Friday, October 19, 2007

I'm not playing the role, just being who I am and if you try and dis' me I couldn't give a damn

I started my new job a couple of weeks ago and we've been working a lot. That's why I've hardly done any blogging. I'm going to avoid talking about the profession as much as I can but I'll still talk a little about work.

One cool thing about the job is that the company hires welders to follow our crew around and we can just point at anything and say "Weld this." And they'll do it. One morning we showed up for work and the welder asked "Do you have anything you want me to weld?" and one of the bosses-of-me put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Yes. I want you to weld HIS lips to MY penis."

(That's right. The new job is just like the job with the mofos. It just pays more.)

To which I added, "You're going to need a lot of filler rod." Because welding jokes are cool.

Another thing about the new job is hardhats. Suddenly, I own hardhats in various colors. One day I was swinging around in the high pipes of a smelly yogurt factory and my hardhat almost fell off. I thought, "Wouldn't that be super-ironic to get hit on the head by a falling hardhat?"

Now I wear a hardhat all day and when I leave that job my hair is totally screwed up with hardhat-head. But I figure that it's probably a punk kind of look so I don't fix it. Hathead is less trendy than mohawks right now.

Yeah, I mostly work with rough dudes but there are a couple of girls. I heard a rumor that there is a company policy of one girl for every seven men but the reality appears to be about one girl to every fifty guys.

There is a woman on my crew named Judy. She's about the same age as my mother. I think it's strange that Judy does this work. One day we were installing a giant stainless steel cabinet but it needed to be cleaned first. It was laying outside in the dirt and Judy asked me if I could hold the doors open so they wouldn't fall down and crush her while she vacuumed the inside of the big box.

I asked her why she chose this profession. She said she thought it would make her rich. She said, "The money IS good but these men still don't treat me as equals. It bothers me. I've got more experience than a lot of them do but they send me outside to clean."

I said, "Yeah, I see that a lot. Men always seem to end up treating girls like maids and secretaries."

Judy said, "It's not right."

I said, "I know. But I'm amazed to see any girls in this profession at all. So that's one cool thing. You put your mind to it and you accomplished it. Even though the odds were against you."

It didn't seem to be very reassuring to her. And Judy and the oldest man on the crew got laid off yesterday. They found other work for the rest of us.

The only other girl in the big factory is a welder. She is intriguing. She's young and thin and blond, I think. She doesn't shower in the morning. She doesn't wear make up. She wears boys clothes. And yet you look at her and you think, "Hey, she's not bad." I think that's what is so intriguing. Her cheeks have a glow that you can only attain by welding for 60 hours a week. Tufts of hair stick out from under her bandana. But it's captivating in a Robotech-sort-of-way when she gives her head a vigorous nod to drop her welding mask in front of her face from its perch on top of her head and then fires up a torch too bright to look at. She drops the F-bomb a lot and her normal speaking voice seems to be a yell, but that's true of just about everyone in the factory.

I told my wife I had a plan to completely ignore the girl and I did for the first two weeks. My wife asked, "Why would you do that?" I said, "Because I've got nothing to offer her. I figured it would be nicest not to send mixed signals."

My wife said, "But you're a nice guy. You're friendly. You can be friendly to her."

I said, "Yeah. I had a strange feeling about vowing to completely ignore her because the last time I did that to a girl I ended up marrying her."

But one day she had all her welding crap in the way and one of the bosses-of-me told me to move it. So I asked her if and where I could move it. She said, "Don't worry about it. I'll move it for you." But there was a lot of crap to move so I started rolling up cords and hoses for her. I asked her what her name was. Shannon. I told her my name is Emmett even though it's printed across the front of my hardhat so the bosses know who to yell at.

Shannon said, "I'm not supposed to talk to anyone. Well, my crew is allowed to talk but I'M not allowed to talk to people.... because I'm a girl."

I said, "You are?"

She said, "Yes! I know. It's getting hard to tell anymore, huh? But they tell me I'm not allowed to talk or I'll get in trouble but I'm always in trouble so I do anyway."

I said, "That sucks. They're punishing you just for being who you are."

She said, "I know."

I said, "What kind of a world are we living in?"

She said, "A man's world. Especially this place (referring to the factory)."

I said, "Yep. Get used to it." But I don't think she needed to be told because she's already trying her hardest to look like a boy. She's just short. And stands with her legs together. And when she walks it makes a fast clomp, clomp, clomp sound instead of the shuffle sound guys make when they walk.

There is a big guy with a beard on Shannon's crew who has the girliest voice I've ever heard. It phases me every time I hear him talk. MAN, he has got a girly voice. And one day I was working and I heard a SOMEWHAT girly voice behind me and I thought, "That wasn't TOO girly. Maybe his voice isn't quite as girly as I thought." But then I turned around and it wasn't the guy with the girly voice talking. It was Shannon.

Anyway. My heart goes out to those hardworking girls who can't get an even break. You're a corker Shannon.

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