I have added another item to my list of adventures as a tradesman: overtime. For most people overtime is a couple of hours at the end of the day to get a project finished. In the trades, overtime is a way of life. For the first time I got to experience seven tens — ten hours a day, seven days a week. No days off for 25 days when we dropped back to five tens — ten hours a day for five days a week.
The physical toll of overtime begins to show around day 20. The days begin to blur. You don’t know when you are let alone where you are. Most people deal with this by not thinking about what day it is but rather what day they are on. What day are you? Twenty? Sweet. Good job. More often than not, excessive overtime occurs on industrial job sites. The work is heavier and in many cases dirtier but the expectations are lighter. You can get away with an off day from a productivity standpoint here and there where you would be flogged in the commercial sector for not getting your footage on the pipe. The only way to survive is to get into a routine and hope and pray your spouse keeps the rest of the world in heck for you. Don’t have a spouse? Get used to eating out. Every. Single. Meal. Get used to the fact that your home will not change in the slightest while you are working. I’m grateful to have a spouse who understands how this lifestyle works and who went out of her way to try and make my life easier.
But why do we do it? Why do we out our bodies through an agonizing process where we live only to drive to and from work with maybe an hour to ourselves before falling asleep? The answer is simple: because the trades get a lot of money to produce the quality of work required to make sure things do not literally blow up. For me, overtime is producing a two-fold benefit. First, my apprenticeship hours will scream by as they race along the highway toward the mystical destination that is journeyman status. The second benefit is something I never really expected to see — I just paid off the first of our debt load. Seven items dominate our financial landscape, five of them are student loans (I lived during that lovely transition time when the government and he banks changed the lending process). As of today one of them is gone. The money being spent on that will be added to the next bill and the process will continue until everything is dead and gone.
Despite clicking the confirm button it still hasn’t hit me that I do not have that Damoclean bill looming over me. At some point relief will replace dazed. Until then I just have to enjoy knowing that I just finished working overtime and can clearly see why the guys take it whenever it is offered regardless of how crazy it makes their lives.