In Case of Emergency, Please Contact…

Last month, my partner of 4 1/2 years let me know he was ready for us to break up. He told me while I was still half-asleep and in bed. It was a rare day off, and I’d been expecting a different trajectory to the day: one that might have brought rejuvenation and joy. We lived together for 2 1/2 years, and I was head-over-heels for him. He was ready, he said, to go find a partner with whom he could have children. This is the same man who thought taking care of a foster dog was too stressful; the same man who works a split shift from 10:30am until 11:30pm at a restaurant. 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 »


Gruff Love

Recently, I spent about two weeks working with the same journeyman. He looked like an overweight and scruffy version of Tom Selleck or Burt Reynolds. (ok, really – he just sported the 70’s mustache and had a full head of brown hair) He loved his cigarettes, couldn’t drink coffee – opted for hot cocoa instead – and when he was in a joking mood, would hold his pot belly and say, “Yup, this has been honestly bought and paid for!” In his moodier and more melodramatic moments (which hit frequently and without prediction), he either yelled at pieces of equipment that weren’t installing easily, vented his low opinion of our office bidder/estimator or grumbled about how tired he was of “all this shit.” He was a process-out-loud kind of guy who got frazzled when all the variables of our trade didn’t pull together smoothly. And I couldn’t quite gauge his humor. One minute, he fervently told me he cared more about accuracy than speed. The next minute, he’d stomp into my work area with a scowl and say, “We’re not crafting a watch, you know!” or “Making a career out of that or what?” At the end of our project, he handed me a cable termination tool and said, “Here! This is for you. You can probably use it soon.” Then he stomped off. Read the rest of this entry »


Pack Your Own Parachute

I’m about four months old as a first term electrician apprentice and so far, I’ve experienced six different job sites and at least 18 fellow electricians (most of whom are experienced journeywomen/journeymen). I’m grateful to my shop’s construction manager for shifting me around like this because I’m getting a good taste of work styles, material lay-out and personality types. Also, I get really nervous when arriving to a new job and new crew and being moved around like this has helped me relax and gain confidence when jumping into a new site.

Most journeymen (journeywomen) have been really generous with their advice.  One thing I hear frequently – and it surprises me – is, “You are responsible for your own safety!”  Read the rest of this entry »


What is that Smell?

It started this week: a smell that followed me. It was like rotten feet, with a tinge of mildew and every time I got a whiff of it, I almost gagged. Even though we work in sweaty, dirty conditions, I make sure I wear clean clothes every day and I shower each morning before work. For a while, I thought it was my co-worker who smelled so awful. It hit me full force one afternoon when I was taking my hard hat off: the culprit was my sweatband! I never knew an 8″ x 1.5″ strip of cloth could get so nasty so quickly. I’ve invested about $5.00 in a remedy: two washable and removable cotton sweatbands. The first has been installed, and the second is on stand-by because I’m certain each of these will get thrown in the washing machine frequently. Removing the old sweatband was a blast for the nasal passages! It went straight to the outside garbage bin. I can’t wait to wear my new (clean!) hard hat next week.

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