June 28, 2010
I got fired for the first time in my life sometime in the past two weeks. I say ‘sometime’ because my boss never actually picked up my phone calls or let me know what was going on beyond a single text that said, “no work,” sent at 6:15 on the Tuesday morning after I returned home from a week being out of town. I finally got a letter of dismissal in the mail the other day. Classy.
Preceding the text and nicely worded letter, what happened was this:
I was offered a last-minute opportunity to go to Calgary for a week in early May to do some writing/photography/filmography with a notable group of Canadian athletes, and I jumped at it.
At the job site I had been working on, me and the other dudes were basically being rented out by another project manager and were working under his supervision; my ‘real boss’ had nothing to do with the site besides showing up every few weeks to collect the absurd amount of money he was getting paid to do absolutely nothing.*
So, because I had only seen my ‘real boss’ like twice in the last month and a half of working – and because he’s an impossible-to-talk-to, bi-polar, hyper-aggressive heart attack candidate whose mental development arrested at the exact moment of a playground shoving match that took place when he was 12 – I wasn’t in a huge hurry to get him on the phone. I got around to calling him some 18 hours before I was to get on the plane and left a message saying I would be leaving.
I know that seems like a pretty obvious move of insubordination on my part, but to be fair when I called him it was only like 18 hours after I had found out I was to be getting on the plane in the first place. I had immediately let the project manager –- the guy whom I saw at work every day and who was responsible for what was going on on site –- know what I was up to though, and he had no problems with me leaving. And that to me seemed ‘good enough.’
So (again), the short notice to my ‘real boss,’ by itself…I mean, company protocol states an employee is supposed to ask at least 24 hours in advance before taking time off, and I failed to do that. But if we’re going to get into ‘company protocol’ here, how about this; on my last day on the job two dudes weren’t wearing steel-toed boots, three of us were working with our shirts off, no one wore ear or eye protection the entire day, and there wasn’t even one hard hat on the whole site. Fuck company protocol; that shit is illegal, and I don’t think I’m splitting hairs to point out that there might be some incongruities in enforcing co. stipulations going on at K___ Construction.
Anyhow. I went on my trip, did some good stuff, perhaps furthered the ‘career’ I ostensibly went to school for, got paid, and came back home to radio silence.
And, financial uncertainties aside, it’s been a sweet couple of weeks.
But I guess I hurt boss man’s feelings. Or undermined his authority. Or maybe I was doing a shitty job…although, if that was the case, I don’t really see how it could have gotten me canned, seeing as how he was never around long enough to check up on anything we were actually doing.
So (once more), I got fired sometime in the last two weeks for some vaguely justifiable reason (I guess), but I didn’t find out until yesterday. Two separate dudes who I worked with called to sort of gently let me know that they had heard through the grapevine that I was ‘done.’ With both of them I chatted for a few minutes, planned to meet up for a beer sometime soon, and said, “Thanks for calling. Take it easy, bro.” One of them offered to go pick my last paycheck up for me on Friday and drop it off at my place.
After I got off the phone and left the diner and got back on my bike and got home I reread the previously posted ‘Jobsite Survival Guide’ and felt that I wasn’t sure if I should have published it. I didn’t think it was as funny as I thought it was when I was writing it – actually, I felt like it was maybe kind of mean-spirited, and a simultaneous oversimplification/exaggeration of my blue-collar life for the sake of entertainment. I had written it after a shitty day of work in some kind of snickering rage, and re-reading it now I wonder if it doesn’t sort of stink of that.
But those rules I outlined aren’t all bullshit. In fact, from the perspective I (and my non-philistine hammer-swinging friends) most often look from, they’re all true almost all of the time. But – and this ‘But’ might just be the two weeks of unemployed hedonistic joy mellowing my roll here – BUT, from the ‘noble’ side of this Savage Nobel (yeah yeah, sic) exploration, it is kind of bullshit that I wrote the piece.
See, I like ‘The Bros.’ I like hanging out with ‘The Bros.’ I like being one of ‘The Bros.’ ‘The Bros’ are solid and predictable and when I’m around them all the hyper-self-conscious, future-fearing, narcissi-nihilist paralytic paranoia in my life sort of sometimes disappears. Sometimes I even enjoy myself, being on site, hamming nails and shooting the shit with ‘The Bros.’ And I’ve realized that if any of ‘The Bros’ were to read the stuff I’ve written (not likely) and got bummed about it/me, I’d be bummed too.
And on top of/in conjunction with all this I’ve realized despite the fact I hated what I was doing for work, I kind of liked it, too.
Now I know there’s all sorts of shit that could read into this, the seeming incongruities between the things I’ve written about construction in this miserable little series vs. the reality of me actually enjoying the act of building stuff out of wood. I think someone could probably make a pretty strong case that my white, upper-middleclass sense of entitlement is the real root of the problems I have working on a jobsite, and that I’d be a subversive, anti-authoritative, malaise-mongering little shit in any job scenario I could conceivably be found in (besides like a respected-author-avec-movie-deal-happily-enjoying-creative-control type of situation).
And I wouldn’t really argue with them. The only real habits I have are my vices and a militant dedication to being non-committal. If I can’t conceive of myself being able to bail out around the six-month mark, I don’t want to be part of anything. And as soon as whatever responsibilities I find myself, uh, responsible for start closing in like the walls I start looking for a way to smash out. Or at least throw a wrench in the gears.
(Yes, I’m single.)
But I’m pretty aware of all this. I’m pretty aware of most of my flaws. And for right now I don’t work a construction job anymore and I’m happy about that. And yeah, I’m writing more. And I’m even getting paid for some of it. No, it’s not fiction, but it is storytelling of some recognizable form and I feel positively about that. But no, I’m not writing as much as I would have led you to believe I might, back in Part I when I was all indignant and repressed and ready to really start banging it out like a fucking hellion. Maybe I’ll start tomorrow.
If anyone wants me, I’ll be down at the bar.
*For those who don’t know, construction workers are generally charged out at double the rate they get paid, with the rest going into the boss man’s pocket. My boss, I think, was charging his own fees on top of that. The dollar figure he was pulling down per day to not be anywhere near site and not have anything to do with what was going on was disgusting.