Tag Archives: working

Big crane operator

I hadn’t been on the job for very long, a few months maybe, and yet it was all I could think about, operating the big crane. I knew it was going to be one of those things where I’d have to start at the bottom, making all of the coffee runs, taking shit from all of the old-timers. But still, I asked on the second day, I tried to make it like I wasn’t interested, “So,” I said to one of other guys, “when do you get to work the heavy machinery?” pointing to the crane.


And that guy wasn’t that interested. He stood there smoking his cigarette – you’re technically not supposed to smoke on the job, but it was the seventeenth floor, there weren’t any walls up yet – and he gave me one of those, “I don’t know,” answers.

“Have you ever operated it? Do you know how?”

And he was just like, “I don’t know,” which didn’t answer anything, and made it very clear that he didn’t feel like chatting.

Sure, day two may have been a little soon. I didn’t know anybody. If I’d waited like a week longer, I would’ve gotten a better sense of who I could have asked and who didn’t feel like listening to my questions. But I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. No matter how I tried to occupy my time, my thoughts kept going back to the crane.

“When can I use the crane? How long does the training take? Do you need a special license?”

And so one day, maybe like two months in, I showed up to work and the foreman called me over in front of everybody else. “So,” he said in a really loud voice, “you’re the guy that really wants to work the big boy, huh?”

I tried to play it cool, but you know like when you’re playing poker, and you have a really good hand, and even though you just want to sit still and not make it obvious, you can’t help but feel your heart speed up, your lungs automatically taking in more air? That’s what this was like. “You mean the crane?” I said, and I heard my own voice, it sounded way too overeager.

A few of the guy behind me started laughing under their breath. I knew they were laughing at me, but I didn’t care. I probably deserved it. Like I said, I was all about the crane, talking to anyone who’d listen. I figured they thought I was a dumb kid, sure, but whatever, because at some level they had to be a little jealous. Because isn’t this how you do it? Isn’t this how you get places in life? You have to make your intentions clear. You’ve got to be persistent. It’s all about attitude and motivation. So go ahead and laugh, I thought to myself. I’m getting called out by the foreman to work the big crane.

“Listen up,” the foreman told me, “usually it’s not only experience, but seniority. Everybody wants to drive the big boy. I get it. And normally I tell them what I tell everyone, that you got to wait your turn, pay your dues. But you. I don’t know, there’s something special about you. I can tell you really want it, that you’ve got a certain something that I can’t really put my finger on. I’ve picked out a lot of top crane operators, and if I’m right about you, I don’t think we can afford to not have you on that crane another day.”

That was exactly what I wanted to hear. But it’s like, you’re hoping to hear something like that, and then when you actually hear it, it’s too much. I stood there, unable to really come up with a response.

“So,” I said, “when do I start? Can I hop in right now? I’m ready.”

“Whoa, whoa, take it easy,” the foreman said. “There’s still the issue of paperwork, of licensing, of dealing with the union heavy machinery representatives, and then there are bunch of classroom sessions that you’re supposed to take before you ever actually get in the crane.”

And I was kind of disappointed. I mean, I thought I was getting this right now.

“But,” he said while I tried not to look bummed out, “I think I have it figured out.”

“You have it figured out?” I repeated.

“Yeah,” he said. “I think I can get you on that crane by this afternoon.”

I couldn’t believe it. This was getting to be too much, the highs and lows, back-to-back, an emotional rollercoaster.

“Just give me a minute, let me go to the office, I’ve got to see if I can make this happen,” he said.

And he did, he went to the office, a little trailer set up to the side, while everyone else got to work around me. Some of the old-timers were still kind of smirking, but I didn’t feel threatened anymore. I was special. The foreman could tell I had potential. Let these losers laugh at me. I could care less. So I just stood there and smirked back.

The foreman came out of his office trailer like five minutes later.

“All right,” he handed me an envelope. “I need you to take this to ground level and meet my contact five blocks from here. The address is written down. When you get there, call this cell phone number and wait.”

