I have worked construction in the winter and I have worked on a farm in the summer. I understand the reality of a real-world workplace and I always thought that having an “office job” would be better. I’ll leave the tasks and taskmasters aside for now. Besides, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I think you know that I like my boss and I generally enjoy my chosen profession. But working conditions? I’m not sure inside is always better.
Let’s start with the temperature – No, it’s not 15° like it was when I took the upper picture and it’s not snowing as it was when I was finishing up my roof but a “temperature-controlled” building is not always a comfortable place to work. The temperature is not under your control. The building management team takes care of that from a remote location. Complaining to the building manager is about as likely to get results as complaining to one of my old construction bosses. He refused to run the heat in the truck in the morning, saying:
“I’d rather you get used to the cold on the way to the job. That way, when we get there, you will be ready to work.”
In our building though, unlike on a job site, I can’t really dress for the cold – no Carhartt™ vests allowed. Then again, there are some women who spend a large portion of the year swathed in blankets.
Trash – Regardless of where I’ve worked, trash has always been an issue. One of the entry-level jobs I had at a machine shop was spinning and disposing of chips. “Chips” were the tangled, razor-sharp byproducts of the drilling and cutting operations. Spinning (in a centrifuge) was done to recover the cutting oil used in those operations. Disposing was done with a pitchfork into a special dumpster. I don’t have a dumpster at work today but I frequently have boxes and packing material, not to mention old equipment to get rid of. Not having a dumpster (the building has one, but it’s locked) at work means that oftentimes, the stuff that I put in my trashcan today will still be there tomorrow. I have been known to bring trash home with me just to make life easier.
Access – I think the only job I ever had that didn’t involve some type of entry process was when I owned a cabinet shop. The entry process was as simple as opening the door. Construction jobs required waiting for someone to open a gate, unlock a trailer and turn on the power or some such task. Most of the office buildings I’ve worked in have controlled access with either an electronic system or an armed guard. Most of the other jobs I’ve had required waiting for someone else to show up with a key. That’s fine, unless that someone is you. Where I work today, we control access to our space, but not to the building. I can give someone a temporary ID for our security system, but someone has to go in early, stay late or go in on weekends to let him into the building. When the guy from AT&T called to say “I’ll be over in 45 minutes to fix that switch” I had to say “well, let me see if I can find the building manager because I can’t let you into the phone room.”
Neighbors and other trades – One of the large jobs I did when I had my cabinet shop was a total kitchen remodel for a very nice couple. They chose me for the job because I agreed to manage the other trades. Unfortunately, the plumber had to reschedule but the electrician didn’t. The electrician ran power to the dishwasher location and a day later, the plumber melted that wire while soldering the water supply line. I had to pay for that repair. When we moved out of our previous building, we were required to remove all of our network cabling. Two guys with ginormous shears cut the bundles of wire that were neatly tucked away above the ceiling tiles. Unfortunately, the people who wired-up the circuits so the building management could control the HVAC remotely had tied their cables to ours. We got the bill for that repair and I turned it over to our lawyers.
Those facilities – I worked construction before the porta-potty industry matured so the facilities were any private spot for the upright call of nature and the gas station down the street for the rest. When I worked in a machine shop, the resident facilities were about as good as the gas station. When I had my cabinet shop, the restroom was pretty clean but I was the one who cleaned it. That’s how you can tell who owns a small business, look for the guy with the toilet brush. Most office jobs have been better in this regard, but we had a company on our floor for a couple of years whose employees were so disgusting that our men’s room looked like it belonged at a high school football game. I’d rather pee at the corner gas station.
I’m sure the stuff in this little rant can be filed under “first world problems.” I’m good with that. I stay close enough to construction through the various home improvement projects I’ve started and the few that I’ve finished. That means that every now and then I get to have a dumpster. On most days, I like my job except when I can still see the full moon high in the sky from my office window.