Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Conversation with Crash McCown

Solzhenitsyn warned mankind along time ago to be wary of the "Little Stalins." His definition of "Little Stalin" was a bureaucrat who used the power of his/or her position to stifle and control subordinates in order to shield the possible exposition of his/or her incompetence. Inferior men given the mantle of power must use their full governmental authority to remain in their present position. Most of the time this works with the elite and intellectuals who, early on in their careers, temper their moxie for latter mobility. In other words, if your young enough and smart enough, you can outlast the incompetent idiot currently over you.

While intellectuals swallow their pride and go with the flow in order to pursue a better future or at least a stable one, neanderthals such as skilled tradesman and construction workers go against the grain and speak their mind because they know that if fired, their next job or career probably will pay just as much, if not more. In bad times, the biggest purveyor of construction employment is the Federal Government, any Federal Government of any country; however, this puts the free wheeling, independent construction worker in direct contact with the "Little Stalins." And it is at this point our story starts.

Crash McCown is an experienced foreman for Demon Electric, who has worked on a multi-winged and multi-storied building at the military base for two years. He is a large man without hair, looking about fifty. He wears a Southern Maryland Blue Crabs baseball hat, a blue T-shirt, and an old pair of jeans and walks with a limp from an improperly set broken foot that occurred on a job many years ago. Because of the limp, he drives a four-wheel ATV called a GATOR, which he rarely leaves while roaming the construction site.

"Bob, are you going to the meeting at noon, today," asks Crash sitting in his ATV as Bob walks near.
"No, Crash. I'm not." replies Bob in mid-gait.
"Why not, all foreman and project managers have to attend." says Crash.
"Because I'm not a foreman." replies Bob.
"Yes, you are. You are the only one that I've ever seen here from XX Engineering in two years. You are the foreman." says Crash laughingly.
"I really don't want to go there and see the poster children for the Peter Principle." says Bob.
"Huh, Peter Principle?" says Crash ponderously.
"Take too long to explain." jokes Bob, "Alright then, noon, I'll be there."
"Great man,' says Crash as he slips his ATV into gear and drives off.

Bob walks over to the recently concreted footers, and thinks about the futility and the frustration that he will certainly experience at this meeting with the Customer Operations Representative, Gaius Sancti. Gaius Sancti was a man who had once studied engineering and upon academic dismissal from Junior College, he had enlisted in the Navy. With eight years of service and an honorable discharged, he qualified for his current position. A man with little real-world experience and dismal academic performance achieved a position in the Government Bureaucracy, based on the points system, that he could have never received in the private sector. A man of so limited intelligence would normally be no problem to anyone performing the construction work or construction management on site, except for the fact that he was a self-aware man. A man, aware of his inferiority or extremely limited attributes, is always a potentially dangerous man as he can pull rank and squelch discourse within the drop of a hat while in the company of men with degraded conscience.

At quarter to twelve, Crash drives his ATV over to the footers where Bob is standing measuring the diameters of the protruding steel dowels. He guns the engine toward Bob's back, and slams on the breaks stopping the ATV inches from Bob.
"Do you have to be so obnoxious," says Bob with a smile.
"Yes, I do," shouts Crash, " C'mon, lets go."
"Okay, Man," replies Bob getting into the passenger side of the ATV.

They hurl down the hill toward the make shift concrete path they had constructed 18 months ago, and Bob's hard-hat blows off into the bed of the ATV. They pull up to Demon's Trailer and park beside it. Crash gets out slowly on the driver side, and Bob hops out quickly on the passenger side. They walk the ten necessary feet to the Project Manager's Trailer. Bob opens the door and sees Gaius sitting at the head of the big, white, folding table flanked on his right by henchman Bureaucrat Goo-Goo, and a new comer on his left.