This was so cool. I took the envelope and confirmed that I understood my instructions and I was on the service elevator in less than a minute. When I got to the spot, I did exactly like I was told. I made the call, the guy on the other end told me to hold on, and then he hung up. A couple of minutes later, this guy shows up, I guess he knew it was me by my construction vest. He took my envelope and gave me another envelope, he told me to go to a deli three blocks in the opposite direction and ask for Julio.

“Just tell Julio who you are, give him the envelope, and tell him that the big guy sent you.”

“And that’s it?” I asked. “I’ll be good to go?”

“You’ll be all set,” he confirmed.

I went to the deli and tried to get the guy behind the counter’s attention, “I’m here to see Julio?” I asked. But there were three people ahead of me getting egg sandwiches and coffees, and he made me wait in line.

Finally it was my turn. “Julio? I’m here for Julio?” I asked.

“Yeah?” he said.

“You’re Julio?”

“Yeah. What do you want?”

“I’m Rob. The big guy sent me.” And I handed him the envelope.

He took it from me and told me to wait like five minutes.

And then five minutes later, he handed me a large brown paper bag and two cardboard carrying cases full of coffees.

“What is this?” I asked him. Surely there had to have been a misunderstanding.

“What are you talking about?” Julio said.

“What is all of this stuff?” I asked.

“What do you mean? Six egg sandwiches, two no bacon, eight coffees, I marked them all like you said on the phone, just look, it’s all written on the lids.”

“This is just a food order?” it still hadn’t sunk in.

“What are you talking about?” Julio repeated. “You needed something else?”

“The big guy?” I was desperate now.

“Yeah, Richie, the big guy, egg sandwiches and coffee. You all right kid?”

And I’d been doing coffee runs since I started, but this deli was so much more out of the way than the deli closest to the construction site. So I had to balance those two coffee trays, the giant bag, I had to walk it like eight blocks back to the site. And when the elevator doors opened up, everyone was standing there, pointing and laughing. The foreman was in the back, he was clearly enjoying himself too, but he probably wanted us all to be getting back to work.

“All right, all right!” he shouted out. “Get back to work everybody!”

And people took their sandwiches and coffees and made jokes, asking me what took so long, and why were the coffees so cold.

At your service

I work in a pretty busy restaurant, and there are tons of managers, everybody’s in charge of me. “Rob, come over here and do this,” or, “Rob, go over there and do that,” and whatever, that’s my job description I guess, server, servant, and I can already hear the, “If you don’t like it, get another job,” rebuttals, which is fair enough, I mean, I could always just leave. But I’ve left restaurant jobs before, it’s always such a pain in the ass showing up at a new place, trying to make a good first impression, starting over somewhere else from the bottom.

Waitress carrying dirty plates in restaurant, rear view

And yeah, I don’t necessarily like complaining, but every once in a while it’ll just build up, all of those little interactions at work, constantly getting micromanaged by people that you see every day, only at work, this cast of characters in my life that serve no other purpose than to direct me from point A to point B.

I have a lot of energy. At work, I don’t even necessarily try, but I move around the restaurant pretty quickly. Some kitchen manager will ask me to grab a stack of plates and move it from here to there, and I’ll do it, I get it done without breaking a sweat. And that’s doesn’t even really bother me. It’s when these little orders and commands start to pile up, when I feel that, regardless of how fast I get something done, there’s no end to little chores and constant directions.

“Rob, go get me a stack of plates. Rob, go fold this pile of linens. Rob, get me another roll of printer paper.” After a while I start to feel like, the faster and more efficient that I complete every one of these little tasks, all I’m doing is making more work for myself. Restaurant bosses hate to see their employees standing idle for even a second. And so, as soon as I open up my mouth to start small-talk with a coworker, a manager is guaranteed to show up, to interrupt me midsentence, “Rob, can you make sure that the silverware is polished?”

Yeah, I get the argument that there’s virtue in work. Sure, I have this picture in my head of me marching around the world putting my best foot forward, giving everything that I do one hundred percent, just for the sake of giving it my all, a testament to my admirable work ethic.

