It was time for the annual hearing tests at work, and I left the construction site mid-afternoon to get myself down to the parking lot at company headquarters. The testing trailer was set up there, and a few guys were waiting in line. I didn’t know any of them, except for a fellow who was in my Year 2 class at trade school, but we made small talk about our job sites and the beautiful sunny weather.
This is how the hearing test works: Two people at a time go into the trailer, where each sits in a little soundproof booth, puts on a set of headphones, and presses a button every time they hear a noise, for about 5 or 10 minutes. It’s simple, but a good basic assessment. For the record, my hearing has gotten overall worse since my last test in 2010, but only marginally-so, and it’s also better in different tonal ranges than it was… And it’s still excellent, according to the testing dude. “Don’t drive with the window rolled down,” he told me. “That’s why your left is worse than your right.”
Anyway, as I was waiting, the trailer door suddenly opened, and the previous two testees emerged. One was my foreman, and though we began to discuss the latest developments in my current project, I was completely distracted… Because the other person who’d just had her hearing tested was a woman.
And she was not just a woman, but a mid-forties woman who read to my eyes as queer queer QUEER. I immediately made the connection between this unexpected apparition and the motorcycle parked next to the trailer. (And I was right: It was hers.)
She and I kept looking at each other, even though we were in conversations with other people. Finally my foreman and I were done, and right away I turned to her, and we stared at each other for just a little bit of beat longer than socially-acceptable.
Then at the exact same moment, we both introduced ourselves, shaking hands and laughing a little over our awkwardness. “Oh,” she said, “Your foreman was telling me about you!”
“Huh,” I replied, looking over at the foreman, “And he’d told me I was the only woman working for the company…”
“No, there’s Shelly,” she said.”She’s doing school.”
“And Kami,” I told her, “Or at least I met her at the big mall site a few weeks ago; I’m not sure where she is now, though, because she’s not there these days.”
So we stood there and chatted like any other two apprentices or trades people, about where we were working and who we worked with and what might be coming next, all the while looking at each other. Of course I can’t speak for what she was thinking, but in my mind, I was saying WHO ARE YOU and WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE, completely beside myself with amazement.
I’ve gotten so used to being the only gay in the village!
In my daze, it wasn’t until after she rode away her motorbike that I realized I needed to talk with this woman outside of a work situation. Luckily, that evening I found her full name listed on a company email and then her profile on a social networking site. Which, by the way, confirmed my hunch: Yes, she is queer. She responded immediately to my message, and seems just as eager to meet for coffee. We’ve been playing tag ever since, as our work schedules keep changing… Such is the life of an apprentice, in my company, at least. I’m confident we’ll make it work for this upcoming week.
Am I adequately conveying to you how excited I am? I mean, I realize that we may not actually like each other at all, or have anything in common… But I don’t need a new best friend, I just need another ally at work! And to have someone else to talk to about the strange little things that come from being female and/or queer in our company, our city, our construction sites, our trade.
Also… I found her blog, because I’m nosy like that. It’s under her real name, and is a travel journal from her cycling and motorcycle trips in various parts of the continent. So, yeah, at the very least I know that we both like traveling and bicycles, which is a pretty damn good place to start.