Addressing an issue

Of all the challenges in my life that have arisen from becoming a construction worker only one has continued to pester me at least once a week for the past year and a bit: what do I wear to work?

The blatant racism that shows up from time to time I can handle. The obvious homophobia (and occasional hatred for people in the LGBT community) can be ignored. Getting up at 5 a.m. and doing more work before most people start their day is something I actually relish. But clothing? That’s a problem.

For the past five years I worked in a community that required a semi-professional wardrobe. Khakis and collared shirts. No ties but nice shoes. Winter was wonderful because I could wear my sweaters. Before that I was in university for eight years and wore anything I felt like. As a result my wardrobe was based on living a decidedly non-labour oriented lifestyle.

Thus when I joined the world of manual labour I had some issues. For starters I work with fiberglass insulation. That stuff gets itchy. Very itchy. T-shirts? I know plenty of guys who wear them but I just cannot get over having my arms bare. My last job had me covering pipes that had hot water running through them. I’m not really paranoid about burning my arms but I’m damned sure not cavalier about the possibility.

The solution? My on-sale-at-WalMart pumpkin orange long sleeved shirts. I’m mocked every now and then because of the colour but that is not really a problem. Going through at least two a day –or going through the same number of t-shirts worn uncomfortably underneath– because they get soaked in sweat? That’s a problem. Why? Because of my pants.

When I started working in November of 2008 I had three pairs of jeans suitable for working on a construction site. By the end of that month I had one. I am very rough on jeans. To make matters worse they were so old that I ripped the knees out just thinking about climbing a ladder. So I made the switch to a pair of coveralls. I love my coveralls. Putting them on instantly shifts me into work mode. They are durable, they have pockets where I need them. They even look appropriate on the job site. The problem? They increase my overall temperature. That’s great when working in the winter in a non- or quasi-heated site. That’s not so great in the summer or when I’m working on covering the aforementioned pipes filled with hot water.  To make matters worse, when they get wet they stay wet and add at least another five pounds to their overall weight. That gets to be a problem when wearing the orange long-sleeved shirts because the straps dig into my shoulders and make life a pain.

So I am left with a problem. I can wear t-shirts with my coveralls which reduces heat but increases itchiness or wear my slim fabric long sleeves which increase top of the shoulder chafing. I can also wear t-shirts under the long sleeves but this is quite frankly uncomfortable.

In addition to having physical issues with clothing there are some mild mental gymnastics I have to perform. As a member of the Insulator’s union I feel that I am representing them on the jobsite and whenever I see one of our members dressed like a slob it bothers me. Why? For starters I’ve seen drywall tapers wearing ripped sweat pants on a jobsite. Not only are they very unattractive to see (think about that and then add a large overhanging stomach and a short t-shirt to the picture and you’ll wonder how I didn’t get throw up in my mouth) it made them appear to be unprofessional slobs, a fact confirmed by a quick glance at their work.

Whenever I see the “old guys” on the site, regardless of the trade, they are wearing a collared work shirt. They look like professionals. They look like they know what they are doing and act like they are good at what they do. I want to emulate that.

So I am going to try wearing jeans and a collard shirt. I’m hoping that my issues with heat will be lessened and I can look more professional at the same time. With any luck this combination will be the one that works out for me. The last thing I need is yet another set of clothes sitting in a closet.

Book 01 — 03

Book 01: Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris

Although she is far more famous for her Sookie Stackhouse novels I am finding this series (I’m currently reading number two) to be far more satisfying. This is another case of ‘person with a gift that makes them different from the rest of the world’ but it is not supernatural in origin, at least not yet. The Harper Connelly was hit by lightning and ended up with the ability to find dead bones and, once found, what made them dead. Is the “bad guy” obvious? I think so but I can overlook it because Harper is such a complete person. The scene where a lightning storm moves in was brilliantly done and the sorrow, agony, and tearful love described still resonate in my mind. Even if you hate True Blood and the whole southern vampires thing you should read this book. Rating: A

Book 02: Sleeping With The Fishes by MaryJanice Davidson

Let me start by saying I adore Betsy the Vampire Queen. It’s fluff and it’s funny (well at least until Undead and Uneasy at which point it looks like it turns fairly dark in addition to the frivolity) so picking up another one of her books was fairly easy. Fred the Mermaid is a neat character with little to move her out of the “stock” range of ‘professional woman with otherness that makes her a commitment-phobe but is sweet at heart’ but with enough to make her not a total cardboard cut-out. The character does interact well and is a good focal point. A nice touch is that while Fred is the romantic lead it is the best friend character who gets the sex scene. The plot is predictable but that’s not a problem. I read it for fun, which is it, rather than deep dark plot. It’s no Betsy but it’s a MaryJanice Davidson so it’s quick. Good solid fluff.  Rating: B+

