Dog Day Afternoons Ad Infinitum

Weelll I got an email from my mother asking why I wasn’t updating my site very often, so I though it only appropriate that I update it with a telling of a summer job which she arranged for me.

Back in 1990, the summer after my sophomore year at GVSU, I kind of found myself at loose ends, job-wise. My mother was quite sympathetic:

GET A JOB!!!1!

So I went out looking. Spent hours on monster.com, surfed the job boards, built a few websites. Then I realized that none of this stuff had been invented yet — and the Commodore-64 version of Photoshop was too buggy to use in any profitable way — so I would have to get my hands dirty.

A few days later I found myself at the front desk of the Jackson County Road Commission building on Elm Road, just down from the state prison (this figures prominently later in the story). They needed a couple of fellas to spend the summer doing traffic density surveys all over the county.

The terms were good: 6:30am to 5:00pm, Monday through Thursday, at minimum wage ($3.50/hour at the time). A whole summer, driving around in a 1977 Suburban, laying rubber hoses across the road.

Training for the job consisted of the usual questions: You know how to drive a truck? You know how to read a map? You ever kill a man? We also got to try out the Nail Gun of Death.

The traffic counting apparatus works as follows: At the side of the road is a small metal box, about a foot square and eight or so inches thick, weighing about 25 pounds. Inside the case is a circuit-board with a couple of pneumatic pressure guages and a small tape drive. All of this is firmly bolted to the case in an attempt to make the counter redneck-resistant. Two spigots extrude from one side of the case. It is to these that the rubber tubes are attached. The tubes are about an inch in diameter. At various places along the length of the tubes are little metal Chinese finger cuff-type contraptions which have a solid loop at one end, through which is driven a nail to hold the rubber tube to the pavement.

I fired the Nail Gun of Death exactly once,aiming at a piece of hardened concrete. There was a ricochet. The sound of a .22 calibre long-rifle driven hunk of hardened steel whistling past my ear is one I will carry with me to my grave.

This story will be continued tomorrow, or thereabouts.

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