Oscar…




crom tanks scaffolding

Originally uploaded by jayfherron.

The most prominant job I had through out my life was with the outfit that built water tanks-as the ones shown in the photograph.
I remember the guy that hired me. The job was such that one would quit or get fired and yet be rehired …sometimes the same day,and the man that hired me used to lecture me has to how much it cost the company everytime they rehired me-as if it would really make a difference. It was a hard ass job no matter which part of it you had-what ever department…in the shop,or the field-or the road,it was one hard ass job.
Notice I did’nt say-hard,I said-hard ass.
My first day ever-never met any of these people before and knowing the size of the outfit I knew I had landed a job that was big(…I hired on as a truck driver-I was supposed to be going on the road but I learned the job had strange training tactics and I rarely saw the highway in the beginning) so I wanted to be sure to make a good impression and since the guy that hired me said the shop opened at 0800 I made sure I was there a half an hour early.
There was nobody there-except Oscar,and I had to walk around the huge complex to find him. He was sitting at his desk listening to Paul Harvey on the radio bent over the radio with his ear up to it so he could grab every word. I coughed and said good morning-but the old man just sat there with his head down close to the radio and said nothing-so,I cleared my throat and said good morning once again…he did look up and then back down to the radio. So I said good morning one more time and then he lurches and says loudly and most certainly gruffly…”what the hell do you want?”.
“I’m the new guy-I start working here today”
“What gawddamed time they tell you to start?”
I panicked…thinking I was late and somehow got the time screwed up…I blurted out “eight oclock-the guy said we start at eight oclock” and then old Oscar went off on me and started yelling…”gawddamit it aint eight oclock yet and we start at eight oclock….so get the hell out of my office until we start…and we start at EIGHT oclock AND YOU BEST NOT BE LATE “!!!
…and here I am early-and getting chewed out for it.
The yelling never stopped. That was a part of the nature of the job-in the shop,or in the field-or out in the yard…everybody yelled at everybody else.
I didnt end up on the road-not right away,at least…the way they worked it was you started at the worse and lowest job there was-in the sand blast pit. They had a practice of interviewing certified engineers to work over a slide rule and drafting table-and even those guys were sent to the mall to shop for work boots and a hard hat and sent out to the field to hang on to a gunite hose or haul high load shoring frames up to hiegths of sixty feet or more-the philosophy being ‘how can you design them if you don’t know how to build them?’ and the same deal out in the sand blast pit-how can you know the pieces and parts if you dont spend day after day man handleing them all.
In the pit one learned the deal-it was always the new hires that ended up in the sand blast suit and once a guy figured that out he would position himself to watch the shop doors for a fresh face in a new hard hat…almost peeling out of that hot sandblast suit and running to hand it over.
The next job was’nt much better-you graduated to the paint pit-and ended up the color blue every day after that job improvement…the outfit painted everything blue you included until the new hire got replaced by a newer hire-and up the ladder we all went.
Oscar was the shop super…the big boss over the shop and the yard-about 50 guys year round,not counting the truck drivers-the men out on the field had regulars working for them too-nomads living in campers at each job site-there was usually 25 job supers on the field…these guys were the gods of the outfit,and these gods would have ten or twenty regulars working for them-these tanks have been built all over the United States and everywhere the job was being done these men would take over the town like sailors in a port of call.

Ol’Oscar looked just like Edward G.Robinson-an old film star from way back….he tried to act mean-but to be honest,he was right sweet an old man-just different,and every body respected him. It was funny-you felt as if he was mean and did’nt like you-but you could see this glint in his eye that you different-he had a heart of gold underneath that rough surface.
Oscar had this Chevy pick up truck and the bed of the truck was converted into a huge cooler-and every morning he’d get that cooler filled with ice and all the guys who could afford it would bring six packs of beer to work and put them in that ice-and at four in the afternoon those six packs came in handy and every guy there would sit around the damned job and drink beer-instead of going home.
I was poor back then….I was hitch hiking to work everyday and home…so beer drinking was a treat if it was ever offered. Once it was and I got too drunk to hitch hike so I just slept right there at the shop.
As a poor boy my lunches were also sparce and usually I could’nt even afford a soda to go with my butter sandwich so I used the water cooler that was by the soda machine…guys in the shop would say “you ought not use that-thats Oscars water cooler” and I’d think to heck with Oscar-who is he to place claim on the water cooler??And then one day he comes up and gets a drink and then takes his thumb and puts it up to his hose and whoom-he blows this wad of snot all over that cooler. After that I ate dry sandwiches.

It happened to be Oscar who would fire me…and then he’d up sending someone from the shop out here to the woods to ask me a question about where this part or where that part could be,I had worked myself up to work in the shop in the inventory control division and since I was the only guy in that division I had charge of ordering and stocking things…this outfit used some really odd things and they were’nt always of the norm in day to day things-you can imagine what it might take to build a ten million gallon water tank.
So the whole deal would go around and around-I’d get fired and go home and then they’d spend so much time coming out here to get me and ask me questions that it became more practical to rehire me…whereas soon enough I would get pissed and quit and sure enough they’d send a guy out here to ask where this and that was,and round and round it would go….and everytime I rehired I’d have to go to the main office up town and hear the lecture of how much it costs the company to rehire me every time I was let go by them or went on my own….as if it really made a difference.

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