Young Lady

The words we use with each other matter. Yet sarcasm and jokes and silliness are a dominant flavor in the way me and my crew communicate. This morning, while in the prep-shop, a foreman from a different crew came in. His head was down, his brow was puckered and he was leafing through a stack of blueprints on the other side of the room. Rather than interrupting him, I continued cutting my pieces of conduit. Once he found what he was looking for on the prints, he greeted me with, “Aaaaaaand how are we this morning, young lady?” Jokingly, I replied, “I’m neither young nor a lady!” He scowled, and I could safely guess he was unaware of the condescending tone in his voice and the patronizing nature of the words he used. Read the rest of this entry »


I Love These Guys

I’ve been preoccupied with budgeting and gobbling up as much hands-on work as possible the last several months. The most recent journeymen I’ve worked with have spoiled me because:

– They have great personalities and we have an easy rapport. I feel comfortable asking questions and we can joke around. Trust is inherent.

– They’ve helped me understand how our one little project ties in to the overall goal. We’ve been quick to confirm that we’re working from the same perspective.

– They have double-checked my logic and my measurements and turned me loose to fabricate and install our electrical components. We can have discussions about anything that needs to be re-done or things that might have been done better. I’m developing a feel and a fluidity with my tools: yet it’s not always perfect (yet). At least we can laugh about my moments of awkwardness. I’m definitely getting more efficient. Read the rest of this entry »


The Dance

Whenever I start working with somebody new – which is often because of both this line of work and being an apprentice – I notice the same pattern of sussing out “who – excactly – ARE you?” happening through conversation and non-verbal cues.

Some of the directly verbal questions that almost always come out are:

– What did you do before you decided to become an electrician?
– How old are you?
– Are you married? / How many kids do you have?
– Where did you grow up? / Where are you from?
– Where do you live?
– So…what made you decide to be an electrician?
– What does your partner/husband/significant other do?

Can you imagine asking some of these questions in such a point-blank manner to a fellow office worker? Read the rest of this entry »


The Break Up

Last week, I broke up with my electrical contractor. I need to see what other contractors offer and I want to look out for my best training interests.

My manager was pissed: I was punished for being the rat fleeing a sinking ship; or I was some kind of traitor because I wasn’t blithely waiting around. He called at the end of the day last Friday said, “I had work for you on Monday, but I heard you want to go to another shop. Which is it?” It felt like it was too late for me to accept bona fide electrical work from him. If he truly had a work assignment for me, I would have happily taken it. However, just the day before, he told me: 1) there wasn’t much on the horizon, but he’d let me know as soon as there was; 2) three other company apprentices were sitting out and waiting for work to pick up; 3) there were over 60 apprentices waiting for work through the training center; 4) the field is flooded with electricians right now because travelers are clamoring for a huge project in our area. He made it sound like I had no other choice but to stay loyal and wait. Read the rest of this entry »


On the Hook

This is the first week I’ve been “on the hook” and I don’t like it one bit. Work has slowed down to the point of my construction manager telling me, “We have no work for you, but we’ll call you as soon as something comes up.” Basically, I am receiving an unannounced furlough of indeterminate length or, through different lenses: unpaid vacation days. I like the sound of the latter much better. This is known as “staying on the hook” or “being on the hook”. Even though it would be easier and more comfortable to go with the flow and marry myself to this shop, I’m shaking myself outside my comfort zone and begging the apprentice training center to rotate me to a different contractor. Besides, I was never good at sitting around, waiting for the phone to ring! Read the rest of this entry »


Alpha Dog: The Power of Direct Communication

Today was a stellar day at the job site. I wired fluorescent lamps, then flicked the switch and saw light emanate from the new fixtures. This is the magical part of being an electrician! A glamorous achievement? Probably not; but magical, in my opinion: yes yes yes! It was a reminder of why I was drawn to this trade. For a first-term apprentice, this moment of satisfaction is a rare one.

My journeywoman was looking out for me. Despite her blustery, gruff exterior, she has always been gracious (in her own way) in looking out for me; and I wish I could figure out how to express my appreciation to her. Today, she pointed out the semi-protected panels I should avoid, then she barked me into a “non-live” work area away from the panels. Read the rest of this entry »