Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tool Chest

I understand mechanical things-to a degree. I understand hydraulics, line speed and pull and how to utilize mechanical forces. I understand foot-pounds and torque- real foot-pounds and torque-not the pissy little stuff motor heads dream about. Applying theoretical outcomes to situations involving smacking object A with large steel object B and timing the moment of panic and running away are part of my repertoire. These are the tools in my tool chest.

If I was a period in time I would have to place myself between the first air breathing slug and the last dinosaur to say, “Ooh! Look at the pretty meteorite!” Extinction for people like me is imminent but we’re a stupid type of person and we will continue our hunch backed, club dragging march to the top of the active volcano.

Understanding technology is not easy for me. I can use a computer and I am thankful for Excel and online porn and all but other than just making the computer make whirring sounds and typing I am at a loss. I don’t ‘install’ things and I pee my pants when an error message pops up. IT was created for people like me. My incompetence with computers supports the employment of people I used to make fun of.

To assure you of how computer ignorant I am, the other day I walked into a video store to return a movie that would not work in our Blu-ray contraption. Video stores are places that rent DVD’s and Blu-ray to people who don’t ‘stream’, ‘pirate’ or ‘download’. Prior to DVD’s and Blu-ray these physical location stores used to rent videotapes of movies on VHS tapes and for a while on Betamax tapes. It was necessary to actually travel to these places and physically take the movie from the store, return home, start the family VHS player by lighting a small fire underneath the hamster powered ‘electricity generator doohickey’, place the tape in the player, hit the play button by walking up to the machine and physically touching and engaging a ‘Play’ button that was usually the size of a Winnebago, sitting down and watching the movie.
So there I stand mumbling through why I was returning the disc to a kid not even half my age. He was a very nice guy. He explained to me that I may need to blah blah blah recognize the device yadda yadda yadda download and upgrade I like blueberry jam so our BluRay player would perform properly at the Copacabana and it is very simple. I have not, in a very long time, wanted to smash a guy’s face in. I really did want to at that moment. “Can I trade the BluRay for a DVD?” I mumbled. ‘Sure but the quality of the DVD compared to I’m a little teapot short and I know you will enjoy this much more on BluRay!’ Remember the scene from Fight Club where Edward Norton pummels the handsome blond dude’s face to the point where he looked like Sloth from Goonies? That was what I wanted to happen to this poor, nice, helpful soul. The look of desperation in my eyes must have finally caught the kid’s attention. He apologized profusely as he handed me the DVD version of the movie and offered me a lollipop and a hug.

A few weeks earlier my nine year old nephew was over and wanted to play PS3. I had trouble switching the thing that makes the PS3 work thru the DVD player. Noticeably frustrated by my lack of knowledge he asked me, “Are you routing an HDMI input from the PS3 to the receiver?” You’re NINE! A) How do you know this? B) I think I’m glad that you are a smart kid.  C) Shut up!  Roughly five seconds after my fifteen minute attempt to get the thing running he got it to work and started a conversation about pixels and picture quality. I ate my breakfast in the garage surrounded by wrenches and power tools. My happy place just wasn’t cutting it that morning so I started a list in my head – Them vs. Me. The results to date although not surprising- have not made me feel very good.

      THEM                                                                               ME
     Young                                                                                 Not
   Clean Cut                                                      Haggard and frightening to small children
   Good Hand-Eye Coordination                       Thankful my hands and eyes still function
   Like School and Learning                  Made teachers very happy when I finally graduated
   Social and friendly                                                        Alcohol required
   Computer literate                                           I can make little rocks out of big rocks

You’d be correct in assuming that list is longer and not in my favour. As I sat in my cave rhythmically tapping to two stones together and scratching myself at undisclosed locations due to bearskin chafing my bare skin, I pondered the future for myself and the kids. Then I had a sandwich.

One major thing divides my generation from the up and comers, patience. I had patience, the lesson of learning and being patient, rammed into my skull as a kid. I am impatient about a lot of things but I know under the right circumstances, patience will pay off most of the time. Especially when the worm turns and you can cram a valuable lesson and invoice up someone or some company’s keester.

In my business you used to start in the trenches making crappy pay, acquire skills and work your way up to less crappy pay and some job security. It was common knowledge that until you had skills and moved up the company ladder you were a cost to the company. The company took you on to train you-at the company’s cost- with the hope that you MIGHT be a productive profitable asset in the future.

