While watching the TV show "Fear Factor," I thought to myself these contestants should go through painstaking tasks that HVACR technicians do on a regular basis. Now,thatwould be reality TV.

How about opening an overstuffed electrical box and having some wire nuts fall out when the cover is removed, exposing live wires?

How about crawling under a mobile home trying to catch an armadillo or an opossum?

How about bobbing for rats in the itchy insulation in a sweltering hot attic somewhere in Texas in July?

How about sticking your hand into a vent pipe to remove a dead animal? (Or, one you thought was dead.)

How about walking into a dark basement in a home, only to have a pit bull come charging at you?

The list is endless, isn't it?

Real Hazards

Contractor Steve Wiggins, a regular contributor to the HVACR Forum onThe News'Web site, recently relayed an encounter with some unexpected inhabitants of a packaged unit. The owner of Quality Air Care in Waco, Texas, believes there is never a dull moment, especially in the field.

"Thinking back, the biggest fear I faced was a wasp incident I encountered while working on a packaged unit," he wrote. "Unknowingly, there was a nest of red wasps about the size of a softball under the top cover. Of course, you know the top is about waist high. Well, when I lifted the lid, about half a dozen wasps were right on my crotch! I never backpedaled so fast in my life. I didn't get stung, fortunately, but let me tell you it doesn't make you feel too great slapping yourself in the groin area over and over."

Robin Boyd, a technical service manager for an HVAC equipment manufacturer, has, apparently, had his share of close calls, too.

"One of the dumbest things I did was stick my sheet metal hammer into a hole that ground bees kept coming out of while I was beating together ductwork in a yard," he relayed in the HVACR Forum. "When I needed the hammer, I forgot about the bees and just pulled it out of the ground. A line of bees flew out of that hole and swarmed my head, stinging me in the head and neck about 15 times. My partner was standing about 10 feet from me and never had one bee go for him."

Knowing how TV works, this would be a "strong visual" for the viewers at home, right? While there may be a program by this name already, isn't this a more true-to-life "Survivor"?

On another Web site, I read about this "experience":

"I was climbing down from a high roof to a lower roof when the extension ladder (theirs) slid sideways. I had time to think on the way down. I was about 10 feet up when I dropped. I landed on my feet and instantly my feet popped forward. I slammed down flat on my back on the lower roof.

"I lay there for a few seconds, wondering if anything was broken. I got up after feeling no pain at all. Wow! I'm lucky. I landed in the only spot where it was flat. The rest of the roof was covered in pipes, conduits, units, curbs, etc."

Now, I am certain there are other narrow escapes techs and contractors have experienced out in the field. Please send me some of your more harrowing predicaments. I can then run these past some TV producer, in the hopes of starting up a real reality show.

Remember, this is America. Anything is possible. After all, if Arnold Schwarzenegger can become the governor of California ...

Mark Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-362-0317 (fax), or markskaer@achrnews.com.

Publication date: 10/20/2003