going to work sucks, you know. Yes, of course. You gotta have that sense of satisfaction. Enjoyment on completing a project. You gotta do the best you can. You can’t go in there and just take up space, you know. Get off your phone. Go to work. Get off your phone. Do what you’re supposed to be doing. Agreed. Do you have any bucket list goals now that you’re retired? There are. Collect as many checks as we can.
That’s your number one bucket list? Just to stay alive. What’s your other? Do you have any other bucket list goals? Watch your grandkids grow up. Travel little bit. And maybe next year will make 100 gallon of wine. A 100 gallons of wine? That’s a good goal. Buy a machine for that. We’re not pressing this. Yeah right, imagine? There’s a machine that that plucks the stems? There is but it’s like $1500 bucks and you only use it for 10 minutes. Wow. Yeah, so what’s the point? Ten minutes versus two days though. Yeah, but two days works for us. Oh, my bad. I forgot. Not like you gotta go somewhere. I mean, I do gotta go somewhere. I gotta pick up the granddaughter too and come back. Came here until I fall into the grapes.
My barrel right now is full. My last question for you, What do you think your legacy is within the industry will be? None of my splices blew up. Okay. Not one. Very good. One would say 50 years from now, when your name is mentioned, they’re going to say not one of his places ever blew up. They might say that fat bastard. The teddy bear. Big fat teddy bear bastard. Yeah.
What’s that? Say it again? Tell Johnny all fat guys don’t just die young. That’s right. You don’t have to carry me. I don’t think anybody can carry me. So I’m just gonna get cremated. Nah, Tom and Johnny could carry you. I know some good electricians that could also be up for the task as well. Then put you in two separate urns?
How about a wine glass? I mean not a wine glass. What’s wrong with me? A wine jug? Yeah, I know, right? We’d have them all filled up. I’m going to ask another question. Your viewpoint from the time you decided to first get into the business towards retirement. The span of time. The 40 years. Would you say you think differently? From getting in and leaving? Yes. Oh, I’m glad I did what I did was learn how to do a cable splicing. Bernie push me to that. I wasn’t gonna do it.
She said, “Go ahead, go!” So I did. That was the best 3-years I could have done. So you credit Bernie for pushing you to finish the school? Supporting you? Yup. Fabulous. Towards the end of the career. New York State put me on their specs. You will hire Don Raffa. Yeah, New York State, County of Westchester, IBM. Westchester Airport? Westchester Airport. They would put me on their specs. They will hire me if they want job. So you were guaranteed at what point in your career? I guess about 15 years ago. Fifteen years into it. Okay. That’s a good achievement to have that on that level. It’s an excellent, excellent legacy to have. I thought so. It made me really, feel really good, you know, and all the contractors wanted me. That’s good too. Yeah, excellent. I would work with them and I never screwed nobody. I just went and did the job. Everybody was always happy with their job. You know, it was always clean. Always done right? Well, I don’t know if you have any other stories to share? Well, you told me to talk. I know right? Well, I will wrap up this. I thank you. I believe I don’t have any more questions for you. I thank you for taking the time to multitask with me and share some stories. Some high voltage stories. I’m sure when you hear these podcast episodes, you may say, “oh, I got a story.” So we can always come back and re-discover your world as a high voltage splicer in New York. But I thank you for taking the time to juggle ’cause I know he’s juggling grapes and the winemaking process, while talking to me at the same time. The creaking of the chair adds character to the story. It’s ’cause I gotta fat ass.
I’m gonna leave these guys to their business. But I appreciate Don coming on to talk to me about his stories. This wraps up Part B on the discussion with my longtime pal, Don Rafa, who is a retired high voltage splicer up in the territory that he used to work in probably every manhole in Westchester County, New York. If you like the story and you’d like to ask some more questions, say for another podcast episode. Feel free to reach out to me. Either through my social media, which is either under my name or Verbally Disastrous, or you can find me at my website at: http://www.constructiontales.com.
I thank you for listening and I wish you a fabulous day. Take care. This wraps up another episode on the Verbally Disaster podcast that can be found on Spotify, SoundCloud and YouTube. For more information, head over to http://www.constructiontales.com.
Thank you for listening and have a great one!
Here is the link to the Verbally Disastrous Podcast on Spotify:
Here is Verbally Disastrous Presents- Season #1, Episode #35: Donny’s High Voltage Career Stories-Part A on YouTube:
Here is Verbally Disastrous Presents- Season #1, Episode #35: Donny’s High Voltage Career Stories-Part B on YouTube:
Leslie M. Jasper
-Author And Host of the #VerballyDisastrous podcast now alive on many platforms that include: Acast, Amazon Music, Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Castbox, Deezer, Google Podcasts, I Heart Radio, Listen Notes, Overcast, Pandora Podcasts, Player FM, Pocket Casts, Pod Bean, Podchaser, Podcast Addict, Podcast Gang, Radio Public, Soundcloud, Soundtrap, Spotify, Stitcher, Tune In, and YouTube.
-The Audio Blog: Verbally Disastrous Podcast And Construction Tales Blog. Now available on: Acast, Amazon Music, Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Castbox, Deezer, Google Podcasts, I Heart Radio, Listen Notes, Overcast, Pandora Podcasts, Player FM, Pocket Casts, Pod Bean, Podchaser, Podcast Addict, Podcast Gang, Radio Public, Soundcloud, Spotify, Stitcher, and Tune In.
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