"Sit down," says Gaius to Bob and Crash.
"Okay," says Crash as he and Bob sit down at the opposite end.
"Well, this meeting concerns the lack of production, the lack of morale, and the lack of concern for procedure occurring with the men on this site."
"You have not performed well, and I have a few examples that Goo-Goo will go over from the previous week." says Gaius.
" I have seen a man not wearing a safety vest, I believe that man was you, Bob" says Goo-Goo.
"Probably, it gets in the way of making concrete specimens." replies Bob.
"No explanation is needed, just wear it or forfeit your badge," says Gaius interrupting.
"Okay," replies Bob.
"Okay, what," shouts Gaius.
"Okay, I will wear it." says Bob.
"Next infraction," says Gaius to Goo-Goo
"We saw an electrician without his eye protection last Tuesday, on the third floor of building three." says Goo-Goo gazing at his clipboard.
"Yeah, that was because he couldn't see the label on the wire," says Crash.
"Why couldn't he see the wire?" asks Gaius to Crash.
"No artificial lighting as of yet, and his glasses are tinted." says Crash.
"From now on you will issue clear safety glasses and no one will take them off again. Is that clear?: asks Gaius.
"Yes," replies Crash.
"Okay, that covers the lack of procedure part of this meeting." says Gaius.
"Wait a minute, you have a 140 guys on this site, and all you have is two suspect infractions. It seems like we are doing a pretty good job at following
procedure." says Crash.
"If we had zero infractions, then you would be doing a good job. Two infractions is two too many." says Gaius

Crash looks at Bob and rolls his eyes in disbelief. Goo-Goo flips the pages in his clipboard to find the next order of business. As the seconds pass, he becomes nervous and starts to tremble because he realizes that Gaius expects complete and proper preparation out of all of his subordinates.
"Next order of business is the change order submitted by Demon Electric concerning the conflict with the telecom wiring, apparently Demon had to run the wire at ceiling level, dropping spans down to the receptacles and running spans back up to the ceiling from the receptacle in order to stay above the telecom wiring." says Goo-Goo.
"Denied," replies Gaius.
"Why?" asks Crash sternly.
"Because you could have gone along the designed path without conflict, so the whole re-route was unnecessary." says Gaius.
"You don't know what the f--- you are looking at." says Crash.
"What did you say," replies Gaius.
"You heard me, you don't know what the f-- you are looking at." says Crash, once more

Just then, the man sitting to the left of Gaius pops out of his seat and points at Crash and says," I am a Master Electrician, so I do know what I am looking at.."
"Good for F------ you." interrupts Crash.

The rant went on for another half-a-minute, before Gaius stood up and screamed at the top of his lungs, "This meeting is over. Everybody can leave except the General Contractor." The Project Manager and Superintendent of Nattahnam Construction, the General Contractor, were the only people to stay behind. The subsequent details are a bit blurry as no one can remember either of them saying a word about the meeting, but no less than ten minutes after the departure of Gauis from the trailer had the rumor of what was said been displayed in open discourse outside the plumbers' and HVAC mechanics' trailer.

"Did you hear what the Government dude told the Nattahnam's Project Manager," says one plumber to a group of plumbers standing next to the trailer.
"No, what did he say?" says one plumber from the group.
"He told the Project Manager that he was doing a bad job, and the Project Manager responded by sliding his keys across the table into the Government dude's lap. After that, he told Government dude, 'to do it his f------ self." says the plumber, whom had initiated the conversation, in a most jovial tone.

The laughing persists for a few more seconds, then abrupt silence. Silence, but not stillness. As each of the men stops his laughing, each man turns his head away from the others to gaze in uninterrupted thought, or reflection. It seems quite obvious that they were almost in admiration of the often loathed Project Manager. The PM had been hated for a long time as a tyrant, but it seems that the plumbers were willing to give him earned respect, now, as he finally showed the gumption and strength to stand his ground against an insatiable customer. Of course, one still needs to remember that cussing your customer is not a way to achieve repeat business, but it goes along way to promote unity within an overworked and oversimplified crew.

When the authorities or powers have been fully embarrassed and discredited in front of all whom are accountable to them, a reckoning or justice must occur. The offenders must be brought forth for either punishment or forgiveness, and two days later--Gaius sent forth his edict by his messenger, Bureaucrat Goo-Goo.

