Sunday, July 20, 2014

Almost On Top of the World: Part 6 of When Limbs Break a Tree Calls onIt's Roots for Strength

My life had made a full 180 degree turn. In December 2007 I was this sniveling mess of a man, begging for the attention of a cheating wife, who couldn't afford to go anywhere or do anything. Including my PT Cruiser, that I had bought to try and win the woman back, I had rallied up a debt of near $80,000. My credit cards  were all maxed out just trying to win her love and I was fighting for a relationship that the other party had abandoned several months ago. 

Three years later, I had finally come out of that funk. I was going places that I had always dreamed of like New York City,
San Diego
and to top it off my college team, the Utah State University Aggies, had beaten our big brother rivals, Brigham Young University, in football.
The woman I had married was now an ex-wife. It had finally occured to me that I wasn't in love with her, just who I thought she was. That meant I could allow myself to move on.

Excluding the scary experience I had had at work, (see part 5 of when a trees limb breaks it calls on its roots for strength) everything in my life was now in order. The hunt for my "REAL" eternal partner in crime (an expression for wife not a confession of crime plans)  was in full swing and I was searching high and low. This weekend my hunt would take me to Atlanta, Georgia.

Ecclesiastes or, the Preacher 
CHAPTER 3 
1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.


This scripture comes to mind when I think about a humans ability to compartmentalize their lives. Compartmentalizing my feelings was something I learned to do at an early age. When I was a child, there were a lot of times when I would get spanked and cry and then in the next moment I was expected to be over it. In fact sometimes my dad would ask, in the middle of a beating, the rhetorical question because of how loud we were crying, "Do you want to cry?" My gut reaction was, "Yes, yes in fact I do want to cry." Luckily I didn't go with my gut but rather with my mind reading skills which told me, "He's asking that question because if I don't stop crying then he's going to give me a reason to cry."

As a youth I compartmentalized nearly everything with the corporal encouragement of my dad. If it was time to be sleeping, I had better be sleeping or else. I even remember getting spanked for not being asleep when I actually was sleeping. It was the strangest thing to wake up to a sore bottom with only having remembered a faint dream about getting spanked.

When it was time to have fun, I really had fun like there was no tomorrow. When it was time to play football, I did it like nothing else mattered on the planet. If I was time to play basketball, everything was forgotten except basketball.

I compartmentalized the scary incident that happened on Thursday December 9, 2010 and went into dating mode. Dating mode, to me, is where I get to know someone enough to see whether I like them enough to get into a serious exclusive relationship. I consider a date to be any activity where I'm getting to know somebody. It's not a difficult task to get into dating mode for me. However, getting into that serious exclusive stage is extremely difficult and more rare than a three-toed Pygmy sloth. In my lifetime, I can only say I have been in three relationships. There are a few reasons for this futility and while telling the story of meeting this young woman, who I will call Susan in this blog for anonymity, I will tell you what I have found out about myself.

That Friday, December 10, 2013, we set two light poles, nothing extremely dangerous. By one 'o clock I was driving to Denver International Airport. On a funny side note, by 1:30 pm I was getting a speeding ticket.





As a child, one memory stands out that represents some of the reason why I'm timid when it comes to the opposite sex. (I'm laughing out loud just thinking about it) The neighbor across the street had a trampoline and also a pretty female about my age lived there as well. She would jump on the trampoline often. Her blonde her would bounce in rhythm with each leap she would make. A couple of times she waved at me and smiled. Often, I would kneel with my chin on the window sill, watching her jump on the trampoline.

One day, I was gawking at this neighbor girl and my dad walked in and said jokingly, "What you staring at?  You in love with the girl?" You could insert a sound here of a needle on a record being pushed sideways to explain what just happened. I was busted and ashamed. Later on I remember him mocking me by repeating several times in a short tune, "Samoana is in love," and all of my siblings joining in on the tune.

I know he was joking now but at the time, I was embarrassed. It's not wholly his fault, I was shy all through high school and junior high school. It was a socially awkward time for me, in which when I look back in my journals I can see I was super depressed. In fact the whole idea of putting my lips against someone else's lips grossed me out. People are super surprised when I tell them I never went to prom or any school dances for that matter.

I met Susan on an Internet dating site for Latter Day Saint, or "Mormon", people. I found her pictures to be very cute. We moved our relationship from the dating website to the social media world of Facebook. Eventually I called her. My sense of humor involves a lot of "talking trash" and she was able to hang with me in that arena. I used to call her phone and do my voice impersonations on her voicemail. She had this lisp that and southern accent that I found very attractive. Until this particular weekend in December of 2010, we had never met.

She picked me up from the airport in a GMC Jimmy, which see affectionately called "Jimmy." We had many conversations about our cars, playing as though they had names and personalities. Often I would talk smack about Jimmy over the phone to Susan, just to see if I could get her wound up.