But on a day-to-day basis, especially on days where I’m not really feeling it, where I wish that I didn’t have to still be waiting tables at a restaurant, running around, the expediter is telling me to back up ice, and on the way to the ice machine, a customer stops me in my tracks, he lifts up his soda glass and, in between bites of food, he says simply, “More Diet Coke,” and on my way to get his refill, I’ve got another two people in the kitchen looking directly at me, “Is anybody backing up ice?” obviously you just asked me to back up ice, obviously I don’t have the ice, why are you forming it as this general question? Why don’t you just give me a second and I’ll back up ice?

Yeah, on days like that, it’ll get to me, the ceaseless busy work, the realization that, the faster I move, the more work I’ll ultimately have to do. And for what? A few dollars an hour? That’s what really bugs me about restaurant work. The house isn’t even paying me a living wage, and yet they’re acting under the expectation that I’m to work under their absolute obedience, the customers’ absolute obedience, everybody in the restaurant is my boss, but the only ones contributing to my making a living are the people who, after they’ve settled up with the house, maybe they’ll throw me a tip. Probably. Almost definitely. But still, maybe. There’s always the potential for a maybe not.

And so what can I do? “Boss, I gave table thirteen excellent service, but they didn’t leave a tip.”

“Oh well, better luck next time. Can you throw these boxes away?”

So some days, and I hate doing it, but I’ll drag my feet. It’s super passive aggressive, and I doubt anybody’s really paying attention enough to even realize that I’m upset. But that’s the only real control that I have over my day, to just take it a little easier. Because it’s not like if I work really hard they’re going to let me then chill out for a second. No, it’s right back to work, there are always a million things that need to be done, no way that I’ll be able to do everything, and so I might as well just catch my breath, walk a little slower, try to keep those negative thoughts out of my head, just doing my best to be in a better mood.

Closed on Christmas

Unfortunately, due to budgetary constraints, we’re not going to be able to have that holiday party this year. I know, everybody was looking forward to getting together, or maybe not everybody, but Morris was definitely excited, remember last year? Ha. But we’ve got to look out for the bottom line, and in this economic climate, well, you never know when we’re going to need that money. Besides, think about the shareholders. Do you think they want to see us loafing around for four hours at an open bar?

office christmas

I know what you’re thinking, you’re wondering about those bonuses. Yeah, well, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that we’re still doing bonuses. The bad news is that it’s not for any of you. Haha. That was supposed to be a joke. The delivery, anyway, I guess the subject isn’t that funny. Just think of it as more of an incentive to work harder, year after year, and maybe someday you can become an executive, and hopefully then you’ll be eligible for a bonus.

We are buying some bagels though. They’re actually already here, I think Manny dropped them off this morning in Conference Room B. There was cream cheese in there, right Manny? No? I thought I told the secretary to get some cream cheeses, a regular one, and then something else, something with chives, or scallions. Manny, are you sure there wasn’t any cream cheese?

I’m actually just being informed that the bagels are all gone, apparently the nighttime custodial staff must have cleaned house on their way home for the day. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts, right? Although, I probably should have had Marge make an announcement, an interoffice memo. As long as somebody ate them, I guess it’s not a total waste.

Morris, can we write off those bagels as some sort of a charitable contribution? How much do you think two dozen bagels cost, fifty bucks? Seventy-five? I’m just going to go ahead and write eighty, because I definitely ordered cream cheeses, I’m sure someone must have had them. Can we write it off as a teambuilding expense also? Does the IRS let us write off expenses incurred while building the team? That’s job creation right there. Just write it off twice.

Good news everybody, we’re giving everybody a half-day on Christmas Eve. It’s nothing, no need to thank me. Just go home and have a very Merry Christmas, you know, after three. The half-day ends at three. At least you’ll beat the afternoon rush home. But to help kind of make up for lost time, we’re actually going to open up on New Years Day. So, you know, you can come in a little late, let’s say nine-thirty, or nine. Let’s just say nine-fifteen. But yeah, enjoy Christmas Eve, but remember to come in on New Years Day.