Goo- Goo walks into the trailer and tells the PM that the merciful Gaius has decided to leave him his badge, and if he decides to go along or conform to Gaius' positions then he may stay in the village of construction trailers to finish his tenure; however, Crash was to forfeit his badge by day's end and be banished from the village as well as the military base for such benign behavior. So, Gaius Sancti dispenses his noble edict by messenger within two days time, and approves the disputed change order six weeks later, as he fears a lawsuit for non-payment of services rendered.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

September 23, 2009

New post on September 23, 2009. Competing in short story contest w/deadline on Sept 15, 2009.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Conversation with Guy LeCri

Whoosh goes the big glass door to the concrete lab as the Geo-tech, Bob, puts his right shoulder into the door this afternoon. As Bob enters the dark lab, he walks to the cylinder stripping bay with a set of six gray concrete cylinders and bends over setting them down. Adjusting himself to an upright position, he sees two eyes peering at him from the chair next to the table where the cylinders are stressed tested.

"Guy, is that you?" Bob asks startlingly.
"Oui, it is me," says Guy in an evil chuckle.
"What are doing?" inquires Bob.
"Eating my lunch, what did you think I was doing?" responds Guy.
"I don't know, I can't see you," says Bob, "Why are you eating in the dark."
"It is more peaceful," replies Guy.
"Well, Okay then," affirms Bob as he turns toward the wooden door heading to the project managers' offices.
"Where are you going?" asks Guy.
"To update Ova Nova on the project," replies Bob.

Upon hearing that Bob was about to leave the lab to see the project manager, Ova Nova, Guy becomes extremely quiet. Bob had known Guy for a long time and knew this was Guy's way of asking him to stay because he had something to discuss. Guy Lecri had come many years ago from French speaking West Africa and spoke slowly because he always translated what he was hearing into French for better clarity. This was a source of frustration for alot of Americans, but Bob was always patient and paid attention no matter how busy he was.

"Guy, Did you want to talk to me?" asks Bob tensely.
"No," replies Guy.
"Are you sure?" asks Bob.
"Oui," nods Guy.
"Okay, then I'm going to see Ova Nova." says Bob emphatically.

Bob starts to leave while having the feeling that Guy is watching him. The silence is noticeable and thick. When it is thick, Bob knows that Guy does not just want to talk to him, but needs to talk to him. Bob stops at the wooden door and turns around.

"Okay, say it," says Bob frustratingly.
"Say what," says a puzzled Guy.
"Just say whatever you want to," replies Bob.
" Are you sure you have the time?" asks Guy.
"I do," says Bob.

Bob leans against the lightly colored, wooden cabinet where the nuclear, soil gauges are stored, while Guy stares down at his lunch on the table. Bob lays his black XX Engineering bag on the floor, and Guy pushes his green office chair backwards from the table. They look at each other,and Guy smiles.

" Do you remember, last week, when I came to the site to pick up the masonry prisms," says Guy.
"I do," replies Bob chuckling.
"And I forgot what you told me about going to the visitor's center," says Guy.
"Yes," says Bob.
"Instead I went to the gate, and the soldier stopped me," says Guy nervously.
"Yeah, that is when you called me, and I talked to the soldier on the cell," replies Bob.
"Yes, you do remember, and you told the soldier that I was confused and that I needed to wait at the visitors center for my escort, Sea-dog" says Guy.
"Uh, huh," says Bob tiredly.
"Then Sea-dog came, and the soldier was really mad at him...," says Guy.
"He was?" laughs Bob.
"Yes, He told him that he was responsible for my mistake, and he reprimanded him harshly," says Guy.
"That's okay. Sea-dog's probably used to getting chewed on, now and then," says Bob with a big grin.
"Then Sea-dog escorts me to the parking lot to turn me over to you, but you aren't there," says Guy.
"You know I went to get us value meals," says Bob.
"I know. Then you come back, and I say lets get this done quick so I can get outta here and back to Ova. And you say, 'screw Ova.' Do you remember?" asks Guy.
"I do," laughs Bob.
"This is big in the culture that I was raised...," Guy says emphatically.
"What, value meals are big in your culture," says Bob mockingly.

With just that one comment, the silence becomes thick, once more. Now, the silence is very thick, and Bob realizes that he just stepped on Guy's feelings like a child playing hopscotch. The silence is getting exponentially thicker by the second, and Bob knows he has to apologize.

