DRAFT Copy: This is not the final version. You are welcome to read, like, and comment. Do not copy, cite, or distribute without the express written permission of the author. 

BOONDOGGLE

Tommy Titterington was feeling a little down. His role as an apprentice electrician was little more than a tea boy. It was like being at home making cups of tea all day long. He didn't feel that he was learning to be an electrician. The guys he worked with were great. Yet, to Tommy, they didn't seem to get the fact he needed to fill out a logbook with real examples from the workplace. His mentor from the local authorities was due next week to inspect his logbook. It was empty.

✺ ✺ ✺

Ray noticed that Tommy was very quiet. Ray was the eldest and most senior of the crew. He would be retiring when Tommy would become a certified electrician. Ray leant against the workbench holding his cup of tea. His eyes focused on the contents of his little red Silvine memo book. 'You make a mean cup tea my lad. I cannot deny that.'

Tommy smiled. He appreciated the compliment. His mother had said the very same on many occasion. Right now, his mind was elsewhere. He sat on the little handmade bench staring out of the little square window.

The rain was relentless. There was no sign of a break in the dark clouds that hung motionless in the sky. Tommy's waterproofs still dripped, forming a pool beneath the bench upon which he sat.

'It's high time you did something to put in that workbook of yours.' Ray signalled Tommy to bring his workbook to him.

Tommy leapt up and handed his logbook to Ray.

Ray licked his thumb as he turned the pages. His wrinkled cheek flesh reminded Tommy of a Basset Hound.

Ray glanced up over his thick-framed glasses, 'When is your mentor due?'

'Next week. Tuesday afternoon in Frank F.'s office.' Frank F. was the chief engineer and the man that had selected Tommy from the many applicants for the post. His full name was Frank Foottit. But for some reason, everyone referred to him as Frank F. or Frankie Boy. Tommy was uncomfortable with both.

Ray went into the little storeroom next to the steel spiral staircase.

Tommy could hear him rummaging around in the boxes.

Ray reappeared. His breath was heavy but regular. 'Now, I have a job for you that will tick quite a few boxes for you. You'll not complete all your entries in that section by Tuesday laddie.' He paused to pick up his antique pliers and electrical screwdriver. 'At least you'll have something to show him,' he added.

✺ ✺ ✺

Tommy stood in front of a new panel still wrapped in polythene sheeting.

Ray took out his large penknife and slit open the plastic sheeting. 'Now, you're going to need a drill, extension lead, and a 25mm hole-saw drill bit. Do ya know what I mean?'

'Yes, I do.' Tommy's father had one and he knew how to use it too.

'Now, before you can start this job, you'll need to do a bit of research. Follow me.'

They worked their way across the large array of pipework and pumps. They stopped in front of a similar-looking electrical cabinet.

'Now, this is what you are going to install.' Ray pointed to a blue indicator lamp and a black push button. 'Now, I not going to tell ya what's for. That's for you to work out,' Ray mustered a cheeky grin, bushy eyebrows raised.

Tommy felt a sense of relief. He was going to have something to show for his first six months of his apprenticeship.

'Here's the circuit. Not too complicated, but it will get you started.' Ray leafed through some loose pages and handed Tommy a piece of plain white A4 paper.

'Thanks.' Tommy took it from Ray and looked at the pencilled sketch. It did look straight forward.

'The first job is to study that circuit and work out how it works.' Ray's expression was more pensive.

'Right. Got it.' Tommy nodded. He was Content.

✺ ✺ ✺

No longer only the tea boy, Tommy mulled over the tatty hand-drawn sketch. It didn't make sense at all to him. He was still only an apprentice, but he had helped his father fix problems on their car. What was clear is was that the push button provided power to the blue lamp, but only while the push button pressed. It did not appear to connect to any other part of the panel circuit. The only connection to the panel was to the 110-volt mains supply.

Tommy didn't know what to do. The circuit was straight forward and simple enough, but he had no idea what was the purpose of the control circuit. The inscription on the legend of the panel for the blue lamp said, 'System Healthy'. To Tommy, a better description would be, '110 volt Power Supply OK'.

Being the tea boy had a renewed appeal for Tommy.

'Worked it out yet, Tommy?' Ray laughed. His cheeky grin had returned together with an empty mug.

'Well, I'm not sure. The circuit appears to test the 110-volt circuit but labelled as 'System Healthy'.

Ray seemed pleased with Tommy's response.

Tommy looked puzzled by Ray's response.

'We'll make an electrician of you yet.' He grinned.

Tommy was a little shy and had to find a little courage to say, 'Sorry, but I don't understand.'

'It's a dummy circuit. Not meant to check anything. These circuits are there as requested by Frankie boy. Frank has this annoying habit.'

Tommy still looked confused.

Frankie boy likes to walk around the plant pressing buttons and calling us if none of the indicator lamps lit up.'

'But, warning lamps only come on when there is a problem, right?'

'Oh yes, but try telling Frankie Boy. So, he had us install a test circuit that would confirm that a system was healthy.'

'Oh, I see.' Tommy did get it.

'So, we come up with this. Frankie Boy presses the test push button. If the blue lamp comes on, then he's happy.' Ray chuckled.

Tommy was thinking ahead. He wasn't sure how he would describe the functionality in his logbook and the purpose of it? Now, he was not feeling so comfortable with what he was about to present on Tuesday.

'You will need to be a little creative for your logbook entry.' Ray removed his glasses to clean them. 'Welcome to our world laddie.' His expression was sombre.

The phone rang.

Ray picked it up. 'Yes, I'll send him over.' He replaced the handset and looked at Tommy.

'Frankie Boy wants to see you in his office. You'd better get yourself over there. When he says something like 'at your convenience' he usually means right now. So, off you go.'

'Do you know what it's about?'

'No idea, lad. Off you go.'

✺ ✺ ✺

Tommy couldn't remember the way to Frank F.’s office and had to be given directions by one of the office secretaries.

'Come in, come in Tommy. Take a seat.'

Tommy dropped into the nearest seat opposite.

'So, how is it going?'

'Fine, you know.' Tommy replied. He was nervous.

'Hope those buggers haven't got you making tea all day.'

Tommy's face reddened a little. 'Oh no, we take it turns,' he lied. He noticed how Frank's hands shook a little.

'Are you ready for your visit to the IT Board next week?'

'Yes, Ray has been helping me. I am writing up a couple of things.'

'Ah, Ray.' Frank F. paused in thought. 'That does surprise me.' He paused again. 'Ray is a brilliant electrician. A bit unorthodox in his way, but quite brilliant all the same. You'll need to be careful what and how you write stuff up that Ray has taught you.'

Tommy was being to see what he meant.

'So, what has had you working on?'

'The new system healthy circuit for the new panel in tank room 3.'

Frank F. smiled. 'Ah yes, the little blue lamp test circuit, AKA, system health check.' He winked at Tommy.

Tommy blushed. He realised at that moment that Frank F. knew the truth.

'In your logbook, I would refer to it as the 110-Volt power supply test circuit.' He grinned. 'Your inspector is a mechanical engineer. He won't know any different. Good, you may go.’

Tommy was still blushing as he rose and left.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE 

DRAFT Copy: This is not the final version. You are welcome to read, like, and comment. Do not copy, cite, or distribute without the express written permission of the author. 

© Perry A. Simpson 2021

Published by The Lemon Zest Project 

Written by Perry Simpson, Knockmonlea, Youghal, Co. Cork, Ireland (Tel: 086 109 2836), Contact [email protected]