It’s the last day, hopefully, on the project, and at this point, everyone is sick to death of being here. Honestly, the best contractor I’ve worked with would have had this thing knocked out in three months, and it’s been six months so far. There’s a lot of RMP but not many MPH. Everyone is getting edgy and bitchy. Two members of the crew get into a push fest and shouting match, and their foreman has to separate them. One of the guys, Pete, is rock solid and usually the hardest working person on the project. That leaves Reggie, his antagonist, to take the blame. Reggie feels picked on, and he feels like Pete is getting a pass on this.
It’s unofficially part of my job to listen to men bitch about how they are treated on the project, but at the end of the day, I’ve been there and I have done that. Shut up and do your job. It really is that simple. I’ve got the better part of thirty years in; whining doesn’t impress me much. Reggie pleads his case to me and I listen with great patience. He’s less than happy with my suggestion that he outwork the person he has a conflict with, and he’s less than impressed with my idea of getting together with his management team to talk about it. But “do your job” is about the best piece of advice I have for anyone.
There’s a piece of plywood stuck in the mud and when one of the crewmembers lifts it up a four-foot-long brown watersnake charges out from under it. I’m at the water’s edge so the snake is heading right for me. I reach down and grab it, and flip it into the creek. Two grown men scream like little girls, the rest laugh, and I’ve got a couple of bloody spots where the snake tagged me in passing.
The bite marks are jagged and uninteresting, much like you’d get with briars, or the treads of an old tire, and really, you’re kidding aren’t you?
Reggie is standing at the top of the slope, and he has a pistol in his hand.
I’ve been here before, you know. At least three times in my life, I’ve had someone with a gun challenge me on snake identification, in a lethal manner.
“That’s a cottonmouth,” Reggie declares for the world to hear.
I’ve nothing to say. I know better, and I know better than to do anything but be still. The snake is somewhere behind me, likely unseen and invisible to anyone not trained to look for snakes. Reggie’s foreman, on the other hand, knows very well what’s going on, and he comes out screaming.
“Gee, Reggie, you aren’t allowed to have a gun at work, and both your intelligence and your family is suspect at this point, I would like to point this out, loudly.”
That’s what the foreman says, well, but with different words, but you get the general idea, given I cannot have an exact quote here, don’t you? The foreman charges up the slope and disarms Reggie, who is protesting that he’s not hurting nothing.
“You pressing charges?” the superintendent asks ten minutes after he arrives and gets the story from the crew, and Reggie.
“Not my circus, not my monkey.”
“I’d appreciate if this didn’t go up the line,” he tells me.
“I’m good,” I tell him, and I am. I’m just tired. I’m tired of this sort of reaction. I’m tired of that sort of person. I’m tired of it all.
I’m drinking right now. I’m serious about it, too. Sorry about any errors you’ll find, but for not the first time in my life, I have to deal with some idiot, who is convinced a harmless animal isn’t, and so a gun is drawn.
Mike writes regularly at his site: The Hickory Head Hermit. Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.