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.

1 comment:

  1. Love the opening three paragraphs. Very well written.

    It's always an advantage if you have a degree of knowledge in what you're writing about.

    As they say, write about what you know or what you love. Easily said than done. In your case, it shines through.

    Keep at it. Good stuff.