Why the long faces? You’re still getting Christmas Day off. Right? Marge, check the calendar. Well, that’s got to be a typo. I’m not even sure the building will be open on Christmas Day. Well does Manny have an extra set of keys? Can he leave them with someone else? OK, no, yeah we’ll just keep Christmas Day. Why not? We’ll all stay home on Christmas. But let’s maybe rethink that whole nine nine-fifteen in time on January 1st. Let’s just make it nine flat.

Come on, don’t look at me like that. Don’t you want to be team players? Don’t just think of yourselves, consider the team, about everyone else. And to think, I was just about to send out for pizzas. Well, you guys can forget it. I’m just kidding, everybody march over to Conference Room C, I’ve got a couple of pies waiting for everyone. OK, so you brought lunch, that’s great, can’t you just take it back home and eat it for dinner?

What’s that? Manny, goddamn it man, I told you last night that I was thinking about ordering pizzas today, not that you’d order pizzas last night for today. Man, those’ve got to be … well, cold pizza’s not bad. I love cold pizza. Help yourselves, this place gets pretty cold at night, ask Morris, ask anybody, you know what this place feels like after five, so I’m sure that pizza’s still good. Enjoy.

Me? Oh, no thanks, the board’s going out for our annual holiday luncheon. Honestly, it sounds a lot more glamorous than it is, you know these corporate wine-and-dines. Anyway, get back to work everybody, and Merry Christmas. Right, Happy Holidays, whatever, that’s what I meant. No, I wasn’t trying to exclude anybody, Jesus, just have a great day off, and remember, nine o’clock sharp on Thursday.

You can’t fire me; I quit

Whenever I’m having a really bad day at work, waiting tables, a server, a servant, I always have this fantasy of what I’d do if I were to snap, totally lose it, right in the middle of dinner service. For some disgruntled employees, I’m sure nothing would be more satisfying than to tell off the boss and storm out, a big, “I quit!” leaving everybody to try and piece together whatever it was they were in the middle of doing.

But that’s all too pedestrian for me. If I were to ever leave right in the middle of a shift, I’d make such a scene, cause so much chaos and mayhem, that the restaurant wouldn’t have any choice but to close for the rest of the night.

First I’d go right up to the kitchen window. I’d push the expediter out of the way. For those not in the biz, the expediter is the person who makes sure that all of the food is coming out on time, that all orders are leaving the kitchen complete. I’d start picking up food with my hands, whole steaks, fistfuls of potatoes and vegetables, and I’d start taking huge bites, like an animal, some here, a bite over there, making sure to take at least a small piece out of everything, throwing the rest on the ground.

And that would only be the opening act. I’d have to act quickly, because once I get started, it would immediately set off some alarms. At least one or two managers would rush over to see what all the commotion was about. The rest of my plan would have to be executed in such a way as to exact maximum destruction in the limited time before somebody calls the police. I’d rip the phone off the wall, not that it would really do me any good, because everybody has a cell phone, but still, it would be a nice added touch.

Next I’d reach my arms as far as they can extend out to my sides, balling my hands into fists. I’d spin around in a cyclone, picture the Tasmanian Devil, and I’d chart a course through the kitchen. Everything’s in such close quarters that I’m guaranteed to knock over the majority of the kitchenware, all of the dry goods, all of the jars and cans. There’s barely any space when people are just going about their normal routines. Nothing’s going to stand a chance once I turn into the human tornado.

I figure I’ll only have about one and a half minutes left. I’d save the best for last. The liquor room. If I could just make it before anybody with any power to stop me arrives, my final act would be glorious. One by one I’d take each bottle of booze off of the shelves and drop them to the floor. Crash. Shatter. Everywhere. Maybe the head manager would have finally caught up to me, and he’d be standing in the entryway, mouth agape, hands on his cheeks, the definitive expression of shock. And I’d be untouchable. I’d be going so fast, moving with such fury, that nobody would dare risk coming too close, not with all of the annihilation I’ve already unleashed.

