Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Beyond the Field I know

It's a wonderful week in the field for me. I'm working in Sacramento this week installing three groundwater monitoring wells. So I'm driving a van (the stylish 1998 Ford Econoline 150) which at this point has:
  • lagging seat belts that tend to loosen over time
  • a radio that drops one or both speakers randomly
  • a clock/radio display that is totally unreadable
  • loose bolts in the wall dividing the cabin from the cargo area (rattle-trap)
  • misalignment pulling to the right
  • thermostat stuck on cold (the latest problem)
And yet this is the best vehicle we have to use because at least we don't have to unload it every night when we get back for security reasons like we would a pick-up. But the weather has been nice once the sun has come out in the morning, and the drive to William Land Park in Sacramento is a nice reminder that at least I'm not making the drive every day like I did for 15 months when I as working in West Sac.

And my coworker and I get along well and talk most of the way up. The drive back has been quiet from our fatigue. No not from working which is pretty minimal, but from liaising with our government regulator. And dealing with the pithy comments of local residents.

Many years ago, Jennifer asked me what I did when I was drilling at a site. I told her that I pointed to where I wanted the hole. Soon after that I was drilling near where our office was and she offered to bring the crew donuts. When she arrived... I was pointing where I wanted the holes drilled.

Now actually, I do more than that. I classify the soils we encounter, describe transitions, and store samples for later analysis. And then when a well is being set by the driller (adding the sand and bentonite seal), I get to stand around. That's what a college education does for you. You don't have to deal with the slop of grout and saturated soil.

So today while I'm standing around watching the driller and his helpers set the well, a resident of one of the nearby houses comes over and begins with what I will loosely term jokes. "Don't you have any shovels to lean on? ... It's true what they say about four guys on a job and only one of them is working. ... I wish I had a job where I could stand around all day." Of course my first thought is, "Well, it's 11:30 on a Tuesday morning, why the hell aren't you working at all?"

Remember, it's the thought that counts.

And then there's our groundwater regulator/inspector who should be retired, but says she has three more years to go (the driller asked her today) because she has to wait for Medicare to kick in. And because we weren't going to do a second well today (the time constraints of a unit price job) she gave us busy work. We (the regulator, the driller, his two helpers, me and the staff geologist) went around the site and let her look in all the wells already installed so that she could be satisfied they had not settled after construction. She said this was a requirement of all wells, but had not been done at all on this site (or most others). There are at present 40 wells on site, and some were installed in the early 1990s.

And tomorrow I get to do it all again.

Oh, just to clarify, I no longer point to show the drillers where I want the hole. I tell the staff geologist where I want them to point to show the drillers where to drill.

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