"You know, Guy, the value meals are important to me because they are important to you," says Bob.
"Thank you," says Guy.
"Many years ago when I was younger, my country was in a civil war. Do you know what civil war is?" asks Guy.
"Yeah, we had one around 1860," replies Bob.
"But you really don't know what one is, do you?" asks Guy.
"I guess you are right. I don't know what it is like to have your hometown occupied by an enemy," says Bob.
"Exactly. But during this period, soldiers from one side occupied my village,"says Guy.
"Which side?" asks Bob.
"What does it matter, which side. One side," replies Guy.
"And they rounded up everyone in the village. Some were taken prisoner, some forced to work,and some were terminated. Me, I was forced to work as a messenger. And I did it to save the lives of mon père et ma mère" says Guy

Bob walks over to the coffee pot on the table in front of the glass door, and pours himself a cup. He kicks a gray office chair over to the gang box, which is next to the glass door. Reaching into his pocket he pulls out a cigarette and walks over to the chair with the coffee and cigarette in hand. Noticing the "No Smoking" sign as the faintest rays of sunlight hit it, he sits and props his feet on to the gang box while lighting his cigarette. Guy starts laughing.

"Go on, Guy, go on," encourages Bob.
"Well, one day the other side catches me, and I am taken prisoner," says Guy.
"That can't be good." says Bob as he puffs the cigarette.
"No, they tortured me." says Guy in a low voice.
"How did the torture you?" asks Bob.
"What does it matter, the word torture should be descriptive enough. And then I escaped." says Guy.
"Then, you came to America?" asks Bob.
"Then I come to America and get asylum." says Guy.
"Good, " says Bob.

Bob walks over to the glass door, opens it, and flicks the butt over the back porch. Guy grabs the trash from his lunch and throws it into the large gray trashcan next to the table. Guy places both his hands on the trash can, and looks into it.

"Until last week, I have never seen anything in America that reminded of those days in my original country," explains Guy.
"But, last week brought all of those memories back, right?" inquires Bob.
"Yeah, except that you and Sea-dog were there, and the soldier was very good." says Guy.
"You mean disciplined," corrects Bob.
"I mean disciplined, and that was the one good thing I learned last week." says Guy.

Bob smiles at Guy and waves as he walks to Ova's office, and Guy turns to finish his work, stress testing concrete cylinders. Bob is walking and thinking about the enlightenment that Guy had just showed him about West African culture. While Bob is walking, Guy is testing cylinders and thinking about the knowledge that he had gained in the week prior about his new country, America.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Conversation with Malachi Thomas

Malachi Thomas is a foreman for the Moreorless masonry company. He is a man whom is about forty, and he likes to do the daily crossword puzzles. A dedicated worker who is most of the time conscientious, and he embraces the establishment or corporate office if you will, as needed.
Today, Malachi is ordered by his project manager Baker Bowie to cut four masons from the roster, or in other words,it is lay-off time. Malachi responds by telling Baker to pick three because he already laid one mason off this morning. Baker Bowie being a double-chinned gutless sycophant does not want to pick.

"Just do it." Says Baker.
"Like Nike, OK. I'll lay off Alberto, Miguel, and Raul at break time." responds Malachi. "Good." replies Baker with a sigh of relief.
"Pick three." Says Malachi to the Geo-tech, Bob.
"Three for what?" asks Bob.
"Three for pinks." says Malachi grinningly pointing to the top of the scaffold.
"No, man. Not on your life." says Bob.
"Why not, are you chicken?" says Malachi.
"No, man. I don't want to be apart of such cruelty." says Bob.
"It's the right thing to do. There is no work, and the company expects me to reduce." explains Malachi.
"I don't care if it is the right or wrong thing to do. It is still cruel." says Bob.
"How so no one guarantees you a job. There is such a thing as a Darwinian aspect in life. These are my worst four guys, and the company can no longer afford to keep them employed. In this business, people are tools or commodities, if you will. When they are no longer of value or become unusable, then you get rid of them." lectures Malachi.
"It makes it no less cruel. He becomes a victim of circumstance, and his wife and children become one as well. All because Mr. Bill Moreorless can't do without his two beach houses in Cape May, or his fifty million in the bank. You could let them at least finish out the day, and if you were to be compassionate and generous, you'd let them finish out the week." responds Bob.

With that they walk over to the truck and finish the crossword on a hot summer day. They each light a cigarette and pop the brims of their hard hats up. They look at the scaffold and see the masons climbing down to go to break. "This will only take a minute, don't go anywhere," Malachi orders Bob. Malachi goes up the hill and sends Alberto, Miguel and Raul home. Bob looks up the hill and sees the distress on their faces as they leave. Malachi walks briskly down the hill.

