Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Disregard and Disrespect - A Rant on the Construction Industry

I just want to go to work and make a living. I don't want to be socially connected with the people I work with. I don't need their friendship or kinship, just a basic human respect that all sentient beings should be granted on this planet. Granted, that respect, in my mind, should be earned. Either by action or by reputation. I have been working in the construction trucking industry for over 25 years. I go to work, do a good job - the best I can - and deliver a service that is (I am told by my customers) top notch. I do not cry and whine about minor infractions to the laws of common sense. I make a fuss or comment when the condition of the job is creating a detrimental or dangerous situation for me or my equipment. I expect that common sense should prevail and the condition be corrected to some level of satisfaction taking into consideration the layout of the project. Some things can't be fixed. I know this. But then, some things are easily fixed with a little time (of which many contractors don't wish to invest) and effort.
Case in point, my day yesterday. Background: many of you know that I was stupid enough to trip on a combination of items in the dark last week and twist my ankle. The doctor said it was a strain, put it in a boot and said when I could walk on it, go back to work. Now sympathy is not something with which I am familiar. My dad always told us kids if we wanted it, to look it up in the dictionary (sorry 'bout this language folks but it's a direct quote) "between shit and syphilis" ... That's my life. My husband is not far from my dad on this issue.
Back to the story... I go to work - light duty - stay in the truck. The hardest thing I have to do is get in the truck. I can handle that. But getting out and walking on a job site of muddy clumpy dirt is somewhat beyond my capabilities and comfort level. I can do it, but it hurts. Ok... so, stay in the truck.
The job is a pipeline project adjacent to the waste water treatment plant (that's poop plant) in San Leandro. I am on time, ready to start at the location. The haul road upon which we are required to get to the excavator is extremely rough. Not because it has to be, but because the contractor does not feel it important enough to fix it. I proceed as slowly as possible to the loading area. I am watching the operator holding the bucket of the excavator higher than necessary and dropping large buckets of bay mud (thick, clay type clumps) into the truck in front of me. The truck has to have everything inside the cab, including the driver, bouncing around like a ping pong ball when the material hits his bed. I am instantly on alert as to what this job will mean to my equipment, my ailing ankle, my sanity to this day. As he pushes the mud into the truck that he has partially spilled to it's sideboards I see air under the right side rear tires. More alarm bells go off in my head.
My turn, as I approach the operator I give him the "slow down, easy on the truck" sign with my hands. In my uninjured state, I would have gotten out and had a conversation with the operator. That wasn't going to happen and may have been the biggest mistake of the day. Creating a dialog with the contractor on a job like this is paramount to making it through the day. Despite how the conversation results, at least you have started the string with "don't damage my truck" and are in a defensive pose.
The "operator" laughed at me and shook his head... not a nod (yes) but a shake sideways (no friggin way) and I was immediately aware of the sucky possibilities of this day.
The first load was executed by another operator as the guy laughing at me was only sitting in for him. No problem. Off to dump.. the returning road is rough and getting rougher. I am coping but it still had the hackles up on the back of my neck.
Fast forward, seven loads later... I am watching the truck in front of me almost tipped to the side sitting on uneven loading area getting this bay mud loaded to the top of his cab. As he backs up to drive out, I again see air under one side of his truck. At this point I had a non-verbal conversation with another operator in a loader just hanging around watching and occasionally putting rock into the ditch over the pipe they were laying. I pleaded with him to fill in the hole which made the loading site uneven and he again, laughed. I am so glad they had comic relief in my attending their cluster****,,,,
I had at this point decided I did not have to stay and take the abuse on both my equipment - which had as of now, 2 broken side boards and a bent cover to my roll tarp from the excavator and the bay mud - and told them I was signing out. Unfortunately for me, it was not in the cards. Both my broker and the contractor threatened me with back charges if I left before another truck could take my place. Again, much to the merriment of the crew... I stayed on for the day. As the day progressed, I trudged through the mishandled project.
The end finally came. I was sitting away from the group of men working near the excavator. One of them walked over to the back of my truck, got my attention, and gave me the "sign out" signal. Then he walked away. I had gotten out at one point earlier in the day to move some debris from the front of my truck and everyone was watching me. They could not have missed the big black boot on my foot and the fact that my gait had a definite limp. I sat there waiting for someone to come over to sign my tag.... no one.
This is where the biggest perversity of the day began. I had to get out with my paperwork, walk around my truck to the trench where the operator and 4 of the employees of the contractor stood. Seemingly looking at the hole, and sniggering as I approached. "Suck it up" I told myself. I asked more politely than I felt, who signed the tag. The operator told me the guy with the black hard hat. He was in front of me not 10 feet away. This man said he would not sign my tag and that the boss had to do it. "Where is he?" "Up there next to the pickup" .... This "boss" would not look up from the papers he was looking at and would not respond to my request to come down to sign my tag.
If ANY of these men had missed that I had an injury previously, it was obvious now. They were looking at me holding back laughter. I had to climb a 2' berm from the muddy cut in which I was standing to get over to the "boss." He signed my tag, I made a disparaging remark - I am LIVID at this point - tore off his copy and turned to climb back down into the mud to return to my truck. On the way down the berm, I caught my stupid boot (the one the doctor put my injured ankle into) and just caught myself from landing face first into the track of the excavator. I can't be certain, as I was at this point shaking, mad, hurting and crying inside but I think the laughter was baleful as I hitched myself back up and limped back to my truck.
Note to self:
If you think the job's going to suck the minute you get there, find an excuse (ie: air leak, flat tire, my period just started) to get the HELL OUT!
Note to RGW: I am filing a formal complaint against your workers. Bite me!

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