A Close Encounter Of The Hard Hat Kind

Yesterday I started a job that I am going to work for the rest of the summer until school starts in late August. When the fall semester begins I will return to my position with the local school district as a long-term substitute teacher and detention hall supervisor. I have worked at the district for a number of years. and am thankful for it, but it is a “part-time” job even though I work a minimum of 55 hours per week during the school year. I actually consider it a seasonal job, always looking for something permanent and always in need of employment during the summer months. Hence, my employment this summer.

Anyway, yesterday I started working for a local construction company that is building a ten-story building in the area. I am working on the clean-up crew – sweeping, cleaning up debris, trash and litter, cleaning bathrooms – whatever the assignment calls for. I go to work at 7am and get off at 5:00pm four days a week and from 7am to 3:30pm two days a week. I come home tired, dirty and hungry.

While I worked in a blue collar job in the mid-1970s to early 1980s as a heavy-equipment warehouseman and parts sales person, this is the first time that I have worked on a construction crew.

I had some concerns about the job when I started yesterday. My main concern was the heat. Temperatures in our area have been in the low-100s for weeks now, anywhere from 101 degrees to 104. But as I worked, most of the time inside the building (one floor is air-conditioned) I kept thinking about the farm workers that United Farm Workers has reported about lately, workers who have died from heat stroke in the fields this summer.

While I have the opportunity to speak to everyone on the site, it’s the men that I take breaks and eat lunch with that I’m getting to know.  While there is quite-a-bit that I could share about their backgrounds and histories in terms of marriage, children, and encounters with the law, what I will share is that they are all friendly, ready to share their food around the table, hard working, and can be very funny. They talk about their wives, children and girlfriends and work at very hard and dirty labor to provide for those they love. They offer me safety tips, advice on how to do my job better and even made sure, my first day on the job, that I was in the elevator to go downstairs so that I could punch out on time.

I have driven by the building that I am working in a hundred times.  I have thought about the building itself but never about the men and women who are building the building. Now that I am “one of them” and am getting to know them, I am gaining a much greater appreciation for the working men and women of our nation, the work they do, the wages they earn, and how difficult it can be to make a living and provide for families … especially in today’s economy.

My last day on the job will be August 21. On the 24th I will go back to my job at the high school. On that same day, my new friends on the construction site will be punching in for another long, hard, mostly unappreciated day of floating and taping drywall, stringing electrical wire, and cleaning toilets.

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2 Comments on “A Close Encounter Of The Hard Hat Kind”

  1. Ariel West Says:

    ok…. where is your school?


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