I love my job. Driving to work I have a great time looking forward to working as an electrician. There are a lot of sexy terms in the electrical trade. Such as, if I ever worked with someone attractive I could try to use electrical puns to get into their pants. Pun my way into their pants. Hahaha. Sexy terms like wire pulling, and fishing a pull, putting your hand right in the box, or sticking your fingers in the pipe hole. To do a hard wire pull you gotta put some wire lube on it. Lube it up. Take a lube break every so often during the pull, gotta make sure its not causing any friction in there, creating too much heat. Sexy. There’s lots of time to spend thinking as an apprentice, since they mostly start you doing the grunt labor. Sweeping, and cleaning up after other people. So a lot of the time my bored brain floats to some intimate places I will never be brave enough to share with my co-workers. I chuckle at a fantastic thought I’d had the day before as I pull into the work parkade.
At the site, I bring my lunch into the lunch room as soon as I arrive. On the table in the lunch room at the spot I usually sit at is a sheet of paper. It is an external safety audit question list.
I go to ask some a simple question about it to my boss, cowboy, who is sitting in his office next to our lunch room, and instead of listening to my question, he tells me to fuck off. When he said it he was smiling, so I knew he wanted to be funny. Then he says, sorry, what did you want to know? So I started again to ask, and he again interrupted with the words fuck off. So I decided to just disregard him for a while. It made me angry. Normally I can have a feral sense of humor about these sort of things. It’s easy to turn things around for me. I’ve already learned the skill of how to make a game out of bullying the bully.
But today I was not interested in playing games. I was interested in taking my personal safety seriously. Which is actually a part of my job. As well, the hormonal overload happening inside of me made me even more sensitive and weak, which also means my face was a huge target. I was pre-menstrual and not able to absorb a lot of bullshit today. I follow the rest of the crew and work through to our break, then lunch hour.
Cowboy persisted to ask me all lunch hour what I was going to ask him. After ignoring him while my coffee brewed, I told him he was very irritating as I grabbed my sandwich to go sit outside again. By myself. Gah.
I tried to empathize with his behavior. But mostly I’m distracted and disgruntled by his repeated disregard for my safety. I recall the other day, when I told him I was sprayed in the face with SF6 gas while cutting a tube on a breaker we were disassembling for removal. I had known nothing about the gas at the time and thought it possibly toxic, thus was horribly afraid for my life. He had laughed at me and said he wanted to make jokes about being sprayed in the face but couldn’t. Har Har. This shut down any further discussion. I had wanted information from him regarding what this gas did and how I should clean it up, if there was some sort of reaction that might occur. Yet my foreman had managed to create such an unsafe work environment, that I realized I did not trust his answer anyways. So i didn’t press the matter any further, and just kept right on working. But I was worried.
This was three days prior to this safety audit day. At the end of our lunch hour, I had decided to confront him. As the lunch room emptied out I sweetly but sternly asked foreman Cowboy:
‘May I speak with you in private a moment?’
‘Sure come into my office’ He responded as we walked a few steps into his tiny office space.
‘Why did you make a joke out of my safety concern the other day, When I was sprayed with the SF6 gas?’ I asked.
‘What?! You are over reacting. I wasn’t even aware that it was a safety concern.’
‘I don’t know anything about SF6 gas, is it toxic?’
He told me it was not a dangerous gas. None toxic. And also proved to me it was OK, i guess, with a youtube video involving an old white hair sucking it in from a balloon like I’ve done to so many helium balloons. Only with SF6 your voice drops instead of rises like with the helium. All that worry fer nothing. Still not sure if I can trust what the dickface says to me, I ask him if I can read the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) on it. Every site is required to have a binder with a MSDS sheet on every chemical used on site, with first aid instructions ETC.and this binder is on his desk. I read it. What he said was all true. That was a relief.
I go back out to site and work the rest of the day away, proud of myself for confronting this dood about what was bothering me. I still don’t feel safe on this site, and mistrust all of my co-workers, but at least I feel I have control over my own safety. I remember my first time working with electricity. I was in a squat in Barcelona. A huge squated warehouse. I was there for Queeruption, an international radical queer gathering. Everyone was volunteering their skills in cooking, painting, construction, organizing, what have you to make the free event a success. I had volunteered to help a man hook up power cables in the dark areas of the squat. We wanted to string the cable 12 feet up so it was out of the way but we couldn’t reach from the ground. So my friend went to get the borrowed forklift and drove it into the room. He had a pallet wedged on the forks and told me to stand on it and hold the cable while he raised me up. We felt brilliant in our achievement.
Now on a construction site in Canada, this would never fly. WCB (workers Compensation Board) would have a field day if this resulted in injuries and the company’s WCB rate would skyrocket. So we do not give each other rides on the front of the forklift. No one except Cowboy. At the end of the day Cowboy comes out of his office to see us packing all the tools we were using out at the breaker site onto a pallet, so the zoom boom fork lift can carry them all back to our tools trailer in one go. He climbs up onto the pallet, and tells the driver to lift him up. We all stand around shaking our heads. What an idiot. The driver refuses at first, but eventually lifts him up and then down, just to say he had done it. Then Cowboys jumps off the pallet and says:
‘Okay pack it up! Let’s get outta here. Go take off your coveralls!’
Then he turns to me, and repeats the last part.
‘Go take off your cloths!’
I gross shudder goes down my spine as he glares in a creepy old man way at me, then walks into the trailer. I am in shock and then swallow hard. An almost triumphant day. Full of power struggles. Just as I feel I have gone up a notch, he makes sure to keep me down. Oh well. Tomorrow is a new day, I think, and I hope to have lots of time to myself to think of distracting sexy things. This disgusting and repulsive person will not be my foreman forever, luckily, as construction sites always come to an end.