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The Joy Of For-Profit Utilities — Why Now?
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The Joy Of For-Profit Utilities

Last week the ‘rainbow pixies’ showed up in the neighborhood, which is the first sign that life is about to get inconvenient. They wander across everyone’s front yard planting little flags and painting lines on the ground: yellow for gas, blue for water, orange for sewer, and green for telephone cables. They say this is to prevent people who are going to dig in the right-of-way from damaging the buried utility lines, but it is really so they know who to call when they break something.

Early this morning they started digging while I completed my morning routine. Long about 10 my Mother called on her cell phone to say her landline phone was dead. Remembering the activity, I checked my phone, which was also ‘unresponsive with pupils dilated’ [You can’t say dead in a police report because that is an ‘expert opinion’ that officers are not qualified to make.] The DSL was also ‘pining for the fjords’. A quick check at the corner, and there was Bubba and his backhoe with a bucket full of little green flags with a cable hanging from its teeth.

Fool that I am, I assumed that The Phone Company might be interested, so I called the repair number and followed the menu tree until there was a choice to report damage to TPC property. I was in error, as I was only allowed to report problems with my individual telephone line.

They eventually sent a crew to patch things up today, but they told me that the soonest they could respond to my problem was on Friday because of the holiday. I assume that someone called on the private utility-to-utility line to report the ‘accidental damage’.

The guy with the backhoe was a contractor, as are almost all of the local utility service people these days, and they work as fast as possible to make up in quantity what they should be paid for quality.


1 hipparchia { 11.21.12 at 8:47 pm }

green is sewer, orange is communication [cable, phone, etc], red is electric. blue is water, yellow is gas, oil, steam.

things are never this simple in the real world, of course. the standard equipment for tracing underground utilities prefers to follow metal wire and metal pipe, so sometimes the signal jumps from what you thought you were tracing to something else nearby and things get marked wrong.

yes, i have spent part of my working life as a rainbow pixie, though i didn’t know until now that that’s what i was. 🙂

2 Bryan { 11.21.12 at 9:57 pm }

I can guarantee that the only thing marked as ‘communication’ is a 6-inch plastic sewer line between my house and my neighbor’s. There is a sewer manhole just down the street so it is obvious where the sewer is located across the front and the main line isn’t marked, and the main water line isn’t marked at all. I have dug up the yard to fix things over the years, so I know where they are. My identification was based on what is actually under the lines and flags, not the official policy.

3 Kryten42 { 11.22.12 at 6:27 am }

Hmmm… hipparchia, the rainbow pixie! I like it! 😀 (Though, I am thinking more in terms of the 60’s than marking utilities)! 😆

And, for the record, we have the same issues here. I am sure that is one of those *universal constant’s*! *sigh*

4 Bryan { 11.22.12 at 10:58 am }

They are repaving roads, so you know that that always requires to the utilities to dig them up as soon as the repaving is done. They never seem to do things before the road is repaved. There must be a rule somewhere that forbids unpatched roadways.

5 hipparchia { 11.22.12 at 9:04 pm }


some utilities use in-house locators, others hire outside contractors, so maybe that’s the explanation for your lot. otoh your county appears to be rife with corruption, even more so than mine [or maybe just more openly corrupt than mine] so maybe it’s a plot to reward certain cronies with extra paving and utility repair work.

ha ha kryten! back in the 60s i was just a little kid, so i guess the pixie part applies. the closest i can remember to the rainbow part though is that i had a favorite pair of white flannel pajamas that had little black scottie dogs printed all over them. not especially rainbowy, i’m afraid.

6 Bryan { 11.22.12 at 9:31 pm }

I’ll guarantee that it was a contractor, because none of the for-profit utilities have any staff these days.