"Told you, it wouldn't take long." says Malachi
"While you were at it, did you tell them to eat cake?" Bob digs.
"Look, three months from now, I could be in their shoes." exclaims Malachi.
"So for three months worth of pay, you punched their tickets. You should of told Baker to do it, or called Moreorless and made him do it." says Bob.
"They expect me to do it." says Malachi.
"I don't get you. Half the time you are saying that you are going to walk out, and the other half you are kissing Baker's posterior. Why?"
"Because their is a Darwinian aspect to life. In the animal world the strong survive and the weak become obsolete. In our world, survival depends on skill and/or cunning. Whether it be surviving for three more months or eternity, you must have skill and/or cunning," says Malachi.
"It seems to me that it comes to kissing butts and dumb-luck." says Bob.
"And that would be the and/or cunning part of the Darwinian aspect. Takes both, remember that." says Malachi.
"In the meantime, four families have been screwed in the posterior by Moreorless. Do me a favor? If it ever happens to me, don't let anyone tell me about the Darwinian aspect or use the phrase, 'go eat cake,' or I will kick that guy in his little Darwins" replies Bob.

And with that Malachi nodded and cut the day short. He took four hours leave and got into his company owned truck to head home. When he got home he patted his dog on the head and changed into his blue and white speedos-in order to annoy the stay-at-home wives in the neighborhood-and after doing that, he grabbed three beers. He walked toward the pool in his backyard and put the beers at the pool's edge. He grabbed his green and pink raft and placed it into the water. He grabbed a beer, and laid on the raft with his moon exposed to the sun, neighborhood, or any passer-by such as Darwin's clone, so that they may know that they were fully entitled to kiss his a-- because there is a Darwinian aspect in life.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

In memory of Paul Hemphill (1936-2009)

Paul Hemphill, a true American, Scotch-Irish kinsman whom illustrated the southern, blue-collar man's views through his fifteen novels. He was a writer who made applications out of observations.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Conversation with Goo-Goo

On a bright, sunny day with the breeze blowing westerly from the ocean and across the black pothole filled parking lot on the tiny island of Offland, the geotech for the military base, LaLa, sits in his truck and stares disdainfully at the trailer where he is to meet the Offland government bureaucrat, Goo-Goo, for a pay evaluation conference. Any contracted government work in Offland comes with certain requirements, one of these requirements is that all workers must be paid a scale wage regardless of experience or education.

LaLa gets out of his white truck and walks across the parking lot toward the tan temporary structure while anticipating the best for himself and his family. He thinks silently, "Surely, these government officials will see the absurdity of paying me 14 carks an hour to do all of the civil engineering inspections and materials testing. Surely, they can see with such responsibility entrusted to me that I deserve the skilled workers wage of 23 carks. Thank God that I am not at the mercy of my employer, but have this option to appeal to the government, and I believe they will do the fair and honest thing concerning my welfare." While thinking such happy thoughts, LaLa walks briskly and happily up the ramp to the trailer door, and when finally arriving at the door of opportunity, he knocks confidently.

Offland government bureaucrat, Goo-Goo, a man of average height and weight sporting 1970s style mustache opens the door, and inquires to whom LaLa might be and to what his purpose of entering the temporary facility might be.

"I'm here to inquire about my pay," says LaLa.
"Okay, please have a seat." says Goo-Goo.
"What might your name be." asks Goo-Goo.
"LaLa, I am the materials tester and the construction inspector," says LaLa.
"Oh yes, what is your current pay rate?"
"Unskilled Laborer."
" And so it shall be." says Goo-Goo.
"Sir, I do all of the Civil Inspections, and have submitted multiple Inspection and
Safey Certifications, which demonstrate my skill. So, I'm asking you to reconsider and grant me 'skilled laborer' status."
"Absolutely not."
"Why not?"
"Because you do not coordinate into production."
"But I produce concrete, mortar and grout samples. I calculate and check densities of soils, and produce reports showing the success or failure.
"This is true, but nevertheless, you are still and unskilled laborer."
"Sir, I submitted certifications demonstrating my skill."
"Those certifications only demonstrate that you are skilled enough to be labelled unskilled."
" I am skilled enough to be unskilled?" says LaLa