I had devised this whole scheme about meeting Susan for the reason that I had wanted to play her in Monopoly. Really I wanted to get to know her better. I had expected her to read between the lines because a person doesn't fly all the way across the country to play Monopoly, unless it's like the monopoly championship. All of this was a ploy that I had used, finding a 'MacGuffin' if you will, so that I can actually get to some other goal. (a Macguffin was a word Alfred Hitchcock used to describe a plot device or goal that a protagonist uses but it turns out to be unimportant) I used a lot of MacGuffins to avoid being clear and concise and having to say, "I want to get to know you," because I still feel sort of embarrassed to just come out and say what ever it is that I'm feeing towards a girl.

Also, when in need of something to say just resort to the MacGuffin. We didn't have a Monopoly board so I brought it up that we needed one. While on our way, we got pulled over. Jimmy got impounded and we were standing out on the curb, waiting for a ride from one of Susan's relatives.



I know she was very embarrassed about the whole thing. One of my favorite jokes was calling later and asking if Jimmy was on parole yet.

Her relative came and we went to eat at an IHOP or Waffle House, I forget. They dropped me off at my hotel and more fun would ensue the following morning.

Atlanta has a few things to offer, among them is the World of Coke and the largest aquarium in the United States. That's what we did.


 

You may be asking, "How in the world did Monopoly become the MacGuffin?" Well if you are asking that, I'll explain it. She also professsed to me to be "the Champ" of Monopoly.  I told her how my dad and siblings used to always play Monopoly. I didn't tell her that I always used to come in third but I did challenge her to a game. Throughout all our phone conversations I never said much about how good I was at Monopoly I just let her talk all the crap about it. She claimed she was going to beat me so bad and talked all sorts of trash. Realistically, I didn't think I was going to beat her but I got her to tell me one of her tactics on winning Monopoly and that was that she never did trades.

Saturday night December 11, 2010 this highly anticipated Monopoly game took place. Just like my life at that moment, most things went my way. I got a couple of monopolies and soon she realized she wanted a trade. At that moment, I told her that I was going to use her own strategy on her and not give her any trade at all. 


I had won but life, just like the game of Monopoly, doesn't always go your way. In the game of life, I was on a roll. I had rid myself of $80,000 in debt. I was enjoying getting to know a woman who had potential to be my eternal companion. I was visiting places I had always dreamed of. Little did I know that in two days I would be getting every bad card you could find in the chance pile and mortgaging all my properties. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

DEEEEEE-STRUCTION : Part 7 When a Tree Loses It's Limbs It Calls onIt'sRoots for Strength


My foreman, Larry, had a saying for when things went wrong, "Deeeeee-strucion!" It sounded something like this :https://soundcloud.com/user858738188/deeeeeeestruction . The first time I heard about it they, Larry and our lineman, were talking about a shed the lineman had destroyed. He had been digging next to this shed to put in underground power lines. If you have ever ran a backhoe, you know that some controls can be very sensitive. The lineman had pushed the lever to swing the bucket-arm. "SMAAAAASHHHHH!!!" The bucket, In a tight alley, had swung right into the wall of a shed. I forget what the lineman's name is but i'll call him Jed, short for Jedi. (lol) Jed apologized to Larry. Larry sort of screamed, "DEEEESTRUCION!" in the voice of a monster truck radio advertisement. I don't know if he got it from that or from some old eighties hair band group but whenever things got smashed up or broken either Jed or Larry would exclaim, "DEEEEEESTRUCTION!!"

I have some pictures of what the official Sturgeon, the subcontractor company I was working for, incident report. I hope they aid in the storytelling.

December 13th, 2010 will live on for the rest of my life as a day of, "DEEEEEEESTRUCTION." There is a social worker who has told me that trauma memories are stored at a cellular level, meaning your cells remember traumatic experiences and recall them especially on anniversaries of the event. A lot of things she says, I take as superstition, including this until December 13th, 2014. It was a normal anniversary date for my accident. I spent it teaching snowboarding to my nephew, Ephraim. Not wanting people's pity, I didn't announce it on facebook or tell anybody. All day, I kept getting an additional phantom pain that I don't normally have. It felt like electrical pulsating about two times an hour. So maybe there is something to this cellular memory. ( http://www.va.gov/health/newsfeatures/2014/July/Vanquishing-PTSD-at-the-Cellular-Level.asp ) Sorry for doubting you Ann (Social Worker). I'll give you that one but I'm still pessimistic about the tap therapy (lol).

I woke up twice that day in 2010. The first time, I did my normal routine. My alarm went off and I dressed myself for weather in the teens. I wore an under-layer of thermals, a hoodie, a pair of Carhartt jeans, some Carhartt heat insulated coveralls, a coat and some warm Bogs brand boots. I warmed up the car and made the short 5 minute drive to the yard, where we kept our trucks and materials. The gate to the yard had a padlock that I opened nearly every day, as I did my duty to warm up the trucks and fill out the truck inspection sheets.



 After the scary work of moving a corner pole phase, as talked about in the blog entry http://samoanamatagi.blogspot.com/2013/03/exit-here-in-bright-neon-lights-part-3.html , I was looking forward to have the other apprentice come back and return to a three man crew. Mitch, the other apprentice, drove into the yard with his blue dodge Ram dually with the diesel engine. I greeted him with a huge smile and asked if he had passed his journeyman's test. He replied no and proceeded to tell me what they failed him on.


