Thursday, October 8, 2015

Was not a good day.


Today was not a good day. I am writing to try to keep it from weighting me down.  It started too early, and ironically ended too early.  

Sometime near 2:30am my bladder woke me up.  It was not just that lower organ that brought me to wakefulness, despite a cool bedroom I had sweated enough to leave the sheets damp, something was troubling me.  Sleep was very slow to return.  I found everything on my mind. 

The bed oddly felt lonely, for the first time in I can't think how long I thought, a human here would be good.  The cat's not coming when I called did not help. So I tossed and turned worrying about work.  The dark mood I worried about on Facebook was showing up.  The mood I had when at last I fell asleep was heavy enough that when I woke it was like coming up for air.  Sleep did not return until far too close to 4am to be worth much. 

So I got up, it was one of the three very hard things I did today. The other two were leave the house, and not walk off site in the first hour of work.  The change of work is enough not justify a down mood.  A week ago I was part of a tight crew, where I had their respect, camaraderie, trust, and was granted a comfortable level of autonomy. I was good at what I did and I spent 9 months learning how to get better at it.   The hours were stable, yes the pay was low but it was predictable. Where I moved to was all different. 

I replaces a tight crew with a small army.  Where I had mellow professionals who placed being right over being fast, I got a massive site full of restless men jockeying for position.  That testosterone atmosphere was enough to make me think of the North West Territory.  All the trust and autonomy were taken away, it became follow the crew lead, carry a thing, repeat. I was another temp in a sea of temps.  

The site is a cleanup after an apartment fire.  It is moving without the thrill of getting a new home.  The place is swarming with trades people, temps, and others.  As I said there is a lot of men jockeying for position, and some who take being on a crew as a sigh that you should make conversation. As a result I am still deflecting questions about where I am from, they all come from one source.   There is a quality about the aggressive posturing that I find deeply tiring.  I am not saying I worked with bad people, no but I lacked the strength to be in a tiring atmosphere without it wearing on me.  When asked if I was ok, when carrying a heavy thing, I wanted to answer 1000X NO, but said I'm fine, because the things that were wrong were on the inside.  

In the end it comes down to I want things to be getting a little better not a little worse. The change of contract, moved thing to the little worse bin. This saddens and angers me.  Perhaps made worse by the fact that the last few weeks were peppered with great moments.   I simply miss the photocopier job.  It might be the first job where that really happened. It taught me a lot. Most importantly I know far more about what I need from a job to be engaged and therefore happy.  A plan is forming, I have a spread sheet for tracking things once I send out applications.   There is one thing I know, I will need help. 

Some of the help will need to be technical, there is only so many times I can look at a resume and have it make sense.   Most will need to be mental.   When I am active in looking for work I quickly become deeply anxious and that can cripple my efforts.  I develop an impotent rage, the feeling that even after doing all the steps, and knowing the right things I still can't get the expected outcome.  But the longer I stay in the precariate the more I need to get out. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

I'm Done


This post has its origins on a coarse at Whistler, and the drive home from there, it also has far deeper roots.  The need to write it happened today. I am done explaining myself.

It happens every time I meet a bunch of new people. It happened today at a job site full of new people. It starts off as someone else's small talk and becomes a tired lie.  There are three forms of the question in general. Where are you from? Are you from (insert western European nation or colony), and lastly, what's your accent.   Today I was asked "You're Irish or something?" I answered or something this did not satisfy.

The first question where are you from, may still get answered.  Only because it occasionally humours me to name a town far from anywhere that most people have never heard of.  What I will not do is follow it up with the answer they are expecting.  People who ask me these questions already believe I'm an outsider, perhaps an immigrant, there is a desire to put me in a box.  I will not give them a box to put me in.

The second question. Are You from X.  No. I am not from, Germany, Austria, South Africa, Holland*, Sweden, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Kansas, or whatever the regional accent you have assigned to me is.  Where am I from, Canada, I have never lived overseas, can't even afford to travel right now, and I can barely English on a bad day.

*Holland is least wrong, but only because my folks did immigrate to Canada from there, but I am not from there. Where I am from is a small town literally two hours away from anywhere, it sits on Nicola group sediments from the early Triassic and is a good place to be from.

The Third question, is the one that started me thinking. What is Your accent? I am starting to think I don't know. The traditional answer has been to blame the Dutch.  Yes I did speak Dutch for the first few years, and took on English a little late.  Yet neither of my parents have typical accents, and there was no Dutch community to rub off on me.  On those rare occasions where I have heard my own voice it is not what I have heard from other folk from the low country.  So to give a cobbled together story of family history, only to come up with an answer that is not accurate enough to be honest is no longer worth my time.

To answer that question again, What is my Accent. I don't know.  And if I answer with leading alternate hypothesis your small talk might get big in a hurry.

