Last night, I went to a Phish concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion. I’d never been to a Phish show before, and frankly, I expected more hippies. You know, older people with weathered skin and tie-died clothes sitting around nodding slowly as the band plays into the 12th minute of a song, the title of which we have all forgotten because they’ve wandered so far from any recognizable melody. But there were fewer hippies than college kids, and many of those appeared to be frat boys.

The lawn before the show and the bros.

If you’re an elitist, classist, pseudo-intellectual like myself, you’ll find that maintaining any semblance of sanity while stooping yourself and short-selling your ideals to toil away on a construction site takes a certain brand of self-preservation instinct. Not only is it important that those you are working with don’t really know who you are, it’s also critical that they are somehow led to believe that you are like them. You don’t want to be the ‘faggot’ on site who no one talks to, or the ‘greener’ who gets delegated the shittiest jobs via back-lot work site conspiracies, or the victimized shmuck who finds his boots full of line chalk and his tool belt in the outhouse every couple of days. Because more important than even surviving your co-workers is surviving your boss, and the only way to do that is to toe the line and become part of the team. You have to be Construction Bro.

If you’ve played sports at any competitive level for any significant length of time without being beaten up by your teammates, this should be no problem; the rules are pretty much the same. If not, better bone up on your sociopathology and start smiling through the lie that is your life. Here’s one man’s method for making it through another day.

RULE # 1:

Use the word “Fuck” incessantly. This is the most important rule on the job site. If you aren’t prepared to use the word “Fuck” for approximately 1/5th of every sentence spoken you’re not going to fit in. You’re encouraged to use other swearwords as wantonly as possible, but make sure their usage is at least doubled by your use of the word “Fuck.”

RULE # 2 (a, b, c, d):

On site you’re allowed to talk about sports, chicks, getting shitfaced, and how good you are at your job compared to how bad everyone else is at their job. Never actually talk about work, unless it’s to discuss the work of one of the other trades and how shitty it is/they are. When discussing sports it’s important to engage in endless debate on predicted outcomes regardless of the unfathomable pointlessness of it all (and do prepare yourself to get skewered for days afterward when ‘your’ team doesn’t win/’your’ player shits the bed/etc). When discussing ‘pussy’ it’s important to frame the opposite sex through the most misogynistic, boorish lens you ever feared your mind was capable of. When discussing getting shitfaced just act like yourself, because you do love getting shitfaced. Remember to adhere to Rule # 1 in all situations.

RULE # 3 (a, b):

If you have a girlfriend, don’t talk about her. Don’t even mention her name. If your crew is especially tasteless, make that ditto for Mom. These two female figures are the best, most effective, and most consistently summoned subjects for worker-to-worker job site harassment. It’s best to pretend they don’t exist. Further, if you do anything after work besides play/watch (regional team sport of choice), lift weights, or get drunk, don’t talk about it either. You may be proud of the volunteer work you do down at the local Sally Ann or your collection of vintage Pyrex, but to the average construction bro that shit is weird. Mention something out of the ordinary and the conversation will drop, unease will start creeping into the back of your mind, and come next week your little hobby will have undergone enough mental processing to come back at you as something worthy of mockery.

RULE # 4:

Whenever necessary, go to work hungover. A ‘necessary’ time to go to work hungover is whenever somebody who you predict you’ll be working closely with the next day announces that they are going out that night to (verb) party. The only alternative to going out and manufacturing a hangover for yourself is to not get drunk, go to work the next day sober, and face a day of dealing with your work bro dragging his ass around, hiding from the boss, fucking up any task he does attempt, and BBM-ing the chick he banged the night before like every 5 minutes. If however you’re both getting dragged behind the shit wagon you can at least laugh along with the dude and watch each others’ backs for an eight hour game of ‘Let’s Make Work Noises In The Basement’ or ‘How Long Can We Make The Easy Job Last?’

RULE # 5:

Avoid spending non-work hours with ‘The Bros’ at all costs. All non-work related activity engaged in will entail nothing more than embarrassment at how disgusting work-bro interaction becomes off of the job site, the suffering of ridicule regarding how tight your pants are, and the spending of way more money than you could ever justify in a bar you fucking hate.

RULE # 6:

Do an ok job. Don’t blow anybody away, but don’t make yourself a liability. As long as you’re not terrible at the work you do and you show up closer to 7:30am than you do to noon every day chances are you’ll be able to get away with things like taking a ‘mental health’ day here or there, fucking things up once in a while, or asking for that raise you were promised. Yeah, sure, you were supposed to get it at three months, and it’s a $2/hour less than what you think you’re worth, but it’s still almost double what your friend is making rolling burritos.

RULE # 7:

Etc., etc., etc., etc.,

RULE # 8:

Never stop believing that one day it has to be over and that ‘real life’ will start for you sometime soon. Once you lose this…

Wait. Maybe losing this is the one torch under your ass you need to get The Fear so bad you actually go out and make something happen for yourself. Because pretending this gig was gonna be ‘mellow’ and ‘temporary’ is what landed you back here in the first place, chief.

(In Part III: The Days After Savage Nobel)

Part I: My Life As A Well-Read Meathead