I’m Back!

Yes, I’ve been absent from both the blogosphere (including my own blog) and Facebook for roughly about the past 4 weeks. So, what was I up to?

Well, my internet connection went down about 3 1/2 weeks ago, so the only way that I could connect to the internet was to go to my local coffee shop. While I really enjoy that particular coffee shop (it’s a small, locally owned establishment that often has live jazz, classical and bluegrass groups), I also don’t like spending hours sitting there, taking up space, and mooching their data bandwidth. I tend to also have a self-conscious reaction whereby I feel like a total hipster sitting there, alone and bespectacled, with my Macbook Pro sitting before me with its ever so noticeable glowing Apple emblem. You know the type, and I am not, nor do I wish to be construed as, that type of person. So, I only went to the coffee shop once or twice, and that time was spent paying bills, checking accounts, transfers, email, etc; the necessities.

Next, about 2 1/2 weeks ago I was informed by my employer that I was going to be spending the next 2 1/2 weeks in Pittsburg. Interestingly, I got my home internet connection fixed about 30 minutes before I was to leave on this business trip. Yes, I was cutting it close. Needless to say, I didn’t have much time to write blog posts.

One might be inclined to say something akin to, “well, if you’re out of town, then you’re staying in a hotel that most assuredly has an internet connection. What gives?”. Yes, it is correct that I had an internet connection in my hotel room. However, there are other considerations that prevented me from spending much time on the internet. One excuse is the nature of the work itself, the other is the demanding schedule that I was subjected to. Let me explain.

The job that I was sent to was a tunnel along I-376 called ‘Squirrel Hill Tunnel’. It is a highway tunnel with two lanes on each side, and is a major artery into and out of downtown Pittsburg. The work that we were accomplishing is the removal of the ceiling, which is made of hardened and reinforced concrete with a thickness of roughly 18 inches throughout the tunnel, and has a thickness of 24-36 inches near the keyways (the far ends of the tunnel). Keep in mind that this ceiling isn’t the load-bearing structure of the tunnel (can you say “over-engineered”?), rather it is merely a ceiling that runs the length of the tunnel, so once this ceiling is removed it reveals the dome-shaped load-bearing structure that is the actual tunnel. Apparently, when this tunnel was built most vehicles weren’t tall enough to hit this ceiling. However, as can be shown by the long scrapes and gouges on this ceiling, it was clear that it needed to either be raised or demolished alogether.

I spent my time working in the “inbound” tunnel. During the week, we would work in one lane, while the other lane was left open to traffic. We would work from roughly 9 pm to 4:30 am hammering out the areas along the edge where the ceiling meets the bearing structure of the tunnel (i.e. the joint where the ceiling meets the tunnel walls). While my work is almost always very dangerous and nerve-racking, this is the first time that I’ve ever performed my demolition work with traffic whizzing at 60-70 mph within two feet of me. Since this is a main artery of the Pittsburg highway system, the traffic was pretty consistent the entire time, with very little let up.

As I said, we were working from 9 pm to about 4:30 am with live traffic, but this only applied during the week. During the weekend my schedule would change to a twelve-hour day schedule that started at 7 am and concluded at 7 pm (we were actually running two 12-hour shifts during the weekend, but mine was the day shift). On weekends we would completely shut down the inbound lanes of the tunnel to all traffic, bring in the heavy machinery, and take down the bulk of the ceiling. While it is nice that on the weekend there are no worries about getting mowed over by a tractor-trailer traveling at 70 mph, there is the fear of getting run over by a giant track-hoe or giant slabs of concrete falling onto your head. Also, there is the hazard due to the enormous amount of silica dust created by the demolition of concrete, so respirators must be worn at all times (I wear a respirator at all times anyhow). Did I mention that my work is dangerous?

As you can see, my last couple of weeks were filled with lots of action and unnerving hazards (there are more hazards than what I mentioned, but those were the biggies). My schedule was one that very few people could accomplish while also being fully cognizant and aware. So, please grant me a reprieve for not having blogged over the course of the past 4 weeks. However, I must say that I will attempt to make up for this absence by recording a few songs that I’ve written over the past couple of months, so you can look forward to that.

Note: My time wasn’t entirely wasted on work, I was able to read Plato’s Republic, a few chapters of Rothbard’s Conceived in Liberty vol. II, as well as a few old articles from Franz Boas. I could have spent this time blogging, but in my mind reading comes before writing, learning before teaching, absorbing before expressing, etc.

I also want to clarify that while the nature of my work is dangerous, that both the company that I work for, as well as the men that I work with, always ensure that we are accomplishing our work in the safest manner possible. I work with some of the most highly regarded professionals in our industry.

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3 Comments on “I’m Back!”

  1. sharon Says:

    glad your back safely Joe

  2. Ken B Says:

    I wondered where you had gone. I was beginning to think Bob Murphy put out a contract ….


    • Murphy putting out a hit on his own hitman? Possible but unlikely.

      That’s actually related to a somewhat inside joke. I got into a physical altercation over the summer, afterward Murphy began jokingly asking me to “kneecap” certain people, like I’m a hitman or something. I received a letter from him in the mail this past week, it was addressed to “Mr. Joseph ‘Kneecaps’ Fetz”. It made me chuckle.


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