When I was a young eager geologist only a few years out of school I worked under a seasoned professional, who was always talking about this “hit by bus scenario”, being young and invincible I could not relate. But he was always concerned about only one person going out into the field by themselves. Granted staffing and budgets did not really allow for more than one person for the majority of field work projects, but that was beside the point.
On this particular summer morning I was headed to a coastal county landfill to do field reconnaissance for monitoring well and piezometer locations. Funny how those things always seem to disappear, no matter how you try to protect them. I suppose painting them yellow just makes them an easier target to hit. But I digress.
For two days leading up to this trip I had heard nothing but concerns from the senior geologist. I continually assured him, I would be totally fine. I had maps and water and would check in and out at the scalehouse and keep my phone charged. Basically everything I would normally do, just 10X so he would feel comfortable that I would be okay. The last thing he said to me before I left the office that morning was “Are you sure you can do this by yourself?” Despite my tender young age of 25 I assured him I would be fine and I would call should anything happen, and just to check in so he would not worry so damn much. To help put this in perspective you should know I am younger than his adult daughter, so that might have contributed to some of his concern.
Completely un-phased by his concerns, for the two hour drive to the site, I rocked out to the radio without a care in the world. This particular facility is a small coastal county. There is very, very little around their landfill. Farmland mostly. I made it to the site with no incidents, and as I pulled up to the scalehouse, in giant letters at the top of their sign read: “CAUTION INMATES WORKING”.
I laughed for a solid 5 minutes. Yes there was at least a dozen inmates around the facility that day, primarily picking up litter and other small jobs. And yes there were officers standing guard with guns. And No, I absolutely did not tell my boss about the inmates until the next day when I returned to the office. When I called to check in I simply left out this information. I know how that phone call would have gone. “Hey boss, just letting you know I made it to the site fine, I’ve located about half the wells and by the way it is inmate work day at the landfill. No you don’t need to come down.”
I learned several valuable lessons from that experience: 1. You can never predict everything that can happen but it never hurts to be prepared and 2. Appreciate wisdom earned from experience when it is presented to you. The fact that seasoned professionals are willing to share their life lessons means they care and hope you run with that information to surpass your greatest dreams.