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Working With Tools

| Working | May 3, 2013

(There are two construction workers in my house to put down a wall. Worker #1 speaks French and English, but Worker #2 speaks only English. Note: I’m a female woodworker; also, my first language is french, but I’m perfectly bilingual.)

Worker #1: *in French* “I forgot the backsaw in the van. I’ll be back.”

Me: “Oh there’s no need to go back. I have one here.”

Worker #1: “What? You have a backsaw? And you’re a woman? Woah, we don’t see that often!”

(I point to the sliding miter saw in the corner of my living room)

Me: “Yeah, I have a few different saws here.”

(He pokes the shoulder of Worker #2 and points to me.)

Worker #1: *in English* “Hey, she’s a woodworker! Can you believe it? Seriously, look at her! I can’t believe she can even lift a plank of wood. Do you think she can use a power tool correctly? I mean, look at her miter saw; it’s as big as her. No way she can use this to craft anything. It would be better if she gave these tools to her boyfriend and focused on a real woman job!”

Me: *in English* “Just so you know, I’m bilingual. And for your information, I’m as capable as you to use power tools. I’m also sure my landlord didn’t send you here to belittle me, so would you please stop talking about me and go ahead with the job you’re paid for?”

Worker #1: “Uh… that’s not what I meant… I mean… uh… you look intelligent for a woman…”

Excuse Me, Bosshole

| Working | August 23, 2012

(I’ve just started a new job in construction. This is also my very first labor-intensive job, so there’s a lot of things that I don’t know. Naturally, I have many questions to ask.)

Me: “Excuse me, Sir-”

Boss: “Hold it right there, buddy. I will not have you calling me ‘Sir’. I don’t really believe in ranks, so I want you to talk to me like an equal. Just call me by my first name.”

(A couple of hours later, I have another question to ask. But this time, I try to respect his wishes and do my best to ease up on my language.)

Me: “‘Scuse me Boss, I—”

Boss: “GODD***IT, NOT AGAIN! I told you that I don’t do well with those titles! Call me ‘a**hole’, call me ‘f***er’, but whatever you do, don’t call me ‘sir’ or ‘boss’!”

Hard Hats vs. Hard Heads

| Right | June 21, 2012

(One day, I have a flat tire in front of a coffee & donut shop that is under construction. The shop is obviously unfinished, and is full of equipment and blocked by orange cones. The construction workers on site kindly change my tire and refuse to take my money, so the next day I return with pizzas, wings, and subs as a thank you. As I’m passing out food, an SUV pulls into the lot. The SUV mows down an orange cone which gets stuck under the vehicle and starts making the loudest grinding noise imaginable as it’s dragged along. The foreman goes over to speak to the woman driver. She is yelling at the drive-thru apparatus, which is obviously not operational–just like the rest of the unfinished coffee & donut shop.)

Woman: “I’d like a large fries, a Big Mac, and a Diet Coke, please!”

Foreman: “Ma’am, this location is still under construction. There’s no one here to take your order. Furthermore, this is a coffee and donut chain. Even when the building is done, they won’t sell burgers. If you’re looking for burgers, go up the street to the corner.”

Woman: *exasperated sigh* “Oh, alright then. I’ll take a large coffee with three sugars and a bagel sandwich with cream cheese and jam. Ooh, do they have fritters here?”

Foreman: “I’m sorry if I was unclear, ma’am, but this store isn’t open yet. There are no employees inside to make your food. Heck, the electrical isn’t installed yet.”

Woman: “Why, you little fibber! I can see your whole crew eating right over there! You just don’t want me to have a lunch break even though you’re getting one!”

Foreman: “Ma’am, that food was brought by the woman over there in the suit. We helped her change her tire the other day, so she bought us pizza.”

Woman: “Pizza?! You said this was a coffee and donut place!”

Foreman: “The pizza was bought at [local grocery store]. It’s not from here.”

Woman: “From [local grocery store]? Don’t be ridiculous! This building looks nothing like [local grocery store]! Do you think I’m stupid?!”

Foreman: “I’m paid to build restaurants ma’am, not give IQ tests. But you’re in a restricted construction zone and you need to leave right now.”