"Sir, the guy who shoots the laser to measure the length of the piping in the building gets 25 carks an hour. How is pointing a laser more skilled than what I do?'
"It is."
"Sir, this is a military base in Offland, and we are currently at war with our nemesis, Onland.
Don't you worry that someone might use this for propaganda reasons."
"How so?"
"Well sir, it is common knowledge that most of government buildings in our Capital were built with slaves. You know a hundred and fifty years ago when slavery was legal. Do you want people to say in a hundred and fifty years from now that these two buildings were inspected by a 14 cark an hour slave. Even worse, if Onland finds out about this, they can say that Offland mistreats their citizens by subjecting them to great responsibility with very little pay."
"This is no concern to me. You see, your just not important enough for anyone to pay attention too."
"But if someone did?"
"Did what?"
"Pay attention to this absurdity?"
"It won't happen. Now take your 14 carks and be happy that you aren't unemployed like ten percent of this country. Dismissed."
"Government Bureaucrat Goo-Goo."
"You are F------ stupid."
"That is the nature of bureaucracy. Have a nice day," said Goo-Goo mockingly.

As LaLa opens the door to leave, Goo-Goo sits sipping his tea and thinking about how to do nothing for his own 60 cark an hour paycheck. The rest of the day for Goo-Goo would be an hour or two of Sudoku, sitting and sipping. While he sat, LaLa labored at the site and fretted about how he was going to get enough money to feed dinner to his kid this evening.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Conversation with Top Boy and his Behemoth Bellow Part I

Top Boy was the jankest superintendent that Nattahnam Construction ever had. He was a bald man of wide girth whom had the urge to set authority and tempo around the construction site. He wore a green safety vest with designer safety glasses and used his shiny company GMC truck for transportation to and from the job-site, and he would Armor-All the truck's tires nightly.

Top Boy had a tendency to use too much peripheral vision while wearing his silvery safety glasses. He spent most of his time on the building pad looking out of a corner of his eye and never looking directly ahead. A reasonable assumption would have been that he looked out of the right corner and then the left corner with both eyes, however, Top Boy had skilled himself over his sixty plus years too look out of both corners simultaneously causing the persons that he was glaring at to ask the question, "What the F---?". Although no one ever saw him do it, many workers swore that he was capable of sending one eye circularly clockwise and the other circularly counter-clockwise, simultaneously. Kind of the same way Daffy Duck's eyes used to do, right after he stepped on a rake and split his jaw with the handle as it flew upward from the ground.

While he had the skill of Daffy in constructing commercial buildings, he had the skill of Donald Trump in surviving competent inspection or Project Manager Supervision. He attacked, then attacked again, then once more he would go at it. The more he could put people who observed and reported about him on the defensive, the less time and energy they had to report on him. Yeah, he was out to remove the agents of accountability, and he was going to succeed in this endeavor.

Before the project had started he had been warn by the Inspector that the demo of the building, which existed on the site before, had not been done correctly by Ack Ack Engineering, Demo & Fried Chicken Stand. Ack Ack was a place where you could get all the fried chicken that you could eat, and all the utility pipes and conduits that you didn't want buried in the ground where your once existed structure stood.

The first thing you do before constructing a building is to run dump truck's up and down to check the soil for suitability. The Inspector chose to do this with an open-ended dump-truck. Top Boy allowed him to do this until it showed unsuitable soils. When unsuitable soils were proven, Top Boy pulled out the rule book and quoted the phrase that only closed-ended dump-trucks be allowed. The Inspector said fine bring the closed-end truck in and we'll run it up and down. There was no truck with this attribute on-site, and Top Boy started berating.

"You needed to let me know in advanced that we would need this type of truck," said Top Boy, "You're causing me delays, who is going to pay for this?"
"An open-ended or a closed-ended truck is pretty much all the same," said the Inspector," Since, you know the rule book, why didn't you have one standing by?"
"It is your job to tell me. It is not my job to anticipate your needs." said Top Boy.
"My needs are satisfied." said the Inspector.
"But that's not what the rule says."said Top Boy.
"Then bring a closed-ended truck." said the Inspector.
"Who is going to pay for this?" said Top Boy
"Don't know, don't care. It is what it is. Have a nice day." said the Inspector.

