Monday, December 15, 2008

Call Before You Dig

I work for an energy company. We operate pipelines. One of the biggest threats and dangers to underground pipelines is excavation damage. People with backhoes and trenchers and things like that can damage pipelines, and put themselves at great risk. That's why there are one-call systems - places in each state where they have maps of the pipelines and anyone who is going to be doing any excavating can call, tell where they are going to be working, and have everything marked for them within 2-3 days. It's free - the pipeline and cable and telephone companies pay for it. The system works very well, and there are initiatives to improve damage prevention even more.

In fact, now there's a nationwide number, 8-1-1, where you can call and reach your one-call system. Use it, even if you're just going to be putting in fence posts or deck footings in your back yard.

Now, why am I writing about this? A public service? Sure, in part. However, it really struck me on the way home from a meeting in DC last Friday. I'd been there most of the week, and was tired and looking forward to a family weekend. No upgrades on this trip - they're hard to get on the DC trips - too many platinum members. I did get an exit row window in coach, though. A little extra knee room. Pretty full flight, so most of the middle seats were occupied, too. A kind of strange guy sat next to me. Not talkative, which is generally a good thing on a plane. However, about half way through this 3-hour flight, he began a major nasal excavation project. Took him half an hour or more. I suppose he could have gotten through it more quickly if he had power equipment rather than the basic hand excavation. Usually, when you're digging in the yard, hand excavation means using a shovel. In this case, it was literally hand excavation.

He finally completed his task and went back to reading his book. Hope it wasn't from the library. I'd hate to be the next person to get it. At any rate, at some point during this project, it occurred to me that I should have given him one of the 8-1-1 Call Before You Dig cards with all the safety information. He was probably lucky he didn't do some real damage. Whatever happened to the practice of going to the lavatory and tending to these sorts of things in private, and with a tissue?

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