Now I get kids who went to Training School to operate heavy equipment who think they just hit the lottery and now just have to sit in the shovel for the rest of their lives. They aren’t taught maintenance, most of them don’t know what a grease gun looks like and some of them get down right indignant when you ask them to clean the tracks of a machine they just buried in the mud. Add to this the fact that most of them do not have field experience. My industry has decided that if I accept a person like this, just out of school, he or she is worth full union rate for that position even though he or she is going to destroy my equipment and not be productive enough. It isn’t right, or maybe I’m just mad that I didn’t grow up at this time. I spent years with a hand shovel throwing gravel fill in behind sheet pile walls. I had thick callouses on my hands to the point that I never wore gloves when I was cutting steel with a torch. It wasn’t about being ‘tough’ it was just the way it was. The only callouses I see now on the next generation is on their disjointed thumbs. Off in their dream world playing video games. They seem to want it all-now-without earning it by learning it. Simple truth- a company will invest time and money into inexperienced person IF that person does not cost the same as an experienced person. They need to apprentice at a lower rate. Companies don’t want to and won’t hire people who can’t produce if they can hire an experienced person who will produce.

‘It’s much more difficult for young people nowadays!’  Bullshit. Trying to pay rent for a piece of crap house, buy groceries and have enough money to take your girlfriend to a movie working for $12.00 an hour was what most of us went through in the late eighties and early nineties. We didn’t have cable or satellite television and  ‘stream’ involved water, fishing, swimming or hiding evidence and ‘download’ was a bad bathroom joke. We got yelled at during work and some of us got a swipe in the back of the head once in a while when we weren’t doing our job or we were being stupid and unsafe. Guys who worked on cars did the work themselves. They didn’t put disco lights, tv monitors and stainless steel exhaust systems worth thousands and thousands of dollars on cars worth five hundred bucks. We had one tv in the house. Two maybe three phones in the house and cell phones, you know the old bag phones that resembled and weighed as much as a cinder block were ‘high fallootin’ gadgets. We sat and had dinner as a family- every night. I believe this was done simply so we were within arms reach of dad while mom, with disgust in her eyes, told everyone that one, (possibly three) of our teachers had called her that night and told her what chaos we had caused in the classroom that day and how unacceptable our behaviour was and how it looked bad to the rest of society. Also note that this was a period in time that teachers would drag- not metaphorically- actually drag you out into the hall and knock you around if you were being a shit. I remember pleading with a few teachers not to call my dad. Anything the teacher could do to me was better than dad and the growly voice of justice.

There is no glass tower for me. I’m too busy to put myself in that position and I don’t do windows. I see and hear about kids not finding work out of university, low pay and horrible hours. Get over it. We did it. They’ll live. Cut the cord.
Kids today know about electronics and gigs and megs and how flush toilets operate. I hope that this continues and there is a market for these skills. It bothers me that advancement through academic learning seems to be the only thing we want from kids now. Some of you may have but not want to admit that your child, well, isn’t very good in school. This shouldn’t bother you. It should motivate you. Find out what your child would be good at. Maybe he or she would be a good crane operator, dozer operator or directional drill operator. These are skills that are needed in Canada. The pay is good and they will get to meet and work with some of the most interesting lunatics in the country. University isn’t for everyone and going to university doesn’t guarantee you a good job. I find it funny that if asked what type of schooling I have, most people look shocked when I tell them I graduated from Michigan State University. I’m a bum. I don’t shave everyday, I wear jeans and work boots everywhere- basically I do summon the vision of a person who was chief window licker on the very short bus. I get to play with large Tonka toys and every day the scenery changes. It’s hot in the summer and bone chilling cold in the winter and I would have it no other way.

Turn off the television! IF you watch the news and believe everything the media says, I’m sure you know that there is a pedophile, a serial killer, a meth lab and terrorist cell all within a one-block radius of your home. It has to be true. They can’t lie or skew facts on the news! Let your kids outside. Let them fall of their bikes or out of a tree. At the rate we’re going everyone is going to be Elmer’s Glue pasty white and have to wear welding goggles outside so their retinas don’t melt if we keep sheltering them so much. Let them fail. Help them back up when they do. Let teachers discipline them when it’s appropriate without fear of parents taking their kids’ side without hearing what happened. Publicly embarrass them when they are rude and pat them on the back when they are courteous without being told. Don’t do their homework for them. Teach them that they need to accomplish goals by themselves. The only good teams are sports teams. Other than that, teams, committees and panels are the tools of Tools. People who can’t accomplish anything like “teams” and “committees”. It’s a simple way to confuse an issue and avoid real work. We have to work together- BUT- we must advance. Kids need to know this. So far my method of yelling and sarcasm has not paid dividends on teaching our youth. I am not the right person for this type of job. I am a dinosaur after all.                                                    


Seattle Forge said...

Do you want to adopt Henry? I think he needs a bit of old Essex County.

Brooks said...

Henry's a good kid. A little to skinny for slave labour though. Does he have both his kidneys?