Three cheers for two crews

Crew members work to remove a fallen tree limb from wires in Jerry Zezima's backyard. (Jerry Zezima/TNS)
Crew members work to remove a fallen tree limb from wires in Jerry Zezima's backyard. (Jerry Zezima/TNS)

I am frequently in the dark, so I don't have to go out on a limb to say the limb that recently fell on our power lines left me in a scary place:

The bathroom.

Which was dark.

That's because the power had gone out.

It happened at 3 a.m. I got out of bed and stumbled to the porcelain convenience, which I visit a couple of times a night as part of a strict exercise regimen, and flipped the switch. The light didn't go on.

As winds raged (outside, not in the bathroom), I cleverly deduced that a storm had knocked out our power. Little did I know until later that morning what had happened.

"Hurry downstairs!" shrieked my wife, Sue. "A huge tree limb fell on the lines in the back."

Sure enough, I saw that the top of a big oak had been sheared off and snapped the wires attached to a pole in a corner of the yard.

But the biggest surprise came when Sue pointed out that a couple of lines that stretched across the yard to the house had almost ripped off the electric meter. Wires and a broken conduit littered the patio.

"Are the wires live?" Sue inquired nervously.

"I'd be shocked -- shocked! -- if they were," I replied. "But I don't want to go outside to find out."

Fortunately, a crew from the power company wasn't powerless to do anything about it. Neither was a crew from a tree company that opened a branch office in our backyard.

"We have to wait for the line guys to shut off the power," said Brendan, the tree company crew chief.

"It's already off," I informed him.

"Not completely," Brendan said. "We don't want to get zapped before we can remove the limb from the wires. Have you ever gotten an electrical charge?"

"Every month," I said. "And how do you think my hair got like this?"

To compound matters, rain was falling, the temperature was dropping and nothing in the house worked.

"I can't even offer you coffee," Sue told the guys.

Instead, she brought out a plate of homemade cookies.

"Can I have one?" I asked.

"No!" Sue said. "They're working. You're not doing anything."

So I had a bowl of cereal.

"And don't keep the refrigerator door open," I was told. "The milk will go bad."

Sparked by Sue's sweet sustenance, the guys swung -- literally -- into action.

One of them, Omar, was like Tarzan, using ropes to swing from an adjacent tree to a position where he could wield a chainsaw to cut the limb on the wires. When he had finished and was back on terra firma, Omar got an ovation from the tree and power crews.

"I almost fainted while watching you up there," I told him. "I'm afraid of being any higher off the ground than the top of my head."

"It's fun," Omar said. "And I get paid for it."

"You mean money actually grows on trees?" I asked.

As Omar and his co-workers cut up the huge limb on the ground, the power guys worked to restore electricity to our house and the other 65 homes affected by the outage.

"Have you ever had an outage at your house?" I asked Dave, the power company foreman.

"Yes," he admitted.

"How many times have you flipped a light switch and remembered that you have no power?" I wondered.

"Every time until the power comes back on," he answered.

In our house, where Sue had put on a coat because it felt like a meat locker and had started lighting candles because the sun had gone down, the power came back on at 5:30 p.m., more than 14 hours after it went out. Of course, this was nothing compared to what people in California have been going through.

Still, the crews from the power and tree companies were superb, even if not all the neighbors thought so.

"You and your wife are the only nice ones," said a power company worker named Gabe. "I got yelled at by a woman and an old guy down the street. At least you were hospitable. Thanks for having us."

"You're welcome," I said. "Thanks for all your great work."

"Now you can go back in the house and see what you're doing," Gabe said.

"It won't help," I replied. "Even when the lights are on, I'm still in the dark."

Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Tribune News Service and is the author of six books. His latest is "One for the Ageless: How to Stay Young and Immature Even If You're Really Old." Email: [email protected]. Blog:

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