Man, last summer, I had the best job. And technically, I haven't changed positions. I'm just in a different "phase" of my training. A far suckier phase, in my opinion.
There's a bridge in Maryland that crosses the Susquehanna River from Perryville to Havre de Grace. It's very long, 2 or 3 miles or so. It's about 50 - 100 feet (I'm bad at estimating distances, especially heighth) above the water, so most boats can get underneath, but there's a gravel quarry on one side, and the booms on the gravel barges are too tall to go under the bridge. So one of the centerish spans is moveable, and the gravel company (or anyone else who might want it) can get a bridge opening with 24 hours notice. It's a swing span, which means that it disengages at two places and pivots on a center bearing. It swings 90 degrees, and the boat can go through either side. Get it?
Well, the pinion shafts in the Susquehanna Bridge needed replacing last year, and I was there when they did the second one. It was in July or August, and the weather was beautiful, very sunny, but the breeze off the river kept things from getting too hot. Mostly I just watched the gang work, sitting on a beam under the deck, getting the butt of my jeans rusty.
The walk out to the moveable span is over a mile. There's walkway grating between the two tracks. To get out to the middle of the bridge, the foreman would get a "foul" on one of the tracks, which means that the dispatcher can guarantee that no trains will come for the amount of time that it takes us to walk out. But they can come on the other track. When one of us sees a headlight, we call "hot rail!", and everyone heads for a rescue bay -- a little platform about 8'x5', spaced about every 50' on alternate sides of the bridge. We watch the train rush by from there.
I stayed in Perryville for a week. The gang was friendly, and had a lot of fun with each other. They had a really big pot -- like $400 or something -- that the person who swore first (in front of me, an innocent girl) had to match. Whenever someone cursed, everyone else would yell "Boo-ray!" And whenever somebody saw a supervisor coming, he would yell "Hootie-hoo!" and the rest of the gang would answer like deranged loons. The birds, I mean.
They had a dinghy with an outboard motor on it parked at the base of the pier: they transported tools to the site with it, so that no one had to walk the whole bridge with heavy tools. On the last day, Dave [not the same Dave who is my kind-of-boss, nor the same Dave who is my muse] and Earl took me for a ride around the River. The sun was hot. The boat seemed fast. It was wonderful.
One day, at Dave's suggestion, I climbed down the side of the pier, all the way down to the base, where there was a wooden dock. At the dock was a barge with a crane on it that we rented; the crane lifted the old pinion shaft out, and the new one into place. I wasn't really supposed to climb down the iron ladder without fall protection, but I did anyway. It was lovely.
For the past three and a half months, I have been working in an office, from 8 to 4:30, Monday to Friday.
I miss my old job.