Hunter S Thompson: On electricity

Tom Dunlap

Here from the beginning
Administrator
A number of years ago I was flying to do another EHAP class. The book I was reading was Hunter S. Thompson's auto-biography Songs of the Doomed.

Here is what he had to say about electricity! I think about this when I'm near wires, even extension cords.

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Lock one hand behind your back before you touch anything full of dissatisfied voltage-even a failed light bulb-because you will almost certainly die soon if you don’t.

Electricity is neutral. It doesn’t want to kill you, but it will if you give it a chance. Electricity wants to go home, and to find a quick way to get there-and it will.

Electricity is always homesick. It is lonely. But it is always lazy. It is like a hillbilly with a shotgun and a jug of whiskey gone mad for revenge on some enemy-a fatal attraction, for sure-but he won’t go much out of his way to chase the bugger down if ambush looks a lot easier.

Why prowl around and make a spectacle of yourself when you can lay in wait under some darkened bridge and swill whiskey like a troll full of hate until your victim appears-drunk and careless and right on schedule-so close that you almost feel embarrassed about pulling the trigger.

That is how electricity likes to work. It has no feelings except loneliness, laziness, and a hatred of anything that acts like resistance…like a wharf rat with its back to the wall-it won’t fight unless it has to, but then it will fight to the death.

Electricity is the same way: it will kill anything that gets in its way once it sees a way to get home quick…

Zaaappp!

Right straight up your finger and through your heart and your chest cavity and down the other side.

Anything that gives an escape route. Anything-iron, water, water, flesh, ganglia-that will take it where it must go, with the efficiency of gravity or the imperative of salmon swimming upriver…And it wants the shortest route-which is not around a corner and through a muscle mass in the middle of your back, but it will go that way if it has to.

-Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
Songs of the Doomed
More notes on the death of the American Dream
Gonzo Papers Vol. 3
 

Reach

Been here a while
Location
Atglen, PA
That’s an interesting way to put it, but I like it. I may have to share that with some guys here, especially the one who likes to get as close to some of the lines as I do. (I’m a former professional electrician, I’m quite qualified to work ON those lines, not just close by. He can’t tell the difference between a 12kv and a phone line)
 

evo

Been here a while
Location
My Island, WA
That’s an interesting way to put it, but I like it. I may have to share that with some guys here, especially the one who likes to get as close to some of the lines as I do. (I’m a former professional electrician, I’m quite qualified to work ON those lines, not just close by. He can’t tell the difference between a 12kv and a phone line)
I was dumb enough as a kid (well old enough to know better), and stuck the bitter end of a phone cord in my mouth because I was fumbling with my hands full. The other end was still plugged in…
 

Reach

Been here a while
Location
Atglen, PA
I was dumb enough as a kid (well old enough to know better), and stuck the bitter end of a phone cord in my mouth because I was fumbling with my hands full. The other end was still plugged in…
Ouch! That 48 volt dc will give you quite a zap, grab that line when it’s ringing and the 96 volts there will light you up!
 

evo

Been here a while
Location
My Island, WA
Ouch! That 48 volt dc will give you quite a zap, grab that line when it’s ringing and the 96 volts there will light you up!
It was that and the fishing trip where I crossed a pvc water pick up pipe that went up to a pump house. I don’t know why or what, but I picked up a foot, grabbed it with both hands and stepped over it. Soon as my foot hit the ground I got zapped so hard I couldn’t let go of the pipe, I collapsed to the ground and was a little shaky when I walked away..
I give all things to electrical a wide berth. I still cringe when I have to use jumper cables.. yet I love to weld?
 

Dan Cobb

Branched out member
Location
Hoover
Tom, I think you're in the minority if you remember what he said about electricity. I think many more people remember him for:

"I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me."

(Which, in the end, didn't really pan out.)
 
That’s an interesting way to put it, but I like it. I may have to share that with some guys here, especially the one who likes to get as close to some of the lines as I do. (I’m a former professional electrician, I’m quite qualified to work ON those lines, not just close by. He can’t tell the difference between a 12kv and a phone line)
what kind of voltages did you work on?
 