Top Boy, a sufferer of high-blood pressure that was evident in the fact he did not drink coffee and smoked 3 or 4 cigarettes a day, was now at his full limit of patience.

"F--- you, " he said to the Inspector, " You need to let me know this in a timely fashion."
"Yeah, well my report stands, since we are going by the rule book, a building once stood on unnatural and compacted fill here. The rule book says remove all unnatural fill before constructing the building pad."
" Do you know how much extra dirt that will take?" said Top Boy.
"No, I don't but that is what the rule-book states, also the rule-book states remove all standing water from the pad and around the pad. So scrape that too. Thank you." said the Inspector.
"That's not your f----- call. The water will evaporate and soil will be fine. Can't you see we are at grade?"
"Rules are rules. Kinda the way, you quoted the rule about checking the suitability of soil." said the Inspector.
"Look, this costs time and money." says Top Boy.
"So you pull the rule-book out when you think it might cost you less time and money, and then you want to dispense with it when it costs you time and money. Interesting point." says the Inspector.

Like a dishonest cleric picking passages in order to manipulate the masses, Top Boy was going down a slippery slope into the bowels of abomination. Top Boy was a shacker, the type of superintendent that the inspector was to prevent from going forward. As the inspector wrote him up for these infractions, the inspector was fully aware that Nattahnam Construction was the one whom hired his firm, and he was fully aware that he was required to give latitude, as the company that he was to monitor was also his customer. Unfortunately, military contracts require a inspection company to monitor and report, however, the military is not the inspection company's customer. The builder is in fact the customer, and Top Boy was trying to get as much mileage out of this relationship that he could.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Conversation with JJ

Last week, Bob whom is an employee of XX Engineering was in happy mood as he entered XX's office in Southern Maryland. He'd just come back from his site and updated the branch manager about the problems and happenings with his site.

After finishing with the branch manager, he began to walk through the main corridor, which by the way is the only corridor in the small office that resembles something of an over-sized walk-in closet. As he walked toward the concrete lab and the back parking lot, he heard a shout from the third office on the right side of the corridor.

"Bob," said the project manager named JJ.
"Hey, JJ" said Bob
"Bob, did you bring the mortar samples from your site?"
"No, JJ"
"Why not."
"I was in meetings all morning with the Navy and Nattahnam Construction. You know
chasing down RFIs and submitals."
"That is no excuse, how many mortar samples are left on your site?"
"The one's from yesterday and today."
" I am trying to keep the concrete lab open, so I need you to do a better job of getting
these samples down, here. Do you hear me!"

And with that, Bob exploded. He had never cussed out his boss before, but today he was bent on it. You see Bob makes 14 dollars an hour to perform all the masonry, concrete, rebar, and soils inspection and documentation for the grand total of 56 dollars a day, before taxes and gasoline expense for the vehicle and no benefits. What is even more absurd, is that he does this for the Navy; however, at such a great hourly rate, he does not give a f--- about it now, and JJ's about to grasp the full fury of a man so underpaid that he could care less about being fired, as a job waiting tables pays more money on a weekly basis.

"I heard you JJ, now hear me.""This job does not even feed my kid every other day, let alone daily." "Secondly, you and your office mate, Aftershock, need to knock it off. Because you haven't been able to get an American to perform this job in over a decade, you little F---." And so the blistering cussing went on, only to be interupted in mid-cuss by the owner and president of XX Engineering as he passed by the door on the way to the crapper. "Gentlemen," said the big shot, Luke Henry as he walked toward the rear bathroom.

The word,"Gentleman," was interpreted by Bob as office code for,"Yes, I realize that JJ needs cussing, but this is all that is allowable at this time." So with that one little word, "Gentlemen," Bob came to the same realization that Cervantes' hero had done 150 years prior, which is to say that nothing changes by chasing windmills. With aggravation and frustration setting in, Bob left through the back-door believing that he was still employed and JJ was still to be his immediate superior. An immediate superior who just minutes before was cowering in the corner of his office remarking, between Bob's ranted breaths, the phrase, "No Hitting, No Hitting!"

