Today I looked around me, inside a sea of steel rods and copper wires, trees of galvanized steel, vacant ocean bed of rocks void of conductive organic matter. I was not so busy pretending to work, with nothing to say to anyone in particular. With a bored sigh my mind drifted off to a different place, far far away, while my eyes rested on the 10 ft high perimeter chain link fence topped with barbed wire, and 3 layers of rolled barbed wire in front of it. ‘ This is what prison looks like’ I thought. Is this the wage slavery I was avoiding for nearly ten years after high school? ha! This would not even be a question to me ten years ago. Back when I was avoiding work like a plague, and trying to fill every moment with as many new and interesting things energy permitted. Time faded away, and intuitive notions were ruling factors back then.
My stomach was starting to gurgle with hunger. Must be almost break time. My eating times are so regulated I know what time it is by the urging;s of my gut. Checking the time on my cell phone, (that I am not permitted to carry as per new company cell phone rules- I signed a form that I would not use the cellular during work hours and that they can look at my cell phone history if they want to investigate. fucked, I know.) confirmed it to be 9:45 am. 15 more minutes to pretend to work. actually, 10 more, taking a long 5 minute walk back to the break area. This is the secret life of an apprentice ellectrician.
What a depressing realization that moment was. I could feel my mood dipping deeeeep down to the lows of darkness. No more eye contact was made until everyone dropped what they were doing and headed back to the seacan break room. ‘Break time!’ someones raspy smokers voice yells. Could only be Fullard.
‘Yeah!’ says someone else.
‘Well, I guess this plastic peeling will have to wait until after break then’ I say to Fullard, the journeyman who gave me the job. What an important job he gave me (sarcasm). Peel the plastic off the top of a new circuit breaker control box that we will be installing soon. We’re supposed to be getting ready for the big ‘rip down and replace with the new’ day, but there is really nothing more to do. The plastic I am peeling is from the packaging the manufacturer wrapped the circuit breaker control box in for shipping. Its just plastic wrap and somehow was adhesived to the top of the box. Its really not important for every piece of plastic to be scrapped off, no one will ever see it once its installed and sitting 20 feet off the ground. break time is meant to be a relief from working, but on this site there is so much down time, and pretending to look busy, break time only means I have to go sit in a tiny room with a bunch of dudes who talk about dude stuff and make fun of each other.
Nothing to do and no where to gooooohohoho. I wanna be sedated.
Today break time does nothing for the current drop in mood, so I grab a coffee and take it outside. Sitting by myself on the entry way steps. I need a break from the break room.
‘What doing?!’ one of them asks me. Its the funny big guy named Joe.
‘Having some alone time. Just me and my coffee’ I respond.
‘Oh yeah’. he goes back inside. He is a smoker so was probably thinking I was smoking and would’ve come out to smoke too if I was.
I close my eyes. I need to be somewhere else in my head for a little while. I remember riding a bike in Copenhagen, and trying to sneak across an intersection only to get hit from the side by another cyclist. His little dog flew out of his handle bar bike basket and his sun glasses flew off his face.
‘My sun glasses!’ was the first thing that came out of this man in suit and shiny shoes’ fucking mouth.
‘Holy shit your dog man!’ I said, confused that we were talking in English. Do I look like someone who can’t speak Danish I’m now wondering? Is there a way people look who DO speak Danish?! And then he started to yell at me like it was all my fault and to never do that again. All I could say back was
‘I’m sorry about your dog, is your dog all right?!’
When I open my eyes again i have a sip of coffee and breath in some fresh substation air. the weather is a little chilly for march today, cloudy and cool. tut tut, it looks like rain, I think.
I have to move because another worker is coming up to the seacan lunch room to sign into the site, and I am blocking his way sitting on the steps. I greet him, then follow him into the crowded lunch room. They are making fun of Joe for gaining too much weight and not being able to fit into his wedding suit anymore. They have a fun game where they bring in a box of doughnuts and try to get Joe to eat as many of them as possible. I grab some ear plugs and more coffee then head back outside. This is by far my worst day on the job yet.
Most of my apprenticeship so far has been surprisingly pleasant and easy. Especially since I am a minority on the job most of the time, being female and queer. I am lucky I think, in that I chose one of the more intellectual trades, electrician. I am constantly surprised by the sweet even tempered journeymen, and other apprentices I encounter in my trade. On commercial sites, I have met drywallers (whom rank low reputation wise), painters (usually quiet), plumbers (also not maintaining high rankings- except my most favorite plumbers Isa and Kennedy who are the best of the best), carpenters, civil workers, concrete guys, general site labourers, first aid attendants, CSO’s (construction safety organizers), assorted technicians,managers, site general contractors, and engineers who get paid the most but do the least, and I’m sure I’m leaving some out. But, generally speaking, the people who are the most understanding, logical, thoughtful, and respectful, are the electricians. Why for, you might ask? Well there’s no telling why exactly. There are theories abounding. Electricians achieve the highest level of technical schooling, requiring math and physics skills. Maybe that means they are smarter. I am in the electrical union, and am an indentured apprentice through my union, which could indicate that the people I’m working with are more community minded than the none union folks, or that union sites require a certain level of equality and comfort other none union sites might not. Nevertheless, here I am, one year into working and still into doing it.
I hear chairs moving and rustling through my ear plugs, indicating break time is over. I head back into the lunch room and put my safety glasses and hard hat back on. Might as well leave my earplugs in, I have no intentions of talking to anyone else until the end of the day. Fullard is talking to me. Something requiring I take out my earplugs to hear. I take one out and say “eh?!”
Whatever he said to me is actually funny so I laugh. He’s usually funny. This small gesture of inclusion is what makes me come back here. These dudes I work with aren’t so bad. Their penis and poo jokes are right up my alley with 12 year old humor. Maybe the rest of the day wont be so bad I think. We head back out into the yard to continue our work day.