With Halloween upon us, we asked our associates to share their scary project stories – whatever scary means to them. They’re true stories with a bit of embellishment for fun. It’s entertaining to see what they came up with. Enjoy and have a safe and happy Halloween!
From Creepy Cassy Gardner, Group Engineering Manager, Banks Integration
The startup was in the middle of nowhere – a big, metal barn-like structure surrounded by sage brush. It was the kind of place you hope you don’t have to be in for too long. The client manufactured chemicals. The facility, filled with caustic concoctions, also had a rattlesnake problem. The poisonous creatures slithered into gaps, holes and cracked open doors. Signs were throughout the facility, warning workers of sticking a hand or foot into a dark corner or container without looking first, lest an unseen rattler sink its fangs into their flesh.
I stayed later than everyone else to wrap things up. I was fearing the doom of the impending client deadline. Missing that deadline might curse Banks forever, I thought. I glanced at the time on my laptop – 11:00 PM. I blinked with weary eyes. Long day … time to go home.
I switched off the light in the office. Momentarily in darkness, I heard a shuffle. Had I imagined it?
“Hello?” I called out, wondering if I’d been mistaken in assuming I was the last person to leave. Nothing.
Just jitters, I told myself, and stepped out into the night. Closing the heaving metal door behind me with a bang. There were no lights in the parking lot, and it was not close. I walked quickly in the dark, anxious to get to my car, which I saw was the sole vehicle in the lot. I was definitely the only person there … or was I?
My boots crunched on the desert ground. Another shuffle … was I imagining it? No, I had definitely heard something. I picked up the pace. I knew there were many animals in the area. I imagined eyes on me, watching my every move. I reached the parking lot. Another shuffle, this time right behind me.
My heart raced and my joints began to stiffen. I decided to sprint – dashing like a madwoman to my car door. My hand on the door handle, I heard the shuffle again and spun around. There on the ground three feet away, was a racoon, looking at me with curious eyes. I exhaled a deep sigh of relief. Of course, racoons were everywhere around the building.
I turned back to my car door and quickly got in. I immediately locked the door, just in case. I drove away, out of the light of the parking lot and into the darkness of the highway headed back home. I decided that would be my last time working late in the desert alone.
From Robert “The Reaper” Patrick, Vice President of Engineering at Superior Controls
My first project with Superior Controls was a Cogen facility at Malden Mills in Lawrence, MA. Our scope was to develop the control for the Balance of Plant (BOP) alongside two 5MW gas turbines with corresponding heat recovery steam generators. The project had gone fairly smooth and we were going through startup of the equipment with the vendor who provided the generators. The agreement Malden Mills had with the state and local utility required them to import a minimum of 0.5 MW from the grid. This interlock was built into the configuration of the switchgear.
Halfway through the startup, as we were putting the system through its paces, one of the generators started oscillating outside of the 3600 RPM setpoint. It only took a few seconds for the safety interlock to trip, isolating the entire facility from the grid and shortly after that the generator turned itself off, shutting power across the campus.
Everything went dark in the control room. There was an eerie silence. I felt the blood drain from my face. How were we going to get out of this?
The phone rang, jolting us in the darkness. The operator followed the incessant ringing in the dark, feeling for the receiver and picked it up. Panic set in. I can only imagine what was said on the other end. Here I was, a young engineer on my first project with a new company. I didn’t believe the shutdown was caused by our system, but I was still nervous.
The first priority was to restore power to the facility, which was a multistep process. Once power was back on, we needed to do some investigation to determine what had occurred. During the job some of the union electricians started calling me “Superior Bob.” I guess they could have come up with a worse nickname but at this point I wasn’t sure how Superior I was feeling.
After a couple hours of looking at various things, it was determined that a 4-20 ma signal wire in one of the gas turbine control panels had a terminal that was not tightened down correctly. I breathed an audible sign of relief – the issue hadn’t been caused by our system. We have a very thorough testing program that requires pull tests on each of the wires in the panel prior to shipment.
From Jennifer Palumbo, Director of Destruction (and Marketing), E Technologies Group
10 years ago, I was working for a different company that had moved its shop to a new location. The building was immense – over two million square feet, and nearly empty. It had been an old warehouse and distribution center for a local company, and as the company downsized, the building became obsolete and sat vacant for years. A new developer had bought the property, and that’s when my company decided to move its shop there, making it one of only a handful of tenants at the time.
The unoccupied areas of the building were mostly dark, except for the occasional overhead light, creating dull, yellow spotlights surrounded by an intimidating darkness. During my first visit to the building, as I walked through the vast space with a coworker, I looked down at the dusty floor and saw pawprints along the wall. Rats had reigned over the unoccupied space for years and were apparently not ready to give up their space and move on willingly.
It was 5:30, not late at all, but since the shop opened at 6 AM, all of the workers had already gone home. I was alone, not only in the office space, but in the entire wing of the dark, empty building.
As I sat there working, I began to hear a soft sound coming from the vent above me. The heat was kicking on – it was a chilly October day. But as I sank into the silence that comes with solitude, the sound became louder, more noticeable. And familiar. What did it sound like? I was no longer focused on my work but on the sound above my head. It sounded like groaning. And not just one groan, but many. Then I realized what the sound reminded me of … The Walking Dead had recently started, and I was an avid fan. The sound from the vent sounded like the zombies on the show.
That was it. My overactive imagination had taken hold. All I could think of was hundreds of zombies outside the office, their chorus of moaning and groaning filling the vast, dark and empty space around me.
I rapidly saved my work and shut down my computer, nervously throwing my coat on and my computer bag over my shoulder. As I opened the office door and stepped into the dark warehouse space to begin my long walk to the door closest to my car, I cursed myself for wearing high heels. You can’t run from zombies in high heels. What would Daryl and Rick of the Walking Dead think?
I burst through the heavy metal door and ran my fob through to lock it. The sky was darkening. I got into my car and wondered why I can’t just watch The Bachelor like normal people.
From Scary Gary Powell, Executive Vice President, Banks Integration
Early in my career I had just completed a control systems upgrade for my company’s (PG&E) largest underground natural gas storage facility, which supplied a significant portion of our customers’ natural gas needs on peak load days in the winter (basically two-thirds of all of California’s population).
Later that year, I was onto my next project. One morning on the job site, I came into the control room and everybody was talking about an explosion that had occurred the night before at one of the company’s facilities. I quickly learned that the facility that suffered the explosion was the one that I had just done the control systems upgrade for – fortunately there were no injuries.
As a sighed relief at the news of no injuries, my thoughts simultaneously filled with a deep dread.
Did I make a programming mistake that caused the explosion?
Are people all over California going to be freezing this winter because of me?
Am I going to lose my job? Or worse, be sent to prison for this heinous mistake?
I then started imagining myself interviewing for new jobs, explaining that the last project I did blew up but trying to convince interviewers I would still be a good hire. I could hear the stereotypical interview question, “What would you say is your greatest weakness?” “Well, I blew up a building once.” That’s one way to make an impression.
An hour later, my wife called me. As she was feeding our 8-month-old daughter that morning, she saw a news report about the explosion. She had all of my same thoughts. (Nice of her to have confidence in me LOL).
The awful dread worsened.
A few hours later (although it felt like an eternity), I learned that the explosion occurred at another part of the facility that had nothing to do with the control system.
Needless to say, I was fairly worthless on the job site that morning but did get my resume completely up to date.