Things break — it’s a fact of life. Luckily, for just about every piece of equipment, from ATMs to Zambonis, there’s a service technician to come to the rescue. How do they go about fixing it? What are their biggest — and dirtiest — challenges? We’ve spoken to many of them right here. Here are some of the more out-there jobs, and stories, we’ve come across:
High-Tech in High (and Low) Places
Deep-Sea Robot Technician: Remotely operated vehicles — or ROV robots — are used to check out oil pipe leaks deep underwater, or to snap photos of a crack in a dam, or basically anything that requires diving in too dangerous a spot than a person is willing to.
Wind Turbine Technician: Southwest Windpower, which has manufactured 170,000 wind turbines around the world, allows technicians to do most diagnostic work on its machines from the ground by tapping into a Wi-Fi-like ZigBee network. Otherwise, either the turbine needs to come down, or somebody’s got to go up.
Ski Lift Repairman: Leitner-Poma, one of the world’s two biggest ski lift manufacturers, manages to balance its workload by focusing installations during the summer, and just worrying about maintenance and repairs during the winter. Most day-to-day repairs are handled by local ski bums.
Really Dirty Jobs
Port-O-Potty Cleanup: From Brian Schmidt, co-founder of Rent A John in Northern California: “One employee made the mistake of not de-pressurizing the [vacuum-powered holding] tank and decided to detatch one of the high-pressure hoses. It sprayed everywhere like a fire hose, covering him, the truck, and some of the surroundings with raw sewage. We spent hours cleaning up the mess and had a good laugh afterwards.”
Crime-Scene Cleanup: When someone’s brutally murdered or hit by a bus or anything else that leaves a big gory mess, Cory Chalmers’ company, Steri-Clean Inc., is ready to scoop it up. But for all the blood and guts they deal with, the real nightmare is the paperwork: Working with the police so frequently, they’ve got to make sure everything’s accounted for.
Fun With Machinery
Stadium Scoreboard Repairman: The high-definition scoreboard at AT&T Park, where the San Francisco Giants play, is 103 feet wide, three stories high, and made up of 3,000 1-foot light panels — each one of which can go on the fritz at any time. Here’s how they fix it.
Zamboni Mechanic: The big ice resurfacing machines (shark fin optional) have a lot of moving parts, including giant blades that scrape off the top layer of scuffed-up ice like a giant weed-whacker. Beware sticking your fingers in there.
Slot Machine Repairman: No, you can’t rig the machine to hit all cherries. But you do have to fix every machine within 30 minutes.
Gym Equipment Repairman: Whether it’s a treadmill, elliptical machine, or stair-stepper, a broken gym machine isn’t doing anyone much good. Electrical acumen required; impressive physique not.