All the Furor in the news about
Air Traffic Controllers sleeping on the job brought back very
unpleasant memories of when I worked the 12-8 shift in Tower 1 at
Ashland. I did it twice, for several weeks at a time and each was
the most miserable duty I have experienced.
Advice on how to stay awake was plentiful, since I was a new hire
and on probation, I made sure I was awake and at least 1/2 way alert
and able to spot Lt. Hamm when he'd slip out the end door of the
Cell-House and then shine his flashlight at the tower. I always
tried to illuminate him with the Tower spotlight first. It was a big
help when the Control Center Officer would say something like,
"going out among them, are you, Lt."? Not all the CR Officers were
I recall one method used was to take the tin drinking cup and hold
it on a pencil in ones hand horizontally. When, not if, one would
nod off the cup would fall to the tower floor, Each time that
happened one of the other tower officers would say over the
Intercom," Uh huh, getting a little sleepy is someone!" Another
method that I never used but was sorely tempted to, and it was
suggested by several of my fellows, was to take a 'Wings" filter tip
king sized cigarette and light it and then use a rubber band to
secure it between two of your fingers. They supposedly took 20
minutes to burn down to the point one could feel the burning in the
fingers, rouse up and make the call-in to the Control Room on time!
I remember one time that Lt. Hamm stepped out from behind the cell
house without flashing his light. I dropped the tower window and
chambered a round in the M1 carbine. He did not do that again!
There are many persons working, (terribly boring at times,) jobs,
that require them staying awake. Everyone has trouble doing it I
imagine, but they manage. I have a little sympathy for the Air
Traffic Controllers but not a whole lot, they make a heck of a lot
more Money than we did. I can understand them occasionally falling
asleep but I can also understand the consequences.
The only time I remember being chewed out, (and that was with a real
effort for the Captain to keep a smile off his face) was when I
shone the Tower Light on a lady who was in the outhouse with the
door open on the hill behind the Institution!
With no air conditioning, the heat in the summer was terrible, it
took me several days of misery until I realized I could take off
everything except my shirt and front my location 60 feet up in the
air, no one could see in! That aided my comfort considerably!