7 Kryten42 { 11.23.12 at 6:14 am }

LOL hipparchia! Yeah, I missed most of the fun of the 60’s, but I was a teen in the 70’s, so I got the tail end of it all! 😀 I went to several concerts, then by mid 70’s got a job for a studio as an apprentice recording engineer, and in the late 70’s was working as a roadie setting up consoles and gear for concerts. by ’78 I decided to head to Uni to study Industrial Design. In 1980, a good m8 asked me to help out with the biggest I worked on. It was the huge Kiss concert at Waverly Park (also known as VFL Park then). There were 7 huge 22 wheel semi-trailer loads of gear to setup, and we had 3 days! We hardly had time to sleep, I’d never strung so much cable in my life! But, we got to sit in the oval not 60 meters from the stage and the huge speaker stacks! I think I was deaf for a week! 😆

I still remember most of the Aussie bands from that time… Skyhooks, AC/DC, Cold Chisel, The Ferret’s, The Angels, Dingo’s, Ted Mulry Gang (TMG), Rose Tattoo, Hush, Buffalo, Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs, Chain, Spectrum, Madder Lake, Lobby Loyde and Coloured Balls, Band of Light, Sherbet, Supertramp… The list is endless! 😆

But my most memorable concert was our Aussie equivalent of NY Woodstock. The Sunbury Pop Festival, which ran from 1972 to 1975! I went 3 times! (It’s not far from where I live now actually, maybe an hour’s bus trip). 🙂

*sigh* Yeah… those truly were the best of times for me. 🙂

anyway… back on the topic of the Rainbow Pixies! I dunno how you did it Bryan, but I went out yesterday, and what did I espy?? rainbows on the ground! Amazin! Yellow, blue, pink and white dashed lines along the road, footpath’s and nature-strip! So, any day now… noise, more noise, power outages, sewerage everywhere, burst water mains…. I blame you m8! Grrrrr! 😉 😆

8 Bryan { 11.23.12 at 10:37 am }

The 1960s was a period of death of destruction for me beginning with promise and ending with Nixon. There were bright spots, like the space program, the music, and the hippies who wanted peace, but the Four Horsemen were out and about. It started with the hope that things would get better, but the right reacted with violence to the changes that were taking place.

I think the pixies are attracted to the smell of new macadam, Kryten.

9 hipparchia { 11.23.12 at 11:11 pm }

of that list, i recognize ac/dc and supertramp, though i did not know either of them were australian. my hearing isn’t quite right, so i wasn’t into music quite as much as everybody else, but a lot of my friends would have given their eyeteeth to be roadies for their favorite bands.

i was, however, a HUGE fan of the space program.

10 Kryten42 { 11.24.12 at 12:17 pm }

Hi h! 😀

another big Aussie export to the USA is Little River Band (LRB). Another Aussie you may have heard of who made it big in the USA (winning Gold with her first single there) was Sister Janet Mead (an actual Catholic Nun). Hmmm… Others you Yanks (heh) may have heard of include Air Supply, The Easybeats, Daddy Cool, Blackfeather, Russell Morris, Stevie Wright, John Paul Young… Oh, Jon English (actually born in England but immigrated and naturalized here) especially his hit ‘Hollywood Seven’ amongst others; and so on! 😆

There is Wiki list here if anyone’s interested:

Australian rock

AC/DC started as a pub band here, and they recorded their first album (High Voltage) at my studio. I worked on a couple tracks. 🙂 The two brothers who started it were actually Scottish (Angus and Malcolm Young), and they decided early on that they were into it for the money. Almost from day one, they worked their music to become wealthy, and they succeeded. 🙂 They even managed to survive the death (from alcoholic poisoning) of their lead singer Bon Scott. Most bands who lost their lead didn’t. Sadly, Bon suffered from a form of Agoraphobia and would drink a bottle of Johnny Walker (red label) scotch before and during a concert.

Sorry to hear about your hearing hipparchia. Mind you, after several very loud concerts, my hearing wasn’t very *right* either! But, that was self-inflicted. 😉 In truth, I don’t know what I’d do without music. It keeps me going every day. 🙂 I’m currently enjoying the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (Night Castle) whilst I write this. I have a very broad range of music taste. 🙂 For example, I really enjoy the orchestral arrangements of mainstream bands/artists by The London Philharmonic Orchestra (including Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, Yes)

And yeah, I was also a huge fan of the space program! 😀

Bryan, the macadam where they’ve marked here is pretty old, and most of the spray paint seems to be on the footpath and grass. 😆 though, it seems the sewerage line runs on a 15-20 deg diagonal across the street and cut’s through the front of a row of Units. I am sure the owners will be pleased if they are going to dig up the sewerage pipes! 😈

11 Bryan { 11.24.12 at 9:22 pm }

You don’t think that they are going to do the utility work before the road is re-paved? Nah … that would make too much sense and save time and money.

It’s always fun to discover that there were utilities accidentally buried on the property where your house is built, so that working on them endangers your foundation.