Part B: Podcast Episode #16: Thinking Back To When We Used To Booze It Up On The Jobsite

Hello Everyone!

I have to break this topic up into Part A & B since it is longer than the 30 min max for the audio recording on Anchor. This is Part B of the discussion. When finished head over to Part A next if you missed the first half of the discussion.

*UPDATE- I just released this as my very first Kindle Vella story on Amazon. Future stories will be sampled on the blog and fully released either for the podcast or Kindle Vella.*

PART B:

I always figured that I would work with the tools.  When I was younger, I had zero aspirations to get into management.  I had figured that I would just be one of the guys until my retirement.  I wanted to go to work, take pride in the creation, talk trash amongst my co-workers, poke fun at stuff, hit the bar for lunch, and last on a project as long as possible until the layoffs come.  Life works in mysterious ways.  I believe I changed my mind shortly after the 2008 recession and went back to college for my Business degree in 2009.  The huge blocks of no work really frustrated the hell out of me.  I then started to panic about the “sky falling” so to speak.  What if New York construction jobs never come back?  When you run out of unemployment, savings, and union funds, that is when the real fear set in for me!!  How the hell am I going to take care of my family!?!  It was during this recession, that made me feel like I had a very limited skill set.  I envisioned a bunch of electricians fighting over ceiling fan jobs.  There are only so many side hustles out there.  I really felt backed into a corner, like a rat in a maze, so I opted to go for more training.  I never wanted to ever feel like that ever again during bad economic times in the future.  Somewhere along the way while in night college, I decided to work towards becoming a project manager.  As a result of huge blocks of no work, I ended up really taking a leap of faith and trying out management.  I cannot even articulate into words the level of fear I had when I made that leap six weeks after leaving the tools.  My last day with the tools was March 7, 2014.  I had many thoughts racing through my mind.  What if I fail?  What if I make a mistake?  I am so nervous about the lack of available work, my sons most certainly are aware of my fear. Despite my fear, I took the leap and it worked out so far.

I landed in management for some very large electrical contractors for quite a few years.  I now work for a smaller yet growing woman owned electrical contractor.  In the past year, I have now shifted my focus into safety.  There has been a lot of elbow grease studying for the past 18-months.  My first exam was the Certified Health Safety Technician (CHST), then Associate Safety Professional (ASP), next was the Certified Safety Professional (CSP).  I just passed the New York City Site Safety Manager exam in February.  I was having to rigorously study NYC Building Code in order to pass the last exam.  The choice to evolve and continue gaining more training is something that I would have never anticipated back when I worked with the tools.  My mindset has also shifted along with my training.  I no longer think that boozing on the job is acceptable.  If I come across someone who is drunk, I will be forced to ask them to go home.  It is somewhat humorous that I evolved from a typical construction worker who drank at lunch to being the person monitoring people as well as looking out for the health and welfare of the entire project.  As a woman who has started out as an apprentice, I have seemed to earn the respect of the fellas on the job.  As I have gotten older, I see that there are more and more women in management roles.  I admit that this is something that is foreign to me.  I am not there to hurt anyone’s livelihood.  I see myself as more of a person who is looking out for the interests and safety of people on the job.  The goal is for everyone to go home to their family in the same condition each day that they showed up.

Years later, I was talking about the whole drinking on the job antics and ways of being back as an apprentice.  Sometimes, a group of us will share old job stories.  The younger people are wide eyed and cannot believe that an entire crew was drunk by the afternoon.  Anyone who is drinking on a job today must be rather discreet.  When times are tough, you must try to walk the line and not get into trouble.  I was talking to a co-worker who has always been in management.  He doesn’t get the culture at all.  Only a fellow field person turned management would have understood the job culture from over 25-years ago.  The guy was absolutely perplexed and asked me why I didn’t snitch?  I started with explaining about how the jobsite culture was, back in the 1990’s.  The unspoken rule was you didn’t have to get up from the bar stool until your foreman did.  They didn’t want you to “spook the herd”, so to speak.  Once he got up, his entire crew got up and followed suit.  I remember one jobsite, where there was a hidden liquor cabinet.  The crew would go for a refill.  On one job, we were stuck working in a ridiculously hot space.  We had this cold gel filled handkerchief we used to freeze and put around our necks throughout the day.  The job water container was filled with ice, vodka, and Sprite for the crew.  Being a little tipsy, was the best way to handle working in this greenhouse structure in the summer.  It was enclosed with all glass and didn’t get have the air conditioning hooked up.  We used to hit each other, on occasion, with either a Super Soaker toy gun or the water pump used to put water in with a coring machine.  The coring machine is a tool we use to bore holes in walls or decks.  Once a hole is penetrated, we would be able to continue our conduit run to the intended destination.

