Tunnel Mole Can't Get No Utility Love

We know a utility company retiree proud of the belt buckle that commemorates his days working on transmission for a Texas utility. It says "The Romance of the High Lines."

As the Tunnel Mole surfaced recently to look for the blessed utility trucks that often signal a return to power, it struck us that there probably IS a lot of romance involved in working on those wires. Not Brokeback type; not that there's anything wrong with that. But think about it: You're doing your regular duties way up high in a bucket, and a natural disaster hits somewhere. You get the chance to shove off to parts unknown and be a hero, sometimes just by clearing brush! It's dangerous and thankless work, but we envisioned the hero's welcome those workers should get.

Short of a ticker tape parade -- or what Enron used to do with some of its field workers brought in from other sites; they'd give 'em $500 cash per diem for the week, plus a wink and a nod towards the "gentlemen's clubs" -- there oughta be fetching, aproned ladies flanking the streets, fluttering their eyelashes and bearing homemade pies.

We didn't see anything like that in our 'hood; maybe that's why there have been no trucks. We suddenly felt solidarity with our native power utility. Just as a mole slips around, unseen and undercover, getting things done, so must be the modus operandi of CenterPoint's recovery workers.

Except while no one gives the Mole a second thought during everyday activities, those utility rescue trucks are kinda hard to miss. For one thing, they're so damn huge they make those (*&@#! SUVs look positively as petite as their usual blonde pony-tailed navigators. The SUVs, I mean.

Yesterday at dusk, one particular line of a half-dozen cherry-pickers traveling west on Bissonet made getting through the lights take about four times as long. And several trucks were blocking one of the two lanes, doing work in (of course) West U. (But far out, in Tunnel Mole's forgotten hood, said trucks are about as unnoticeable as a mole. We've seen one in 11 days.)

So sitting in traffic yesterday, Tunnel Mole -- sans homemade pie or fluttering lashes -- succumbed to the romance of the high lines. We couldn't help it; we started making kissy noises to woo one of the workers in the truck next to us, during a 13-minute-long traffic light.

We invited him back to the house. He just grinned. It was our one chance to flag down a truck, and we blew it. Maybe he was on his way to a gentlemen's club. Maybe it would have helped to stick a fin in his utility belt, or to promise to pimp him an aproned lady? Any tips on snagging a Marlboro Man driving a bucket truck??

Last week, we tried to ask CenterPoint itself about the snafus to power recovery in general, not just our 'hood, of course.

Clearly, they had the third string working the media line even as early as five days into the post-Ike recovery efforts: The woman who answered said she could help us with anything. It turns out she couldn't answer any of our questions, because she didn't have that "you know, that fact sheet with everything on it" with her. She promised to call back, but maybe she lost our number in the pile? We think we might even get power restored before we hear from her….

The only nugget of info she came up with wasn't all that much help to us: "I got power last night!!" she bubbled.

OK, thanks, CenterPoint Answer Lady. We're really happy for you. Can we come to your crib and watch a rerun of Seinfeld or something, because for ELEVEN DAYS NOW, the only power Tunnel Mole has access to is in the Downtown Houston Tunnel System! For that and many other reasons, we're glad the beloved tunnels did not flood during Ike. The tunnel's quick return to normalcy has kept downtown afloat. It's even the only site in nearly two weeks where the Mole has had access to TV -- and even then, it was wasted on watching Dubya mouth off about helping "our friends," the investment banks.

-- Tunnel Mole, from the dark depths

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