The What/Why Guy
Worksite personalities, part C
Happy May Day, everyone. Workers of the World Unite!
“Heck with that,” you say, “I’m no commie!”
Oh, calm down. Neither am I. Actually I can’t say exactly what system I’m for, but I know what I’m against: the corporate/crony capitalist, elitist, globalist, undemocratic, lawless, satanic, money-printing, plandemic-planning, war-mongering, Davos-attending slime who work to destroy the West. We can unite against that, ‘nkay?
Anyway, this is the final installment of my names for characters you encounter on the jobsite.
The explainer- Instead of just telling you what to do, the explainer tells you why. I actually mostly appreciate this now, being a neophyte among veteran contractors, but I remember this bugged me as a kid, when my step-father would hold his hands out, palms forward, explaining why I had to do something, or do it in a certain way. My kids don’t like this either. “Pops, just tell me what to do and don’t tell me why.” The explainer is in a bit of a lose-lose situation, though, because often, if he doesn’t explain, the worker (or son) will ask, “why”? and then he’ll have to explain anyway.
The next two characters are the sometimes bothersome workers that the explainer has to deal with.
The what/why guy- Time is money, and sometimes the site boss just has to make haste. The what/why guy slows things down. In the summer after 9th grade I’d often go up to my friend Matt’s house to goof around. If it was in the evening, his father would be home from work, in the living room, newspaper in hand, listening to the ball game. My brother and I called him What/Why Perkins. He was one of those guys who would follow his team religiously, even in the Mariners’ (too typical) crummy seasons. Matt did a great impersonation of his dad on the easy chair that me and my brother loved to hear.
It went something like this: Matt and I are passing by the living room, on the way out the front door.
Matt: Hey Dad, we’re going down to the park.
Mr. Perkins: Wuh…what?
Matt: We’re going down to the park.
Mr. P: To the park? Wuh…why?
Matt: We’re gonna go play baseball.
Mr. P: Baseball? With who?
Matt: Just me and Dan, and maybe Tom. We’re just gonna hit some fly balls n’ stuff.
Mr. P: Wull…Where again?
Matt: AT THE PARK.
Mr. P: Wuh, well, it’s pretty late. Why are you going so late?
Matt: It’s all right. We still got a couple hours of light.
Mr. P: Wuh...what?
Matt: It’s still light enough.
Mr. P: Wuh…Wull, When are you coming back?
Matt: When it’s dark. (now we’re halfway out the door) See you dad!
Mr. P: Wuh…what?
The clarification freak- See What/Why Perkins above, and me at the job site. Too often, an order has to line up in perfect logic, or I become the what/why guy too. Sometimes I wonder if the boss doesn’t say to himself, “listen Shumway, just do it, okay?”
The huh? guy- This is kind of a spinoff on the what/why guy, but very specific. You are having a conversation with Jim, and Fred wanders in from across the way. Fred sees you in animated conversation, and wants to get in on the juicy story. Nothing wrong with that; the more the merrier, but sometimes the story is just so plain and un-noteworthy that repeating it sounds goofy. You end up trying to spice up a very mundane anecdote to justify Fred’s interest. It’s such a blaa situation I don’t even want to offer a sample dialogue. Why did I include this one? Blaaa.
The late to the party claimant- This involves the perfect timing of a worker who may have been on break or slacking off or whatever and decides to join you in whatever you’re doing. You finish up with your job just as the boss or client comes in and it all appears to be a joint effort, even though the late dude just arrived five minutes ago. I remember once when I split some wood, cut up kindling, started the fire, stoked it, and after it was burning nicely, junior comes in and adds a piece of kindling to the fire. Then his dad comes in. “What are you guys up to?” Clever Junior answers, “We made a fire, daddy!” Same happens on the worksite sometimes but whateva- as long as the job gets done I suppose. The inverse of this sometimes happens on my jobsites. I’ll wander in on a job after doing something different and when it’s done the boss will say I helped, even if I protest and claim my minimal role.
The smartphone checker- No need to elaborate here.
The faux Don Juan- You know, the guy with stories who doesn’t know that most people understand that there’s an inverse relation between talking about experiences and actual experiences in the realm of romantic conquests.
The Eddie Haskell- Sometimes one of the worker grunts lays it on a little thick with a customer. Remember Eddie You’re sure looking nice today, Mrs. Cleaver! Haskell? I’ve seen it on a worksite: “I have to say, Mr. Porter, I sure like your setup here. What a beautiful patio! Did you do the tilework here? Great color choice and arrangement!” Etc.
Hey, it’s all good- Dale Carnegie would approve!
The cliché monger- I’m sorry to report that the cliché, nearly meaningless phrase, “Are we having fun yet?” hasn’t completely died out. I remember a fellow ski-tuning tech in a sporting goods store I worked at who used to always say, “What can I do ya for?” Thankfully I almost never hear that anymore. I can’t think of any other clichés off the top of my head right now, which is good, because as an aspiring writer, I figure it’s in my best interest to avoid them like the plague.
Words of Wisdom Bob- This sort of goes with cliché monger. “Well, if you rush you’re gonna make mistakes.” “At least it’s a dry heat in Montana.” “You need the right tool for the right job.” Don’t get me wrong; I’ve got nothing against words of wisdom Bob. Sometimes even the obvious bears repeating.
That’s it for worksite characters.
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