We warmed up our trucks and as was custom, drove them to our normal breakfast spot, The Moose.
I ordered my usual breakfast, French toast combo. As Mitch and I ate breakfast, I told him about my scary story of moving a corner pole in the bucket by myself. He seemed more concerned about his journeyman's test he had just failed. I filled out the safety report and Mitch and I signed it. This is the first discrepancy I have from the official safety report. We never made te safety report up at the show up. It was always at breakfast.


Larry didn't eat breakfast with us. A lot of days it was just me and Mitch eating breakfast and filling out the safety report. On those days, we would meet Larry outside the restaurant and he would sign the safety report there. That day was no different except, I believe, Larry asked about Mitch's test. We were all hoping that Mitch would have passed that test so we could have two journeymen on our crew. 


Everything else, continued to go according to normal. We installed a new pole a few feet from the pole we were going to transfer the wire from.  Until about 11:00 am, Mitch and I were up about 30 feet in the air and he recieved a message on the phone that said he needed to be in Salt Lake for a meeting before the board concerning his failed journeyman's test. He decided he needed to leave early that same day to get there on time. 


Here I was working as a two-man crew on 14,400 volts. We had set the pole, before the other apprentice left. Now I was to move the primary wire to the new pole. My foreman would help by using another bucket truck to lift the wire as I guided and tied it in to the insulator. 

The original report says my foreman was in the air with me. 
Later on the report would be amended to say: 

The next step was for me to cover it with rubber hoses and a blanket, that way if any incidental contact were to occur it might have a chance in protecting me. Once that was done, I felt a relief. I felt safe. The rest of the work could be done at a safe distance. 



After lunch we put a new transformer on the pole 


and I descended for some parts. 

I ascended in the bucket.


It was cold and rubber gloves made my hands even colder. I assumed the situation was safe because of my rubber cover and I felt like my minimum approach distances, the distances recommended by OSHA to be safe to work at near high voltages, would not be breached. Before getting to my working position, I called down to my foreman, "Can I take off my rubber gloves?" An answer in the affirmative caused me to rejoice. Class 2 gloves were difficult and stiff to work with, especially in the cold.


 I cut one secondary supply service, wires at the voltage used by the customer, into the transformer with no problem. We had jumpered these light pole services, with long jumpers, to supply the street lights with power the Friday before. 
I remember being a little nervous about how to cut the wire while holding both sides of the wire. Then I remember looking down to throw the scrap piece on the ground. My foreman was cleaning all the scraps below the pole so I didn't want to trow it on his head. I looked over my shoulder to the truck, thinking I could throw it near the bed so he wouldn't have to carry it far. That was all I remembered from inside the bucket.....


I believe if it was in fact a "fishing rod movement," it was because one end of the scrap piece got caught up on the cable below. I think I yanked on it and the wire came springing up after coming free. If that is the case, it was a dumb move to thrash. There was probably a sense of complacency and a feeling of being safe because of the cover. In no circumstance could I see myself doing a "fishing rod movement!" l may be dumb but I'm not that dumb....
The report talks a bit about the time where I was unconscious: 


My memory kicked back in, I barely opened my eyes. I thought everything that had happened before had been a dream. I tried to get up to get ready for work again. My arms wouldn't move.  I realized I was strapped on a stretcher being carried. Then I could hear a chopper. I asked, "Where am I?" A man's voice responded by asking me my name and address. I began to respond, "Samoana Matagi." He asked me again and pain started to permeate from my hands. I screamed, half irritated by being asked the same question, "SAMOANA MATAGI!" Then I started moaning and screaming. A man's voice kept asking me questions. I moaned, "Why are my hands burning?" and screamed till blackness.....

I have always thought that we should have had a four man crew. In my opinion, when an accident happens, there are a lot of people responsible. When the office noticed the journeyman on our crew had quit, they could have sent a journeyman to keep the crew at four. The foreman could have always  called the office to request a lineman from the union hall. Of all the people responsible, the one I had the most control over was me. 
 
I failed to stand up for my own safety. There were so many ways I could have avoided the accident. I could have worked with gloves on. I could have not held the neutral while throwing the scrap piece. It's good to learn from your mistakes but not good to dwell on them. Accidents happen and hindsight is 20/20.
 
 There was one expression that could describe the whole incident; DEEEEEEEEE-SRTRUCTION! (https://soundcloud.com/user858738188/deeeeeeestruction) My life was destroyed physically, mentally, and even spiritually. I was 15 inches from not losing my hands at all. Electricity travels at the speed of light. It took the electricity, 14,400 volts, milliseconds to destroy my hands. The wires that caused the burns barely glanced.
I was also a few chest compressions away from losing my life. Thankfully, Larry saved my life. The chances of the wire not hitting a six foot long protective rubber sleeve are so slim, add that to the chances of me surviving, and the chances that it would have happened to two brothers, it all makes me want to believe in destiny. I believe part of my destiny has been to steal back life, figuratively, a bandit with no hands taking back life that was taken from him.