I finally got together with that other queer female apprentice working for my company; let’s call her Jacky, for the sake of the story.
Jacky is quite the character, as I expected… I mean, she’d have to be, considering that she’s taking on this new electrical career at twice the age of our most of our coworkers Turns out she’s turning 50 years old this summer. FIFTY. Wow. Prior to her apprenticeship, she was a computer geek for a couple decades, and then more recently, a bus driver on the local transit system. I actually remember her, I realize now, from when she’d do the campus routes and come into the cafe I worked at in the university book store. She wore shorts, even when it was cold outside.
We talked about so many things, and generally had similar feelings and thoughts about our jobs, our company, our coworkers, our trade. It was good, to have the chance to share.
Like me, Jacky frequently hears this reaction from strangers when they learn what her job is: “You’re an electrician? That must be so hard!” And they invariably mean the labour itself, thinking it’s difficult to carry and maneuver heavy objects… Or else the math and physics involved, in figuring out power arrangements and trouble-shooting circuits. I’m not gonna lie to you: My job does tire me out, physically, and the problem-solving can be wretchedly tricky.
But! But what few people seem to realize is what’s actually hardest about the job: The social aspect of the workplace. No matter what, Jacky and I are just so alien, both as women and as queers. It was such a relief to hear her try to describe this. Yes, I kept saying, I know, yes, exactly, exactly. It’s nothing we can’t deal with, get over, ignore, or whatever… But it’s still a big thing, to try to navigate social situations where we can’t even hope of fitting in. Of course, I think we’re both got such distinctive personalities that we’re hardly the type to try to fit in anyway!
I asked Jacky what her goals are, what she wants to do once she’s got her Journey status. Does she think she’ll go for foreman? She laughed at my questions. “You forget,” she said. “That it’s totally different for me… I’ve only got 15 years left, really, to your 35.”
Huh. I’d never thought of that: Thirty-five years to go. Of course, I doubt I’ll be able to afford retirement at age 65, but it’s still an interesting concept. (And what would “retirement” look like for a person like me, anyway? Wouldn’t I keep doing all the shit I already do, only more of it?)
So no, she doesn’t think she’d like to be foreman. Jacky’s hoping to simply have a good wage and good work. Which, really, is all I’ve ever wanted too, though maybe with a little bit of adventure thrown in to keep me going.
Right now, Jacky is working on the construction crew that is putting in a new warehouse building at the naval base. It’s steady work through to September, which is nice for the bank account, she says, but a bit hard on the sense of freedom. She’d prefer to have some variety and flexibility, because it’s more interesting, and would allow more time for her own projects as well as short trips away. I can totally relate: My schedule is often all over the place, and I rarely know where I’ll be working from one day to the next, and I love it.
I hope that we’ll eventually get to be on a crew together, Jacky and I… With our company having so many apprentices and so many projects, it’s not particularly likely to happen, but I like to think about it anyway. In the meanwhile, I’m simply glad to know she exists.