Book 03: Swimming Without A Net by MarJanice Davidson

This is book two of the Fred the Mermaid series. The author admits to having to pad it out to make it a useful length and I believe that it could have used a little more depth. It was still fun and quick but it feels like it is just setting up for the next book. At least I hope it is. It has some moments that are laughable but it could have used more, especially when the King is speaking to the bipeds (I don’t want to spoil anything).  Rating: C

95? Books

Apparently the Interwebs are a flutter that George Bush read 95 books in 2006 as a contest between him and Karl Rove. Many believe that if “W” could do it then so could they and have started their own comptetition over at tumblr.

I don’t really have a stake in trying to one-up a president but I do feel like seeing how many books I read over the course of a year and I could really use some help getting back into the habit of writing more so I will start by recording everything I’ve read this past week with a few rules:

  1. I have to read it in book form. This will hopefully get me away from the bloody computer. I may change this rule later on if I get on another old fashioned sci-fi kick via Project Gutenberg as I did a year or so ago.
  2. I will keep track of books I have previously enjoyed and have decided to read again (see most of the paperback novels in the house)
  3. I will definitely include fluff reading. This may come as a shock to some but my not-really secret indulgence is romanticish urban fantasy (more because trying to find urban fantasy without romance limits you to about four books and because the relationships are funnier than most)

I hope you enjoy.

I hope I can keep up.

One Year Later

I, Michael Davis, without mental reservation, do solemnly swear on my honour to uphold the Constitution and Bylaws of the International Association and Local Union number 95 and to carry out their just demands during the period of my apprentice/improver/helper membership. I will support the rights of all workers to organize. I will support the goals of the International Association and Local Union Number 95 to organize all workers in our industry into local unions. I shall do all in my power to aid and assist my fellow apprentice/improver/helper members as well as the mechanic members of the local and shall comply with all local union laws while an apprentice/improver/helper member.

With this oath I officially became a sworn member of the Insulator’s Union. A year ago ago I started on a new path. A year ago I said “No more” to the never ending circle of contractual library work. A year ago I put the well-being of myself and my family ahead of any supposed loyalty to an industry in which I enjoyed working. A year ago I found myself in a brand new job, a brand new life, and a brand new set of surroundings.

Today I find myself enjoying what I do. I find myself truly learning a set of skills and a trade. I find myself knowing that if I do get laid off — and in a position where doing the work means you are one step closer to finishing the job — I simply have to wait for someone to give me a call because my name has reached the top of the list. I find myself surprising those around me because I not only tried this but seem to be thriving. I find myself getting better most every day.

I have found myself.

I am now an insulator.

You’ve Raised a Level

I have a feeling that I’ve gained another skill point in construction. I was able to figure out how to cut a piece of pipe covering on a 45 degree angle using math.

Yeah. I know I’m weird but IT WORKED. WOOOOOOO.

I knew there had to be a logical math proof for it other than “hold the insulation up to the pipe and poke it where you think it needs to go.


This past week has been a series of differences.

I went from my shortest commute ever to the longest.

I went from healthy to sick.

I went from a closed in site with plenty of obstructions to a wide open wing with next to no blockages.

I went from frustrated with my work to enjoying it.

Instead of working a fifteen minute walk from my house I was sent to a site two and a half hours away in Woodstock, Ontario. Normally when someone works that far away they get an allowance for room and board. The problem is that the site was two and a half hours from my house not downtown Toronto. From city hall the trip is an hour and somewhat under a half. That means it is technically in the furthest travel section, not the first room and board section. Most of the guys on site are still treating it like a room and board. I decided to drive it. Why? Good question.

For starters, I have no idea if I could drive that far without problems each and every day. The trip out wasn’t bad. I woke up at 3:15 and left by 4:00 getting to the site around 6:00 when I would either nap or say a couple decades of the rosary depending how much caffeine I required to get me there in the morning. Only one day out of the week was I desperately chugging coffee to keep me awake. The trip back was another story. Our shift ended at 3:30 which meant I hit the Mississauga end of Toronto near 4:30/5:00 depending on traffic. I’ve done that commute before when I worked near Jane and Finch. It takes an hour if you are lucky. So each day it took me about two hours to get to work and nearly three if not over that to get home. The commute through Toronto wasn’t bad. Like I said, I’ve done it before so I know I just need to pop on AM 590 and listen to Bob McCown for while. Driving an hour to get to that point, that was frustrating.