Woman: “This is bulls***! I demand to speak to your manager right this instant!” *she sees me and starts shouting* “Miss! Oh, Miss! I’d like to speak to you!”

(I pick my way across the unpaved lot.)

Woman: “Miss, I’d like to lodge a complaint about your employees!”

Me: “Madam, I’m not their manager and this building isn’t open for business yet. However, if you pull your right wheel up on that curb, perhaps the crew can dislodge the traffic cone stuck beneath you before you leave so it doesn’t damage your vehicle.”

Woman: “Of course you’re the manager! You’re wearing a suit and heels! And what’s this nonsense about a traffic cone? I didn’t run over any traffic cone! I tell you it’s like the whole world has gone crazy!”

Me: “Well, it seems like part of it certainly has. Regardless, I’m not the manager here. However, I am the attorney who’s going to flag down that nice police officer across the street if you don’t cease trespassing and vacate these premises immediately.”

Woman: “Well, I never! I’m going to call the corporate offices and complain about the whole lot of you. You see if I don’t! I’ll have your jobs!”

(The woman pulls her car out of the lot, oblivious to the horrible noise being made by the still-wedged traffic cone. She also mows down another cone as she leaves, although that one doesn’t stick.)

Foreman: “Good grief. So much for Darwin and natural selection.”


Slow ‘Em Who’s Boss

| Working | June 13, 2012

(I have a summer job on a construction site sweeping work areas, sorting materials and such. One day my coworker and I—both underpaid temps passing time until college classes start again—have been asked to sweep the floor in an area where the construction team is installing the air conditioning system.)

Boss: *to my coworker and me* “You need to be careful because we don’t want dust in the system, so work slow.”

Coworker: “You won’t have to tell us twice, sir. We can do slow!”

(We start sweeping the area slowly. After some time, the boss comes by.)

Boss: “Guys, you really need to go slower. There is too much dust in the air.”

Me: “I’m sorry, but there are a lot of people working here. We are taking it really easy, but we can’t tell the dust to get on the floor.”

Boss: “Well, just slow down. Take it REALLY easy!”

Me: “Sure, we can slow down!”

(We take it down even further as the boss leaves. After all, when the boss tells you to work slower you don’t say no!)

Coworker: “This is the first time I’ve ever heard someone apologize to the boss for not slacking off enough!”

(Soon after, the boss comes back again to check up.)

Boss: “There I still too much dust in the air. You guys really need to go slower!”

Me: “Well, I think that if we go slower you need to make a time lapse video to see us moving. Are you sure about this?”

Coworker: “Yeah, not that I’m complaining, but we aren’t exactly the only ones here who can stir up the dust. We should probably sweep the whole area before the day is over.”

Boss: “No problem. Just get as far as you can get, but make sure you go really slow this time.”

(The boss leaves again, and we are trying to figure out how we can slow down even further and still actually do anything. Once again, as the boss finishes his rounds, he checks up on us again.)

Boss: “Well, it’s getting better, but can you please slow down even more?”

Me: “I am honestly not sure if I can do that. We are barely moving as it is, and I think we were just passed by a snail.”

Boss: “Well, try anyway. It’s getting better, so keep up the good work!”

Coworker: *after the boss leaves* “I love this job.”

Your Logic Is Up In The Air

| Working | May 3, 2012

(My crew and I are installing glued-down carpet tiles in an office space. The glue must be exposed until it has set up completely. We’re a couple hours into the process, having just cleaned the bare floor of debris, and have started to spread glue. The job site supervisor walks in the room with a crew who is supposed to be installing ceiling tiles.)

Supervisor: “These guys are going to be putting in the ceiling tiles here, okay?”

Me: “No. I just prepped everything, and I’m glueing the floor now. No one can work in here until the carpet is done.”

Supervisor: “Well, I scheduled for you both to be here today. They should be fine. They’re working on the ceiling, and you’re working on the floor, so you won’t be in each other’s way.”

(The ceiling guys realize right away what is going on, and out of professional courtesy start packing up their tools to leave.)

Me: “I’ll say okay if you can answer this one question.”

Supervisor: “Yes?”

Me: “Where are they going to stand while working on the ceiling while I’m working on the floor?”

Supervisor: *speechless*