NFL conference championships are over and the Box salutes Harbaugh West and Harbaugh East. Well done, Harbaugh stakeholders!
We have a couple weeks to kill before Super Bowl Sunday, and I need a column. The Homeless World Cup (national soccer teams made up of homeless athletes), which is prime column material, doesn’t go off until October. Baseball training camps won’t open for another three weeks. The NBA isn’t interesting until the playoffs. The NHL should be sold and moved offshore. I’ll leave Lance for the rest of the media to pick over.
What’s left? Well, there’s Manti Te’o, Notre Dame’s All-American linebacker and his fake girlfriend. A friend suggested a column on fake girlfriends. He knows I worked on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and supposed there must have been a lot of talk among workers about girlfriends and some of those girlfriends must have been fake. And did I have a story about that?
Well, actually, I don’t. Not one. Perhaps because there were 100 men for every woman when the big job kicked off. And even later, when women began to be hired, that ratio might have changed, to be generous, to 100 men for 5 women, but always, the sexual ratio was outrageously out of balance. The extreme imbalance made talking about women and, therefore, sex, unpredictable in its consequence.
Maybe that was it, or maybe not. Who knows? But, in any case, talking about women, girlfriends, wives, daughters, was not done. I hasten to add this was my experience; others will have different views. Still, I did work out of Laborers Local 942 for 15 years, worked the pipeline, worked Prudhoe Bay, the DEW Line, for the City of Barrow, City of Fairbanks, on highway jobs, an Air Force station, hard-dollar residential jobs, jobs from Juneau to Valdez to Anchorage to Fairbanks to the Arctic Ocean, and once on a barge in the Beaufort Sea. I’ve never heard talk, be it in break rooms, dining halls, on work buses, at night in construction camps or hotel rooms, over a bottle of whiskey or a glass of tea, about girlfriends, much less fake girlfriends.
It was against the code. There is, of course, a code. Every vocation has one. Follows is the Building & Construction Trades Code, Arctic Circuit:
- Don’t talk about your women.
- Don’t ever complain about a hangover. You were the one who got drunk. Go to work, grind it out, keep your mouth shut.
- Work friends are work friends, not friend friends.
- Show up on time. This, by the way, is more important than doing a good job.
- Don’t use three syllable words.
- Don’t put college and I in the same sentence.
- Every job has an end.
- Don’t be afraid of your job. If you get laid-off you get laid-off.
- Sooner or later everybody gets laid-off.
- Always be aware of what’s around you. People are going to get hurt on construction jobs, some badly. If it’s a freak event, you’re screwed, bad joss. But, if it’s not, if it’s something you could have seen coming, getting hurt is stupid.
- Know when a job is too dangerous and step back. Health and safety enforcement differ from job to job. I worked a job where men had to jump from a seagoing barge onto the deck of a pilot boat in order to go to work. Repeat in reverse at end of shift. This was in high seas on the Arctic Ocean. The sea temperature is 29 degrees, which means if you fall into the water you’ll lose dexterity in less than 2 minutes and be unconscious in less than 15. At the top of every swell the pilot boat SLAMS into the barge. A leg or arm or body caught in between is crushed. Sixty-year-old, pot-bellied, alcoholic crane operators and sleep-deprived diesel mechanics slip-slide on an icy deck and bounce from barge to boat. A construction company might ask you to do any damn thing; it’s up to you to say no.
- You’re on your own. The fairness and justice line forms in the rear of the unemployment office.
- Re: payday. Always make sure your check is right. First thing.
- Relationships change constantly. Because most jobs run 8 to 16 weeks, normal political dynamics are compressed. A situation that can take months to bloom in a sunny San Diego office takes days on a job site. Back-stabbing, temporary alliances, betrayals, promotions, demotions, side deals, old boss out, new boss in, occur as they do in the rest of the world, but on an amphetamine time schedule. Don’t try to keep up.