That’s MAN’S Work!

He said it. He said it this morning and my crew immediately went quiet and looked at me with mouths and eyes wide open. “It’s man’s work that we are doing.” We might as well have ripped a vinyl record out from under its needle. In a split second, I had to decide how (or whether) to respond to my foreman’s comment. Read the rest of this entry »


1,000 Hours Old (The First Six Months)

I’ve turned 1,000! Each term in our apprenticeship is measured in on-the-job hours and accompanying formal class time. For me, this means I got a 5% raise and I’m in class one day a week for the fall term. This class day is unpaid and it’s no big deal to the employer; in fact, it’s an expected event. All electrical contractors understand their apprentices will be available four days a week rather than five when class is in session. Here’s how my class notification went:

– Me to my construction manager: “Hey, I just got my notice from the training center. I’m in class on Wednesdays starting October 3.”
– My construction manager to me: “OK. Fine.” Read the rest of this entry »

These are (some of the many) Parts I Love

Things are getting real! There are tidy and parallel cascades of conduit – precisely angled and placed – running up and across the grain silo. The huge wires have been pulled in to the transformer and terminated. Lights and receptacles are wired up and in place. Now, our team has been pulling in the smaller wires and hooking them up. I love this process because it’s satisfying to see the end product so near. My last couple days have been spent “fishing” and terminating wires. I can’t believe in this year of 2012, with all the technological advantages that have been discovered and created, we resort to such old-school and brutish methods!

Have you ever contemplated how all the insulated rainbow spaghetti gets stuffed into the pipes? We use a three-step process that reminds me of playing telephone with cans and string: 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.

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 »

Feeding the Awe

When I was about 10 years old, I played in the newly constructed houses in our neighborhood. It was a magical time when I could walk through walls and imagine how each house would evolve. The most magical afternoons were the times I found “coins” like these:Image

Depending on the afternoon, these could be magical wishing coins, powerful healing tokens given to an imaginary sorceress, or the means to be ridiculously rich. Read the rest of this entry »

Bubbling Drama: The Theater of Teams, Tools and Material

Yesterday was my last day on this project. The thinning of the crew started a couple days ago – as evidenced by the shop manager showing up and “talking with the guys.” Chet was stressed. It was unclear whether he’d have to catch a new job via the union hall or whether our company would keep him and dispatch him to a different job site. During our break, he earnestly asked Marge what she’d heard and whether she thought the company was busy enough to keep him. I never got my “talk with the guys” when the manager came in looking for Chet. He’d arrived right as I was seven feet up, finishing another fluorescent fixture. My upper body was grubby because I’d completely swabbed the top of a duct with my arms and my shirt. Read the rest of this entry »