Category Archives: The Work

The N’Awlins Job

Boy, am I glad that’s over.

Last night marked the culmination of the hardest, longest, most strenuous stint to date since I started doing this whole travel-around-the-world-getting-my-ass-kicked thing.  8 out of 9 weeks in the field.  9 systems in 6 different cities in 5 different states in 2 different countries on 2 different continents.  Yeah.  And of course, fate (or my boss, depending on your perspective) saved the best for last.

The last two weeks started innocuously enough: an 8-hour cubicle day.  But then it got hairy; some shit done up and broke in Kansas.  So with 16 hours of notice, I flew to Kansas City on Tuesday morning and worked there that evening and the following day before arriving back in Denver late Wednesday night.

And the job in KC wasn’t a cold one…

Sunset and thunderhead from the plane

The sunset out the window during my flight home from Kansas City.

And then after a ridiculously short 8 hours at home, I took off for New Orleans bright and early on Thursday morning.

Sunrise on the eastern plains of Colorado

The sunrise the next morning on my way to the airport.

Then, after several hours of safety training and red tape bullshit, we started the N’Awlins job.  Our work here was on a hydrogen production furnace at a massive plant a ways outside of town.  The work was outside, which would have been fantastic news except for the whole July in the deep south thing.  It was hot, and it was humid, as one would expect.  Virtually every day was around 95 degrees, and the humidity wasn’t too far behind.  And, for the vast majority of the work, I could reach out and touch the furnace that housed a 1750 degree inferno.

shitty view of industrial crap

The rather breathtaking view from “The Reformer”

NASA rocket, New Orleans

The NASA plant just down the road from our job site… Apparently, they need hyrdogen and other assorted chemicals for like, going to the moon… One of the old rockets was sitting out front. My esteemed colleagues there show some perspective; thing wasn’t small.

This is how it starts… A shitload of crates…  Now, turn that into a fully functional laser measurement system.  And, go.

It was a big job, and an important one, so that meant leaving the hotel every morning at 7:00am.  Saturday and Sunday included.  I suppose, that should be plural, as this job enveloped each of the last two weekends.

Now technically we were in New Orleans.  I’d never been there before, so I was kind of excited about that.  But I soon came to realize that calling where I was staying “New Orleans” is sort of like calling New Jersey “New York City.”  We were in a pretty rough part of town which showed more than a little of the lingering effects from Katrina.  We were told by more than one person at the plant that it might be a good idea to stay in our hotel after dark.  As you can see, I’m a bit hard of hearing.

Bullard Avenue Brother's Shell Station New Orleans

You know you’re in a good part of town when the Shell Station is the place to be.

Most nights, I was too damn tired to go out for dinner, so I left my coworkers to their own devices and ordered in to the hotel room, but on a few occasions we took the drive into the city and walked around the French Quarter  and got us some pretty good food.  All bullshit aside, them southerners know to eat.  As per usual, didn’t really have time to take in the sights and sounds as much as one would like, but, I did get to see it…

Street band, New Orleans

Definitely, definitely in New Orleans

Mercifully, the end of the 153.5 hour, two-week pay period came to end last night, and I’ve got some serious couch and cubicle time ahead of me.  And holy shit, is it good to be home…  I’m worn out.  It’s hard, if not impossible, to describe the amount of physical exhaustion, the bumps, bruises, sore muscles and back aches, that accumulates over such a job, and over such a long stretch of work.

My sweaty ass

Getting ‘cleaned up’ for my flight home yesterday. Unless you’ve done it, it’s impossible to know how much one sweats in this kind of environment.

But, I earned a whole shitload of money, and it’s behind me now.  And turns out that the weather in Colorado is just a touch nicer than that of the deep south.  So there’s that.  And, my frequent flier miles just booked Ms. Müller a flight over here from Germany, and I couldn’t possibly be any more excited about that.  But, I suppose that’s another story for another day…

So, if you’ll excuse me, I believe I’ll take a nap.  Come back soon.

-B. Littleton

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Filed under The Road, The Sights of the Good Ol' US of A, The Work

Mama Never Said Shit About Days Like This

Just one of them days.

The last couple of days have been a whirlwind.  As of 9:00 AM yesterday, I was scheduled to leave this afternoon to head down to New Orleans for two weeks of fun and games on a methane reformer.  Then, I was set to get home on August 6th, and then take off for Tusimice, Czech Republic on August 11th.  But, as is always the case at The Company to be Named Later, the only constant is change.

At 9:05 yesterday morning I received an email telling me that there was a pretty bad fire at the power plant in Tusimice, and as a result, our work there will be delayed about 4 months.  Normally, this would’ve been some good news.  A little respite from the the ridiculous amount work I’ve put in over the last several weeks (or five years, depending on how you look at it).  But, Ms. Müller, unbelievably enough, was planning on making the 6 hour trek to Prague to come spend some time with me on that job.  So, the power plant aside, I was looking forward to that little trip.