TheTreeSpyder

Participating member
Location
Florida>>> USA
My view of working with mass is kinda same, only playing that it is trying to get you.
And if pick up 25#ball in one hand, it is like a positive charge and will seek 'ground' path thru rest of bod to feet or seat. Lighting up the whole chain from input to output.
But if press down purposefully hard with other hand on table etc., where weight on feet is same as w/o 25# ball;
then the 25# 'voltage' can reroute/be ushered to take that path to ground, not thru weak back etc.
Various comparisons of gravity as magnetic call, so electric not that big a hop from a force is force perspective.
.
In rural Indiana, we'd walk by fence charger, get the beat of capacitor charge, tapping on leg etc.
So knew when could hop fence while charged.
If you didn't know that and followed suit behind person jumping fence, got bit!
(sounded fair then at least!)
.
 

Reach

Been here a while
Location
Atglen, PA
what kind of voltages did you work on?
Mostly 0-600 volts, but I’ve done some training on higher (up to 12kv if I remember correctly) - I never had any interest in doing line work, so I didn’t do anything more than the training/exercises. I’ve worked in panels and transformers with 12kv, but tried to avoid working on it. Too many steps to go through to get near that kind of voltage for me to be interested in working on it.
 
Mostly 0-600 volts, but I’ve done some training on higher (up to 12kv if I remember correctly) - I never had any interest in doing line work, so I didn’t do anything more than the training/exercises. I’ve worked in panels and transformers with 12kv, but tried to avoid working on it. Too many steps to go through to get near that kind of voltage for me to be interested in working on it.
Thanks for sharing it made me cringe a little to hear about getting as close as possible to some of the lines, I’m guessing you’re hopefully not talking about 12kv and above and rather insulated secondaries and below. High voltage is not something we can play with like that, I’ve worked with utilities line clearance and have seen multiple people get electrocuted or barely miss getting electrocuted by arcing, I honestly didn’t take the safe working distances as seriously before seeing it in person. First time was a company owner wanted me to trim a coconut that was right around 10 feet from the lines and the wind was swaying it closer, he got upset when I told him i wouldn’t do it because of the distance he thought it wasn’t a big deal and he ended up climbing up to do it himself, second swing with his blade and it arced over and got him. Another climber I saw had been in the industry for 25 years and made the mistake of getting too close, those high voltages lines are one of the only things I wouldn’t play with my distances on at all. But this is all also coming from the same guy who stuck a metal paper clip into an outlet because my mother told me not to, just to see what would actually happen lol
 
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Reach

Been here a while
Location
Atglen, PA
Thanks for sharing it made me cringe a little to hear about getting as close as possible to some of the lines, I’m guessing you’re hopefully not talking about 12kv and above and rather insulated secondaries and below. High voltage is not something we can play with like that, I’ve worked with utilities line clearance and have seen multiple people get electrocuted are barely miss getting electrocuted by arcing, I honestly didn’t take the safe working distances as seriously before seeing it in person. First time was a company owner wanted to me to trim a coconut that was right around 10 feet from the lines and the wind was swaying it closer, he got upset when I told him i wouldn’t do it because of the distance he thought it wasn’t a bug deal and he ended up climbing up to do it himself, second swing with his blade and it arced over and got him. Another climber I saw had been in the industry for 25 years and made the mistake of getting to close, those high voltages lines are one of the only things I wouldn’t play with my distances on at all. But this is all also coming from the same guy who stuck a metal paper clip into an outlet because my mother told me not to, just to see what would actually happen lol
I am not getting close to a 12kv line, but I will work right up to an insulated secondary with no problems. I’ll get closer than 10’ if I need to, but I do not violate the QILCA distances. They exist for a reason, because lines can arc, contact is not required to be electrocuted with a high voltage line as I’m sure you know.

Way back in electrical school, we watched many videos of what went wrong, even toured a power plant to see “the man in the wall”, a silhouette of a man who left a “permanent impression” of himself in a concrete wall when he was obliterated by an arc blast he caused by sticking a metal object into live switchgear he thought was off. The power of electricity is amazing, and must be respected.
 

Reach

Been here a while
Location
Atglen, PA
When I was a kid we would have contests to see who could hold their tongue on the neighbors electric fence the longest. We all turned out fine?
My brother never used his tongue, but he would just grab ahold with both hands and hang on. Did you know a pulse fence will lift your hair in tune with the pulses? And an old school weed burner will rock your world? He never did learn, so far as I’m aware he will still grab those lines to this day.
 

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