‘The chances were, they wouldn’t’

img_6371I sat at the bar watching golf. Behind me, three general contractors who swore a lot, talking about their jobs. I thought about saying something. I pictured how I’d do it. But after listening to them for a while, like the whole time I was there, I felt sorry for them. They needed to swear. The tone of the dialogue shifted and one said (this is just between us), he said he’d gone to his doctor because of how he was feeling, what he’d read in Men’s Health, and his doctor said he was over-worked and had too much stress, that was the problem. He said he’d been a contractor all his life (he looked about 40). They talked about the different trades and how you need to bring everyone together as a team and give good estimates and not just go for the bottom dollar or something…they were getting drunk and pissed off. I wanted to join in, to say I’d worked around construction too and the project management, and I thought I could relate. I wanted them to get out of that work. The one guy said, I feel like I’m never ahead, I can never catch up…there’s always another bid to go after or email I should be doing or, I don’t know…I imagined he was right, he would never catch up. Always another project. Here they were with me in some stupid Mexican bar in Redmond in the back swearing, with me watching golf. But I didn’t really understand them and they wouldn’t, me. I had a posh job, a white collar job, of Visio charts and PowerPoint decks and pretty MBA grads in the break rooms. I’d seen my job through the eyes of guys like them and they wanted mine but saw it was unattainable, and I’m not sure how I’d ever attained it myself. I wanted them to have a chance to start over but knew the chances were, they wouldn’t.

Categories: musings, prose

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19 replies

  1. But aren’t most jobs like those construction workers jobs? It’s always on to the next project, the next case, the next assignment. You never get ahead until you’re done and you just hope that the moment “when you’re done” arrives before you really are done.


    • Yes, those guys were GCs so they’re trying to make budget on like million dollar/year jobs, a combination, where they sometimes bid low and have to suck it up, or only make a thousand dollars, etc…I couldn’t stand it. I hate physical labor as it is (tearing out walls etc) but having to manage others doing it…I just couldn’t! I felt bad for them but maybe in a way they like it. Hard to say.


      • I get it. I wouldn’t want that kind of job either. At times I’ve had to do projects around our house. I’ve never really wanted to, but when I do one and finish it, I feel a sense of accomplishment I generally don’t get in other ways. My lack of interest in physical labor is one of the reasons I want to downsize our house. No more pool, no more big yards. And I’d prefer renting instead of owning so I’m not ultimately responsible.

        I can’t imagine doing what GCs do every day.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I like the renting idea, how freeing that is. I was proud of myself for replacing a toilet but then came home after vacation to find a pool/leak because one of the seals wasn’t seated just right. That’s plumbing, “plumb.” Kind of like math, you’re either right or wrong.


      • I was thinking about when we had our pool installed. We contracted it our ourselves. My wife, who wasn’t working at the time, managed the thing. And I know it was not always an enjoyable experience for her. But one of the things that happened was that when they set the pool up for electrical and plumbing they didn’t care what they did to the existing plumbing and electrical we had for sprinklers. And the lawn died while the installation took place. So, I had to re-do the sprinklers and lawn once the pool was in. And I did. It’s not perfect, but I got the damn thing done.

        But now I simply don’t want to do things like that. I’ve got other priorities. đŸ˜‰


    • Actually, reread your comment Mark and you’re right: most jobs are like that, easily compared to construction. Estimating, tearing stuff out, moving on to the next…never quite done. I guess if you are, so is your job!


  2. We need these kind of men, but it’s sad when they feel that much stress. They shouldn’t allow their jobs to do that but there are some SOBs out there that can treat these kinds of workers bad. I was always grateful to my contractors when they worked on my home. They would say I was the NICEST they had worked for. Hmmmm

    Liked by 1 person

  3. same situation for many, no matter the color of the collar, still a collar.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How do you know they wanted your job? Mine is similar to yours and I can’t imagine any of the guys putting up the building across the street wanting to swap places with me. I can’t imagine anyone doing the type of work I do out of anything other than commitment.


    • You’re right, that’s a kind of bad self-importance thing to imagine that, but I was taking from an experience of a guy who was trying to convert from the ‘field’ to HQ as an example, who was trying to get out of that hard physical labor and into the office work. I think there’s something more honest about the physical labor but I’m probably naive and romanticizing that and utterly wrong.


  5. I would much rather build something tangible, like a road or a house, and know I did it right, and that I can walk away from it and it will still be standing decades from now because I did my job well, than build something intangible, like a team that functions well until the team members change, or until I walk away and it falls apart because I’m not there anymore. I like the permanence of the road or the house. I also like the permanence of writing. These are things that will still be there after I walk away, and won’t change. Or at least will change very slowly, if I do it right. A team can begin to fall apart the moment you look away.

    Liked by 1 person

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