It’s Never Overt, Is It?

I got mansplained all over the place last week. Willy Wonka, who has a unique blend of lineman and electrician talents, is also a bit of a buffoon. He’s got a crass and immature sense of humor. You can hear him bellowing in his gravelly, Michigan/Wisconsin-accented voice from just about anywhere on the job site. One of the first things he informed me when he was my main journeyman at a different job site was that I didn’t have to worry if I farted around him. He’d worked around diesel for so long that his sense of smell was fried. Then, he rambled on and on about whether that was an offensive thing to say or not. “Listen, ” he says through his thick glasses and walrused-out mustache. “I just tell it like it is, ok? Down’t be thinkin’ I’m sexist or nothin’. I’m an equal opportunity farter!” He never looks you in the eye when he talks to you. Thing is, Willy, has a huge heart so it’s not like he’s an instantly despicable person. He just… wears on everybody he works with. Because he’s so over the top, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his craftsmanship in the trade. Somebody once told me I would learn more from the difficult people than from the even-tempered ones. It’s true! Sometimes it’s in a “this is what NOT to do” context. I remind myself of this frequently on my current site – and I’m not even working directly with Willy! Read the rest of this entry »


Six 10s

Our current project has fallen behind schedule. My fellow sparkies and electrical foreman point out that it’s NOT our fault. I can’t tell if blame rests with the general contractor or some other trade who “got in our way.” Honestly, I don’t care whose fault it is; and even if it was explained to me, I probably wouldn’t believe the explanation. The trades are still ruled by men and I’m learning that men gossip waaaaay more than women! Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Labor Day!

I love the image of Rosie the Riveter: such a blend of quirky fashion and toughness! Imagine: Rosies never had to pick a power suit out of their closet each morning and deal with office hen-pecking because they went to work ready to get dirty!

Rosie makes me sad, though. These jobs were a fleeting moment of women (yet again) shouldering the tasks that had to be done “while the men were away.” Why couldn’t they continue to be bad-asses after the war ended? Is this another martyr thing? Giving the jobs back to the boys because it had to be done? After all – the boys needed something to do when they came home; and who would tend to all those domestic chores?

I was stoked to see this short video by Oregon Tradeswomen. I think Rosie could, indeed, use an update. I still love her image and the flexed muscle; but c’mon! Women working in the trades have been doing it for decades, and it’s NOT because they were killing time in waiting for their war hero to come home and rescue them. Women are skilled kinetic workers: using body AND brain to build bridges, erect buildings and wire up traffic signals, street cars and lightrails. All under equal wages. It’s time for the stereotypes to morph with the realities.

This is My Pack

For the first time, I’m interacting with other trades while on a job site. This is the largest electrical crew I’ve worked with (nine people, including me) and we’re surrounded by “iron heads” and “knuckle-draggers”. My fellow sparkies were quick to call the ironworkers by their slang terms and not their formal trade. Within the first 15 minutes, I heard legitimate gripes about their unsafe work practices. “We’re back in elementary school again! Watch out for those guys! They’re crude and unsafe.” On the second day, I listened to a fellow electrician tell me how his tool bag and safety vest (which was laying on top of the tool bag) caught fire because one of the iron workers was not paying attention to his welding area. It was $200 to replace the tools. Read the rest of this entry »