To make matters more frustrating I got a wretched head cold on Sunday. Thus in addition to commute from heck I went through three boxes of tissue to boot. Help the commute, it did not. My sleep was both short and interrupted by repeated bouts of my lungs attempting to remove themselves from my body.

The site itself was amazing. The site just had a bunch of wings opened up for people to get to work and as a result there is nothing in the way except the occasional drywall stud. No drop ceilings, no excess plumbing, no electrical conduits, no drywall board. Just wide open ductwork. Beautiful.

As a result I really started to get into a rhythm with the guy I was working alongside. I learned how to get a lot done in a relatively short period of time, how to choose which areas to do first, how to get a huge amount of square footage done in a day. That was something I needed. I’ve been stuck knowing that I can do work but unable to seem to get my body to follow suit. I’d get caught up in the stupid areas and struggle forever trying to get a small section done. It felt so good to see progress. It felt good to see that I can accomplish something. Since I’ve been back to work I wasn’t sure that I was making the right decision. Could I actually do this job? Now I believe that I can. For that, the commute was worth the hardship.

Nevertheless I’m very happy to be back working at the Oshawa site this week.

Is it just me?

Ok. Maybe I’m just odd. I’ll throw it out to all of my many readers.

If the foreman on site has mentioned three times in the last week that the job ends at 3:15, not 3:00, that he will be docking guys time, that we are supposed to call in our own hours outside of the time sheet reporting, and that any discrepancy can be cause for firing would it not be in your best interest to, say, leave sometime after 3:01 pm?

Maybe it’s a test for the new guys. Maybe it’s just him being annoying. Maybe he got in trouble from his boss. Whatever the reason, the foreman has mentioned this fact more than once. He told guys off again last night as I discovered at break — and finding out explained why we got the same damned lecture for a second day in a row.

I was the last freaking person to the job box today. The foreman was sitting at the lunch table. When he saw me he marked one last thing on his pile of papers, told me to lock the box when I was done and he left. That was at 3:10.

Does it not strike anyone as a good idea to maybe, just maybe, take him at his word?

What I learned today:

  • I have a place in my head I can go where the pain and frustration of the day magically disappears.
  • I have a place in my body that doesn’t move well after having a day where I either got better or went to the magical pain easing place.
  • That place in my body is my body. Damn I’m sore. And that’s after a hot bath, extra strength aspirin, and a glass of Hiram Walker Special Old Whiskey (there was a break between the first two and the latter don’t worry)

Turkey-day hangover

Today was rough. I slept until 3 and laid in bed alternately petting cats until 4. At that point I decided to get up and say both the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer in addition to my normal getting it together chores. The two of them add about a half an hour to my morning but I felt it was time well spent. Of course this also meant that my brain was dead by 8. Not fun.

I worked with another guy today. My lessons?

  • Pinning is a lot nicer if you push the button to electrify after you have fully pushed the gun into the bit you push it into. You don’t get a brilliant flash dazing you for hours on end.
  • Putting board across a hole is a good idea, not so that you can stand on them but to reduce vertigo and make life easier.
  • Nice can be better than fast because nice will at least get you a pass if people start yelling and call in the union.
  • Putting a finishing touch on something doesn’t take all that long and makes one hell of a difference.

Back to work

After my cry of desperation, i.e. the desire to learn macramé, I got a call. I’m working again. Even crazier? It’s commercial. Just like my first time. Another crazy fact? It’s a hospital. Just like my first time. The craziest? It’s four freaking blocks away from my house.

I’ve worked with a number of different guys this week and I’m learning a thousand different things. Today was canvasing and lagging. I even went up in a lift.

Lessons learned?

  • Canvasing and lagging is messy. You are essentially painting fabric with a liquid similar to paste. I have picture I will be uploading at some point to emphasise this point.
  • Working is hard on the body. I hurt. Admittedly I am a lot stronger than when I started this endeavour almost a year ago. Last year picking up a roll of wrap (approx. 20 pounds), putting it on my shoulder, and carrying it up a flight of stairs would be tiring. This year? My body said, “Ooof. Right. I can do this” is a mildly British accent.

On the off chance my brother or his wife is reading

Could one of you guys send me a current email address and/or facebook? Thanks. I can’t find them anywhere.

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