Great moments in building history: Pull!
A good friend’s first job was as an apprentice to an electrician who worked primarily in residential remodeling. My friend was nervous about his first day on the job and really wanted to impress his new boss, so he performed every task he was handed with the utmost efficiency.
The final task was straightforward, a long wire pull from the garage to the attic. The instructions were simple: Wait for the command to pull, then reel in the wire snake. So the apprentice made his way up the attic-access ladder and traversed his way to the end of the conduit, where he inserted the wire snake, feeding it until he felt a couple of tugs indicating that the boss had received the snake.
Attics in the South are inhospitable places during summer afternoons; high temperatures and humidity tend to make workers get the job done as quickly as possible. To make matters worse, the cramped quarters of the attic left my friend lying on ceiling joists to reach the conduit protruding from the exterior wall.
At any rate, he was now ready to pull. As he waited on his bed of insulation, his perspiration was a magnet for the floating fiberglass-insulation particles.
Then he heard the command: “Pull!” Impressed with the boss’s speed in affixing the wire to the snake, he pulled hard. He felt some resistance, so he yanked and pulled even harder; then the tension released. As my friend was pulling the wire snake, it seemed a lot easier than it had on previous wire pulls, and with good reason: No wire was attached.
He heard heavy footsteps coming up the attic-access ladder. It was his boss, who wasn’t too happy. After a brief chastising, the boss said, “Do not pull until told to do so!” The apprentice replied, “But I heard you say pull.” The angry boss stuck out his mildly lacerated hand and said, “Would I tell you to pull when I don’t have the wire attached to the snake? You just about pulled me up into the attic, or at least what’s left of my hand.” The confused apprentice looked down and agreed, knowing for sure he had heard the command.
The boss stormed back down to the garage. The apprentice listened carefully so that he wouldn’t miss his cue. The boss reached the garage and began connecting the wire to the snake. After the second wrap of tape, his hand, the wire and the snake were abruptly pulled to the mouth of the conduit; the tension released momentarily, followed by a yank and another stern pull. After wrestling his hands free, the boss stormed off to let the apprentice have it.
The boss stood at the base of the attic-access steps and yelled for the apprentice. My friend wriggled his way from the attic and proceeded down the steps. As he was making his way down, the boss continued to chew him out, threatening to fire the young worker, who was ready to quit anyway. The boss kept saying, “All you have to do is pull when I tell you to. How hard is that?”
As my friend started to tell the boss that maybe this job wasn’t for him, they heard someone yell “Pull.” And the voice sounded just like that of the electrician.
The bickering stopped, and the two stood puzzled, knowing that other than them, the house was empty. The voice came from a cracked bedroom door near the attic access. They slipped around the fold-down ladder to look in the bedroom, and as they reached for the door, they again heard it: “Pull!” They pushed open the bedroom door and saw an African gray parrot. They weren’t alone in the house after all.
After the laughter stopped, the wire was pulled, and my friend kept his job with the electrician for several more years.
Drawing by: Jim Meehan