Friday, March 27, 2009

Lobos, Coyotes, and Panthers

It is 6:15 in the morning, and I pull up to the military base in Maryland. The guard flags me over to the far left lane and puts his hand in the area to tell me to stop. When my vehicle comes to the full stop, I open all four doors on my car and the hood, so it can be search. As I am doing this, I hear everyone behind me doing the same thing in a timpanic barrage. When my vehicle is ready, I go inside the guard house and show the sergeant with the rifle, my badge and my license. He looks at them and gives them back to me. With my license and badge in hand, I move over to the right wall and lean against it. One by one in a single file line, each entering contractor does the same, until their are 75 people in the room.

Each white contractor in the line moves over to where I am standing, while Hispanic contractors are on the lower left wall, and the four black contractors are on the upper right wall. Inter-esting, I thought, people must congregate with there own ethnicity when stress is induced byarmed guards. I think nothing more of it, and when the outside guard yells, "All clear," I run outto my car and close it up in order to drive to my construction site on base. I arrive at 6:35 am, and I am greeted by Todd and Ethan who work for the company in charge of putting the soil in place. They are gringos or lobo-blancos like myself.

Lobos work at my site while the Hispanic coyotes work at another site on base. The coyotes have all access passes, so they never have to have there car search while the lobos are required to go through the base-gate that searches cars. It is kind of odd that this is the order of base entry since lobos have been born and raised in America, and the coyotes have all immigrated to America. Anyway, at the construction site the segregation is inflicted by Diego, the foreman for the soil placement company. He prefers to speak Spanish, and likes to have Spanish-speaking workers around him on his site,however, that makes an awful lot of work for the three lobos at our site, but this is America and that's the way it goes. I am not complaining mind you, I just see this scenario as odd, and very odd for a workplace on a Military Base.

To make this scenario fully absurd, lobos get extra help when a coyote is disciplined for being late or lazy. Diego sends the incorrigible over to the lobo site for punishment. When the coyote comes into lobo territory, he is forced to speak English, which is sometimes beyond his capabilities as Spanish is beyond the lobo capabilities, however, this is not usually a source of conflict because hand-signals, such as pointing, usually suffice.

As you already know about the coyotes and lobos, there is another ethnic group, African-Americans whom are called panthers. They drive the dump-trucks, for some unknown reason all dumptruck drivers on site belong to this ethnic group. They bring soil from thirty miles away and stopped at the same gate that I do in the morning, and like most Americans born and raised here, their trucks are searched and passed through. Usually, they come in the second entrance to the jobsite, swing around and drop their load, then they exit out of the first entrance to pick up another load. About 15 trucks come in at one time, making it very hard for the three lobos to keep track of them.

So, today, the inevitable happens. A dump-truck collision between two panthers occurs on site. One dump-truck runs into the back of another shearing his right, fiberglass fender off causing a halt to the work. The panther that caused the accident has suffered the most damage, and he is mad, so mad that he calls 911. His call from his cell-phone brings the military fire and rescue as well as the military police.

While he is making his call, the lobo, Ethan, calls Diego at the other site and reports the incident. Diego says that he is coming with the coyotes. The coyotes arrive after the military police, and observe that the panthers are huddled around the panther that they believe to be in the right. They, also, see that the lobos are together on the hill, so they nervously wait by the first entrance. While they wait by the entrance, the military police run around doing their investigation with their pistols strapped to their legs, intimidating everyone with such obvious weaponry. As they delve deeper into the investigation, they realise there is only one witness who has seen the entire accident from start to finish, and they know that witness is the lobo named Ethan.

They approach the hill where we are standing, and Ethan becomes nervous as the panthers and coyotes watch. "What do I do," says Ethan to me. "Tell the truth, don't put more in, than necessary." I say to Ethan. "Okay," He says. "Ethan, because you are the only one who has seen what happen, we are in a bad position." I say. "How so," responds Ethan. "On a lobo's testimony, a panther is going to get justice while another panther receives justice." "I don't think that way." Ethan says. "I didn't think that way until today," I say. And with that, Ethan is handed a paper and is informed by the military police as to what is expected from him by the US government. Ethan walks over to his bulldozer sits in it and starts writing about the incident.

Everyone goes back to work except the two truck drivers in the accident, they sit separately and wait for information, and I begin to think as I work. I think to myself, how do normal, progressive human beings become tribal animals when placed into such stressful situations such as work, accidents, and being encountered by armed police. I wonder even-more about whether the humanistic side or the tribalistic side will win out 40 years from now in the country I know as America.