October 2000

Prop Wash, Expense Accounts

One of the things I learned the hard way as an apprentice at the railroad was not to pay too much attention to what the old boys told you to do. If they sent you after the gob stretchers or some other silly non-existent thing the first man you asked would send you to another man who was supposed to have them in his toolbox.

After going to about ten different places you began to realize you were the entertainment for the day and went back and got chewed out for not finding them. This was standard practice for all new men. Even in the Air Force I was asked to get a bucket of prop wash once but did not fall for that one.

Another time in El Paso Texas I asked if I could go up on a test flight on a B29 and was given permission.

Everyone on the crew knew I was new in the Air Force and had us standing in front of the aircraft inspecting each other's parachute pins when the pilot asked me this question.

"Airman, if we fly low over the hanger and you see a red light do you know what it means"?

My answer was NO SIR and I waited for the explanation that I thought would be of great importance.

He then told me if I observed the red light it meant the Coke machine was empty.

Back to the railroad story I was asked to go out with a troubleshooter when there were problems on a locomotive and my old friend Jim instructed me to always order the best steak in the restaurant on our way back to the roundhouse after completing the repairs.

This man always stopped at a restaurant on the way back and I always had the best meal as Jim instructed me to do. After a while I noticed the supervisor did not eat as well as I did but his expense account always covered the bill.

One day we had a larger breakdown and Jim and I both went out to do the repairs. On the way back we stopped at a good restaurant and I was set for the best steak in the house. Jim ordered first and told the waiter he would have a hamburger and told me to get the same.

Outside the restaurant he told me the man we were working for informed him I was running up his expense account too much at the restaurants and asked me if I knew who told me to order the best in the house.

I told Jim he was the one who gave me those instructions. At that point he just laughed and said "You just can't believe a word us Irish tell you!" I had many cheap hamburgers after that.

And so it was at the old roundhouse.


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