And I figure that’s where I’d stay until the cops finally show up to drag me out of there. And it would have to be a full dragging, like one police officer for every limb, me thrashing the whole time, kicking and screaming on my way out to the paddy wagon.

So whenever I’m really in the weeds at work, whenever I feel like I’m just doing a terrible job, like my customers hate me, like my managers hate me, I just kind of stop and run through that little daydream, and it makes things a little better, makes me feel like I maintain at least some control over my present situation. Because while, yes, it’s totally unthinkable that I’d ever actually commit, it’s not impossible. Everything that I’ve spelled out is totally within my abilities to make happen. Just knowing that provides me the tiniest morsel of comfort.

Can you imagine, after I lost that job, what my next interview would be like? “So, tell us why you left your last job?”

That’s a Nonstarter

That’s a nonstarter. Making me get up earlier than I want to? Sorry, that’s another nonstarter. Don’t like the way I dress? Telling me to wear something more appropriate for work? Asking me to stop taking so many breaks? One, two, three, every one of them a nonstarter. Of course I want health benefits. Of course I don’t want to pay a cent for them. Nonstarter. You guys give out bonuses? Big ones? A couple times a year? Cash? Nope? Yep, nonstarter.

I’d say dealbreaker, but we’re not even close to a deal that might get broken. We haven’t ever started. Hence the whole nonstarter. Let’s talk lunch breaks. How many are we talking about? One? I’m going to need a little more than one. Two? You’re asking me? Keep sweetening that pot. That’s a potsweetener by the way. We’re going in the right direction, so keep throwing out numbers, let’s go three, four. Yeah I’m hungry baby. Nope. Nope? Nope. Dealbrea … I mean, nonstarter.

I’m not wearing a tie. I’d wear two ties, but only if it were Halloween, and only if I were dressing up as future Marty McFly from Back to the Future Part II. But I haven’t even decided on my Halloween costume for next year, that’s still a ways off. Do you guys dress up for Halloween? Do you have a contest for best costume? Do you give away any prizes? Like a cash prize? Or a prize where you don’t have to come in to work for a few days? Or maybe an extra lunch break? No, thank you. No, I’ll be in touch. No, I decided to go with somebody who better meets my needs and qualifications.

Why do I have to ask them if they want their sandwich toasted every time? Won’t they just tell me to toast it if they want it toasted? Why are you trying to make so much extra work for me? And I seriously have to wear these gloves all the time? What if I have an itch on my face? Will you at least itch my nose if I ask you to? You know what you should change the name of this sandwich shop to? Nonstar … I already told you about that? Well, it was true then, it’s true now. I don’t care if this was only a trial period. Well it’s not a lunch break if I’m eating while I’m working. And what was I supposed to just throw it away? Well if you want this hat and apron back you’re going to have to do a lot more than just tell me to hand it over.

Look, it’s my body. Because I don’t like needles. Because I’d much rather if you just squirted it in my mouth. Well can’t I be the judge of whether it works or it doesn’t? You’re not even a real doctor. What the hell is a technician anyway? What is that like a fake nurse? There’s no way you’re sticking that needle in my arm. It’s a nons … get your hands off of me! Ow! Hey! I told you not to stick that it my arm! Who the hell do you think you are! Who are you? Don’t touch me! No you stay out of Rite-Aid!

Well I’d like a little bit more unemployment. Because I didn’t stand here on line all day for this. What am I supposed to do with this … this pittance? I didn’t push you. I didn’t. You pushed me. Come on, those cameras are fake, you’re not pulling any of that garbage with me. So what … what are you saying you can’t doctor the footage? Big government agency pushing me around? Just give me some money. No, you calm down. That’s a n … ow! What the hell, did you just stick me with a needle? No, I don’t need to calm down! No, this will help you relax! No, you stop struggling! No, you’ve gone ahead and soiled yourself. No, maybe the dosage was too weak. No, I should be swallowing my own tongue. I’ll do the opposite! Don’t tell me what to do! That’s a nonsta …