So to recap, I will no longer indulge strangers' desire to pidgin hole me, and I can no longer give an answer I don't believe in any more.  This may leave curious folk with a frustrating lack of answer, but the passing frustration of a person committing small talk is of no concern to me.  If you get to know me you may learn I am more interesting than a dot on a map.  And if you Honest and earn my trust perhaps we can talk about the alternate hypothesis.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Damn it I liked that Job.

It looks almost but not quite like work

This is the first regular work day since December where I have not made the trip to Annacis island.
My contract with Preflight has ended. It was no fault of my own, the simple truth was I could look down the aisles of the warehouse and see they were clean and empty of new orders. The work dried up.

Since it has been nine months of constant work a sudden day off is largely welcome.  I have been stretching my resources thin with the doing of many things.  It has been a busy summer and fall. In the last three weeks I have been camping twice and ran an obstacle coarse in Whistler.  The doing of the camping involved much running around to find the food things, or in more than one case running around to not find the food thing.  For the first trip a evening was spent making noodles for the camp meal.  All of this was good fun but it left me tired and my cat stressed and lonely.  That is why a day off is needed.  Now I have to make sure they do not become common. 

So back to the job I did not hate.   My life has shown that it is easy for me to hate a job.  When it was geology the hate grew from the being away from home, and I just cannot live a healthy life when I am sequestered in a work camp.  My later experiment with office work proved I simply do not have the patience to sit still at a desk all day.  So why did I like that warehouse.  Lots of good reasons.

In contrast to my time making maps where I struggled trying to match my output with a variable and poorly explained set of parameters, I had a crystal clear set of outcomes.  When my job was assembly, the outcome was clear, the parts go out of their boxes get screwed and wired in, if the machine fires up and no error codes come up I did my job right.  So I could be confident I was doing the right job by the simple fact that there was a simple binary, the thing I built worked, or it did not.  And sometimes it did not, but that was never a huge problem because I worked with good people. 

I worked with good people both in the sense that they were friendly, polite, and easy going, and in that they were good at there job.  The crew in that shop had been there a long time,  properly experts in field of photocopiers. Preflight's job was to make absolutely sure the machine on the order would work when it was delivered. This demand created an atmosphere that I enjoyed, it was more important to do the work correctly than to do it fast.  This is in sharp contrast to many places where haste has dominated the work flow.  This changed how errors were handled. 

Mistakes get made at jobs, doubly so as a temp where you have to learn new versions of jobs and new sites regularly.  At many places errors are met with chastisement, and the surprised anger that you did not know the thing that was obvious to the experienced crew.  There is a correlation with the supervisor being near the upper bounds of their abilities and wrangling a temp is an unwelcome stressor. At Preflight I was faced with a suite of technologies I could not be expected to know anything about, and working with experts. Work is better when your supervisor has time to teach.

I learned things.  Often my work was repetitive, in fact it was often so.  For many days at a time I would install the same common accessories on the same common models, but inside of this routine I still learned things.  Some things learned are useless beyond that office, I don't know when I will need to know how a colour copier works. I just don't, but learning about that dance of lasers on photo conductors, and brushes made of iron filings and electrostatic charge made things interesting. Other things learned, or refreshed have more direct value.  What I can take away is time spent learning the language of machines. 

 It was the first time mechanical things were the core of my work.  When I was first handed the 5.5mm hex driver I was intimidated.   I believed mechanical things were not my thing.  It was a slow start, initially painstakingly following the printed instructions, carefully checking all the things, and occasionally getting a little lost.   After literally hundreds of parts installs and many removals things became easy.  At some level it became rote learning, but not exclusively.  I learn things be because I get bored. I start to look at how things are connected, because what else am I going to do when turning a screw driver.  So I started to read how things were put together, learning what would move and stay put if I removed any given set of screws and wires.  Perhaps it should come as less of a surprise that I could learn to see mechanical things, it is not unlike geology. Geology demands that you practice the art of seeing below the surface, and seeing the third and fourth dimensions from the second.  

That the work was repetitive could have been held against it, and in some weeks it was too much, but it was also comfortable.  It varied comfortably with a theme, and that kept me confident and happy.  What also kept me happy was I was trusted.  I had a small collection of borrowed tools, a workspace for the tools, manuals and checklists.  By and large I was left alone, but I was not isolated, the shop was shared with the four full time techs, most of whom largely kept to themselves.  So I was trusted to read the orders, build things in the order that best met the deadlines.  The work I did worked, and on the odd occasions it did not, the worst that happened was I went back and fixed it.  

Ok I’m getting tired and bridging paragraphs together is too much work so I will end this soon. I have a take way from this.  One of the better incites into what makes me happy at work.  The short list. Work with a clear and obvious outcome, access to competent people in the same field, comfortably repetitive, but not fixed tasks, the chances to solve problems and to be trusted to do some of my own thinking.  I am good at repetitive tasks that require mindfulness. This ironic because I also bad at those things, but I know how I am bad at them and build my workflows around cancelling out my known errors.  My biggest frustration at the end of these 9 months was, I was only ever allowed to learn and do a narrow slice of things because I was a temp.  I wanted to learn more, damn it I was good at was I was doing.