I like long car trips especially when I am alone. The rhythm of the road and solitude allow unrelated thoughts, memories, and roadside sights to blend together into cohesive moments of clarity. Sometimes this state of mind results in new insights and other times, a greater appreciation of things I already knew.
On Saturday I drove to upstate New York to watch my daughter compete in one of her last collegiate swim meets. As I made my way north I slipped into my traveling mindset and let the connections flow.
With Bruce Springsteen pumping a steady stream of Garden State imagery through my car speakers I started reflecting on my own connection to the Jersey shore. For families in our region heading “down the shore” is a summer ritual. I wondered what had become of the landmarks that made up some of my most cherished memories, and how long it would take to restore things to normal. Based on the TV footage of the devastation I wondered if things would ever be the same.
Thats when I thought about the trucks. The whole time I was driving, fleets of FPL, Entergy, PECO, and other utility line crews were making their way up and down the turnpike to restore power to New York and New Jersey. These convoys brought me back to the start of my own career as a field engineer when I worked alongside lineman and utility crews during emergencies.
I remembered the adrenaline rush that jump started our work after the initial damage assessment. I also recalled how much of the work remained after the adrenaline wore off. It was hard, sometimes dangerous work often in less than ideal conditions. But it was rewarding to do be doing something important.
Too often utilities are seen merely as large, bureaucratic organizations that get a lot of criticism. But during emergencies, the men and women they employ think nothing of driving thousands of miles to lend their expertise to people in need. I imagined even the harshest utility critics would have a change of heart when bucket trucks bearing logos from five states away pull into their neighborhoods to restore heat and lights to their families.
I am proud of my heritage in the utility-construction and high voltage testing industries and will always be grateful to the men and women who tirelessly work to restore power to cities, towns and businesses they deserve our respect. One of my proudest moments here at Tangent was when Richard Grigg a former utility executive joined our Board. His blend of public policy, experience and engineering gained through his years of service in utilities has served our company well.
Then it hit me, that moment when all of these thoughts coalesced into a singular insight.
Remember I said I was going to watch my daughter in a collegiate swim meet? Well, in December she will graduate as a civil engineer. Maybe she will be fortunate enough to get a job rebuilding the Jersey Shore infrastructure for one the affected utilities.
How great would it be, if my daughter could start her career with the same level of pride and satisfaction that I did, while helping to restore the towns where I have the fondest memories?