It’s the end of Week 2 of my new job as an apprentice electrician at the construction site of a new local hospital building. I’m still exhausted and wondering how the fuck people do this: Work a very physical 40 hours of labour each week, and still have the energy to be present and engaging with their family and friends. I take the dog to the park when I get home each day, and throw balls for him while laying in the grass until my feet stop aching and he sits down next to me. Then we go home and cook dinner and all I want to do is watch television or have a bath and go to bed. The next day, I’m up at 5:30 am and it starts all over again. It’s difficult to get used to, though I know I will eventually… For now though, it’s making me feel a little isolated and strange.
Yet also oddly proud and “grown-up” too, I must admit.
Some more questions I’ve received:
What do you wear to work?
I have a single pair of C@rrhart work trousers that my mother bought me years ago (against her will I might add… She said there were “too ugly”), which I wear every single day. They are identical to those worn by most of my coworkers, though mine have a hand-silkscreened patch of a garlic bulb sewn onto a rear pocket. On my feet, I have crazily-heavy steel-toe boots that I bought for $140 the weekend before I started the job, plus extra padded socks meant for wearing with work boots. I developed a corn on one of my toes during that first week of the job, which made the boots more noticely painful than heavy, but it’s being treated now and today there was no pain… Just tiredness. Up top, I wear a tank top that is pretty long, over which I layer one of two long-sleeved t-shirts and the same black hoodie that I wear every day. At the end of the week, I throw it all in the wash, and wear again for the next five days of work.
My company supplies PPE: That’s Personal Protective Equipment, don’t ya know. When I started, they gave me a hardhat which was soon adorned with two stickers from the two safety orientations I attended on Day 1. The hardhats of construction veterans are adorned with many such stickers; One day, I hope mine will be as well. I was also given a pair of safety glasses, which are now scratched as hell, and a reflective orange and yellow safety vest. The vest conveniently features many pockets, and I find it very useful from a practical standpoint as well as safety. I was also made aware of the various locations where I could grab disposable foam earplugs, which I wear all the time I’m at work. Just this past Thursday, I was given an additional piece of PPE: A ventilator mask with screw-in cartridges, to keep the dust from my lungs. I am very glad for it, because my asthma’s been acting up and though I can’t know if it’s the stress, the cold I had last week, or the particulate matter in the air on site, I’d rather not take any chances.
I also wrap my hair, à la Rosie the Riveter, to keep it clean-ish and out of the way.
Are you out at work?
No. Not yet, anyway. If the opportunity arises and I feel safe, I will mention my queerness, but so far it’s not come up and I harbour few illusions about it being safe when it does. At the same time, I’ve also encountered significantly less of the casual homophobia I witnessed at trade school, which is worth noting.
Do you feel that the optional pre-apprenticeship program at trade school prepared you well for the job?
Yes! Yes, very much so. In fact, if anything I’m surprised by how little tedious grunt work I’m given, and how much confidence my foreman and the supervising journeyman have in my ability to do “real” electrical systems installations.
How do find the demands of the job physically?
DIFFICULT. I’m quite zombie-ish, as mentioned above. A lot of that comes from the huge size of the site where I work, because I have to trudge up many flights of stairs throughout the day, sometimes taking several trips to carry all my tools and equipment. I thought I was quite fit when I started, and let’s be honest: I am! But my body wasn’t ready to have such demands made of it. If I’d thought about this ahead of time, I’d have done some upper-body strength development, because that’s what I’m lacking most of all: Using the hammer drill on the concrete ceiling requires both my hands/arms to keep it steady, whereas the more seasoned workers use only one.
Still though, it’s very good to feel my body in this way. I’ve always been rather tall and large, and had to invest a lot of energy in learning to appreciate my size and feel strong instead of “fat”. It’s amazing to spend days surrounded mostly by big, solid, muscular people after years of office, computer, and cafe jobs where my coworkers were more likely to moan and complain about not being thin enough (when they were all smaller than I’ve ever been). My body is now needed, not just for its beauty or overall health, but for its sheer bulk and endurance. I feel like we’re connecting better than ever, and that’s an unexpected gift that I cherish very deeply.
Any word from your other job applications?
None: Not BC Hydr0, not the local naval base, not even the marine research company. Which is a bit off-putting, since I have top marks and a random university degree to boot, plus an interesting CV. But I’m learning to be okay with it, since my current job is providing industry experience that will just make me look better on all future job applications.
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