‘We’re Here — Night, Day, Rain, Sleet, Snow, Heat, Pandemic’

During the last few months, more and more stories of how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted New Yorkers have been told and retold. They form a shared history of how lives have changed during this unprecedented time (and we’ve been happy to help document some of them). Perhaps as interesting, though, are the lives that ran seamlessly alongside the pandemic, with their own independent shapes and trajectories. 

“For me, luckily, my day hasn’t changed,” Leon Davis, who has worked at Con Edison for 21 years, told the Downtown Alliance. Not many people can say this about their lives during the pandemic, but Davis takes pride in keeping things running as smoothly as normal. 

But while the day-to-day hasn’t changed for Davis, his duties have expanded: He was just about to take on a new role at the company when the pandemic hit New York City. “I just joined Substation Operations,” he said. “The effective date was supposed to be April 1, but then officially, due to COVID, I came over May 1. So it’s only been a month and a half now in this current position.”  

So Davis has been learning the ins and outs of the new position all while the city was undergoing major changes. “I have two planners and eight supervisors, and each supervisor has a couple of substations that they’re assigned to,” he explained. “And we basically maintain the equipment within the substations to ensure that it’s in great working order. So when an emergency comes, that equipment is working as soon as it needs to be.”

Responding to sudden outages and emergencies are just part of the job for a Con Ed worker. Davis is used to being prepared for the unexpected and thinking on his feet to solve sudden problems — all so that things can go back to normal for the customer and lights can come back on. 

“We believe that we are first-responders,” he said. “We definitely have boots on the ground to ensure that continuity of service isn’t an issue. So that’s why we exist. I call it, like, the ‘Men In Black’ effect, right? We do what we can to ensure that the customer doesn’t even notice what we’re doing. It’s seamless. That’s why we come to work each day.”

Of course, Davis and his team have had to take extra precautions when out in the field these days. “We definitely have to protect ourselves — practice social-distancing, ensure that we’re wearing our masks, our gloves — so, as a group, as a company, we’ve done the utmost level of focus on our safety and ensuring that we ordered the materials that we need to perform our work,” he said. 

“But there is no pause in what we do,” he added. “It’s ingrained in us that when there’s an emergency, we step up. We’re definitely going to be here — night, day, rain, sleet, snow, heat, pandemic.”