Electricians were not the only trade who drank.  Pretty much each trade was a heavy hitter with the booze.  I am sure the booze served as a means to tolerate rough jobsite conditions.  It always felt like it was very cold or super-hot and humid on the job.  The fall and spring times felt very short with moderate temperatures when working outside.  My crew was working on PVC in a trench and would go hit Applebee’s for lunch.  Once we were boozed up, the rest of the day didn’t feel so dreadful in a hot and dirty trench.  The downside after drinking at lunch was feeling absolutely tired a few hours after it wore off.  Years later, I think about all of the times where you should be looking for and avoiding hazards.  However, that wasn’t the objective.  The goal was to finish the work day and go home.  If I was in the middle of partaking with the rest of the crew, how the hell could I snitch?  The person who joins in then drops a dime would become an outcast on the jobsite.  People would avoid them socially like the plague.  Not to mention, I am reminded that I am a female.  I was a woman on the job trying to blend in with the crew.  The last thing I wanted was my name being known as the, “job site snitch”.  I was not willing to make my life harder than it already was.  Besides, I am a pretty loyal person by nature.  That was never an option when I worked with the tools. 

Now that my son followed me into construction, I worry about him picking up the same habits.  I would be hypocrite to tell him to not do something I did many times over the years.  I am glad that the culture has shifted to where hitting the bar is after work.  I know on his first job as an apprentice, he landed on a project with some notorious guys who love the bar.  He would join in for the social bonding at the bar.  He lands on later jobs and the crew has a way different vibe.  I guess it is good he gets to experience different environments.  One has to be careful with the habit to booze it up since it can age the hell out of you.  I am glad that I joined in on some moments of fun then dialed it back.  I opted to drink a bunch of water and hit the gym, after work for many years, as my habit.  I now avoid the gym, due to my back issues, and do nightly walks instead.  You can pick out who the people are on the job that always smoke and drink vs the health nuts.  The personalities of people in a crew run the gamut.  I have often said when you pick out any crew, each person can be identified as a self-proclaimed expert in different disciplines.  Electricians like to read and have a hunger for knowledge.  The average electrician is very smart but they are not cut out for the cookie cutter cubicle life.  Many guys have a rebellious streak in them that makes construction work a viable choice.  I know a few known drug dealers in the trade as well.  There is one we nicknamed “The Sprinkler” because of his antics on the jobsite.  I will discuss him in a different podcast episode.  I did talk about him briefly in the four Apprentice Life episodes with my sons recently.

I am sure that for each story I remember, there are some stories that I forgot.  I plan to have a few co-workers on my podcast to discuss some jobsite stories.  There is one buddy in particular, who is so damn funny and shares my brand of humor.  I first met him as a first-year apprentice and I was the OSHA instructor for a college course.  We met up later on a jobsite and we’re cutting it up with our back-and-forth banter.  I have another funny friend Mike, he is like a brother to me, who we both went through our apprenticeship around the same time.  I need to get him on for a podcast episode.  I would hang out on a street, in a town with a bunch of bars with Mike and others.  I would joke with him to give me his driver’s license so I know he would swing by again.  He did hand it to me, I held onto it, and he would come back later to chill  My eldest son Tom would be absolutely humored by our transaction.  Mike happened to be on my son’s first jobsite.  I go to the Yardhouse, which is a restaurant & bar, with my son for my birthday and Tom’s crew would be there.  Mike and I saw each other and hugged it out for the longest.  Tom would ask, “how we know each other?”  We would say that we “grew up” together in this business.  I have made a bunch of lifelong pals in this business while socializing at the bar.  If I could go back, I probably would not change a thing.  Well, maybe I would change my personal struggle a bit.  Maybe I would have connected with a good person back then, I would not have suffered so much.  Then again, a struggle builds character. 

I am sure I can go on about funny jobsite stories.  However, you have had enough of this dosage- for now!  Let me know if you have some similar stories to share?  What do you think about the old culture of drinking on the job?  Would you participate, if you had the chance?  Let me know why you don’t like it, if that applies.  Do you have a topic suggestion for me?  If so, leave it on my website and I will consider it and work to produce some content.  As always, I thank you for choosing to carve out your free time and spend it on my work.  For the mothers out there, I hope you have a great weekend.  I hope your family comes up with something thoughtful and doesn’t force you to cook on Sunday.  Have a good day and try to enjoy the sunshine wherever you are in the globe! By for now!

Cheers!

Leslie M. Jasper

-Author & Host of the #VerballyDisastrous podcast now alive on many platforms that include: Acast, Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Castbox, Deezer, Google Podcasts, I Heart Radio, Listen Notes, Overcast, Player FM, Pocket Casts, Pod Bean, Podchaser, Podcast Addict, Podcast Gang, Radio Public, Soundcloud, Soundtrap, Spotify, Stitcher, Tune In, and YouTube.

-The Audio Blog: Verbally Disastrous Podcast & Construction Tales Blog. Now available on: Acast, Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Castbox, Deezer, Google Podcasts, I Heart Radio, Listen Notes, Overcast, Player FM, Pocket Casts, Pod Bean, Podchaser, Podcast Addict, Podcast Gang, Radio Public, Soundcloud, Spotify, Stitcher, and Tune In.

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