Then, at 10:00 AM, I got a text from my coworker Kevin telling me that I probably wouldn’t need to be in New Orleans until Friday.  Now this was legitimately good news.  It’d been a mere seven days since my seven week stint in Germany, and two extra days to catch my breath sounded delightful.  But, some shit broke in Kansas.

Shit broke right here to be more exact. Wonderful La Cygne, Kansas.

Good news just became some pretty bad news.  I still have to be in New Orleans on Friday, but now I get to check out breathtaking La Cygne, Kansas in the mean time. So rather than waking up at 9:00 AM this morning to finish up packing and get gone to New Orleans, I had to wake up at 5:00 AM to be at the airport at 6:00 for my flight to KC.  Fuck.  So I stayed up far later than one should if one has an early flight the next morning just to finish up the laundry and packing, grabbed 4 hours of the sleep on the couch, and then it was today.

And today was just one of those days.  Started off well.  I left my backpack, my entire fucking backpack, with my GPS, camera, book, cell phone charger, and other assorted crap that I need, sitting in my apartment.  Short trip, I figured, I’ll be fine.  I’ll just pay for a navigation system in the rental car.  Nope.  Hertz, despite having easily 50 cars in the lot, had only one with their mediocre at best Neverlost navigation system.  A Mercedes in their ridiculously priced prestige collection.  So, it was the shitty free Hertz map for me.

I struggled mightily, but I found my hotel.  By this time it was about 12:30PM local, and the girl at the hotel refused, despite my Diamond Elite Status, to check me in until 2:00.  Fine, whatever.  So I changed into my power plant clothes in the hotel lobby bathroom, and used their “business center” to print out the Google map directions to the power plant, 45 minutes away. Finally, after one helluva seven-hour commute, and a stop at the gas station for as much water and Gatorade as I could carry, I arrived to work just before 2:00.

The work this job consisted of replacing a faulty lasery-measury-thingy.  No big deal, I’ve got all the equipment that I need, about a 2 hour job, should be pretty straightforward.  What I didn’t know was this:

172.8 F, 78.3 C… I mean this is above and beyond. I’m pretty sure going to work today shaved a few weeks off of my life.

That right there clocks in as the 3rd-hottest place I’ve ever been asked to work.  The aforementioned equipment, not to mention my body, doesn’t work too well in that kind of heat.  And to make things just a little more enjoyable, it was better than 100 degrees outside today.  That meant my usual pop out on the roof to cool off thing wasn’t horribly effective.  Long story short, after 6 brutal hours of cooking myself medium-rare, I was finally in the car on the way back to the hotel.

The view from my office. Even out here it was well over 100…

Now, after my little 14-hour day, here I sit at the fucking Hooter’s in Overland Park, Kansas (and I promise you, I’d rather eat at Denny’s than have a set of fake tits with daddy issues bring me mediocre chicken wings, but I can see this place from the hotel, and I didn’t much feel like getting lost for the third time today).  And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t exercising fantasies of telling virtually everyone back the office to go fuck themselves, and cashing in my quit-this-job fund in for a year or two in Europe.

I’m not sure exactly hot it was out there today, but it was still 96 (35.5C) at 8:30 pm while I was driving home…

But tomorrow, after putting in another 6 hours at the plant, I’ll get on my flight home, which ought to have me to my apartment 14 hours before I have to be back at the airport for my flight to New Orleans.

Mamma never shit about days like this.  Here’s to tomorrow.

-B. Littleton


Filed under The Road, The Work

Let’s Burn Some Trash

Here’s a few cell phone pictures of the power plant at which I have the pleasure of spending the next two weeks of my life.  This place is a little different.  Every plant I’ve ever worked at has been a coal burning facility, this place is actually a waste incinerator.  In other words, they burn trash for fuel.  As you can imagine it smells like, well, like a burning landfill.  But, the stink aside, trash doesn’t burn nearly as efficiently as coal, so it’s not as hot where we’re working, so that’s nice.  And I get a nice warm fuzzy knowing that I’m doing my part to help improve a clean, renewable energy power plant plant, or whatever.

There she be. Look at that delicious cloud of smoke....

Them green things are the rail cars in which they bring in the trash.


The giant crane the moves these things around like they're toys.

The giant claw game. I sure hope I win a beta-max. I guess they use this beast to move the trash into the boiler itself. I wish the picture did this thing justice. The pile of trash is massive.

A little blurry, but they had trash people in the control room.

The beer of choice around here. Not as bad as the label would indicate.

And last but not least, some dude we seen in the pizza place after work tonight. Pretty graphic for being in public isn't it? As Glendo said, "He's gripping that bitch like a bowling ball."

Welp, that was my day in  Schwandorf and Schwarzenfeld…  Pretty enthralling eh?

-B. Littleton


Filed under The Sights, The Sights of Europe, The Work