The other trades workers call us the Red Heads, due to the red hardhats issued to us electricians by our company. Alternately, it’s the Red Tide, when we fill the stairwell on the way to or from our basement lunchroom at break times. To our faces, one on one, it’s usually Sparky, as in: “Hey Sparky, how come I didn’t win the Friday lottery?”
The Friday lottery is a site-wide gambling initiative run by my foreman, whom I’ll call Smoky. It was shut down a couple weeks ago by a head honcho in the management group, citing the fact that it was illegal, but then Smoky went and got a license. Apparently, as long as there’s some paper trail, and a percentage goes to charity, there’s not much that can be done about it.
On Friday mornings, instead of working on conduit installations, I walk all over the site and sell lottery tickets.
There’s another woman electrician who has been doing for as long as the site’s been going, and she showed me the ropes these past two weeks in preparation for my solo venture this past Friday, since she was planning on being out of town. I asked her, “Do we get assigned this job because we’re girls?”
She looked at me like I was an idiot and replied, “Of course.”
But really, it’s a good deal: I can now recognize the faces of many of the 700 construction workers crawling all over the building, and more importantly, even more of them seem to know my name. Of course, they know my name because they’re flirting with me, but in terms of career development, this is very useful.
The lottery buy-in is $5, with 90% going to the winner of the draw, and the other 10% to a housing and social programs charity. I’m glad it’s a charity I actually support; If it’d been the S@lvation Army, I’d have been forced to tell my foreman that it’s against my morals.
No, the gambling itself isn’t against my morals!
At least half of the workers tell me that if they win, they’ll take me out to dinner. One guy told me he’d take me to Croatia, which was sweet but rather unlikely, since the winning pot is usually about $600. I feel pretty okay with the flirtations, because it’s within context: No one, thus far, has crossed any lines. If it turned out that one of them actually thought I’d take them up on the offer of the dinner date, well… Yeah, that’d be uncomfortable, maybe. But really, I think that most of them know that I’m only talking to them because it’s part of my job.
Yep, on Friday mornings, I am not using my electrical skills but rather those I’ve developed over 28 years as a woman.
Which is another thing that came out on Friday: My coworkers universally agree that I look much younger than I am. I find this strange, because when I worked in my old job at the university, I was assumed to be older. At trade school, my classmates thought I was younger, but I chalked that up to the fact that they were mostly 18-year-old who considered 23 to be ancient. Apparently, though, it’s a trend among the tradesfolk: Male coworkers of all ages said that I appear to be around 20 years old.
I think that it’s because I don’t wear make up (to work, anyway), or maybe because I’m starting a new career at an age when many of the women in these men’s circles are having babies. Oats gets taken for being younger quite frequently, because of the way that society uses gender as an age-determinent: A masculine woman doesn’t fit in with people’s expectations. In some ways, though I’m pretty femme-y, I guess I subvert a few of those expectations too.