You load sixteen tons…

The best part of my job is that no two days are ever the same. Sure everyone makes that same claim, but in my case it is totally true. I am a butcher, in theory, but I have to do all of the stocking of the milk, beer, perishables, and just whatever the hell happens to come into the store. That is just in the first couple of hours that I am there though, after that it can get interesting.

When I first started working there, back in 1994, whenever something would go wrong with plumbing/electrical/you-name-it, they would call someone to come and fix it. Now I am that someone. I have learned a lot of skills during my time at this job, skills that will likely make it a lot easier for me to find another job should I go looking for one. I never knew that I was an electrician, or a plumber, or a building contractor until, I actually had the project in front of me. My logic was pretty simple: If someone with an 8th grade education can do it, I can do it also. Because “I am good enough, I am smart enough, and dog gone it people like me” (no offense if you don’t get the humorous intent of the quote).

In my years working where I do I have taught myself the major aspects of various trades. I can now lay down tile (ranging from the do-it-yourself peel-and-stick, through the industrial grade that must be glued down, all the way to the ceramic, which is extremely expensive but a very good investment as you will never have to replace it.), I can troubleshoot electrical circuits in structures that were wired up at least a couple of decades before my birth, I have become quite proficient at finding and eliminating the sources of leaking roofs, I can replace water lines without a problem (though I only replace with PVC or CPVC since I don’t actually have a torch and the flux that copper would require. Although I did have to borrow a torch to do a copper line one time since building codes do not allow pvc connections behind walls. That is a long story though), yes, I have learned a lot while working where I do, mostly self taught.

The culmination of my self-taught abilities came a couple of weeks ago. There was a vacant rental house that the boss wanted fixed up, but he figured I could do all the work. He was right. I will skip over the minutiae of broken faucets and the such and get to the meat of this one, I had to install laminate flooring (Pergo. Google it if you care, I am not going to link to it). That is some tough shit to put down. While it is true that it just snaps together, what they don’t tell you (the installation instructions tell you but you have already committed yourself to it at that point) is that there has to be a quarter inch space between the flooring and the wall at all times, to allow for expansion and contraction of the flooring. That is probably all well and good in new homes, you know the ones, they are easily identified by their straight walls, standard door moldings and the such. In a house that is as old as the one I was working in none of those things exist.

This description will be horribly confusing, but bear with me. I had to lay the flooring down in a house that had walls and corners about as square as an overhead view of the border between the U.S. and Mexico. There was existing “trim molding” that actually went below the level of the floor (which I could not use for finish molding since it would leave the underside of the flooring completely exposed to the elements, or so the Home Depot guy told me), the existing “trim molding” stopped about an inch before every door, went back to the level of the wall, had a quarter-round molding (vertical), then hit the door jamb. The door transitions were hard.

It took me about an hour to lay 200 square feet of this flooring: It took me about 20 hours to lay the 30 square feet for the 7 doorways and two carpet transitions. I still had to leave the quarter inch gap around all of the transitions (where the doors are), but was able to cover all of the rest of the gaps with molding. Even the housing inspector (that is the guy that comes in to check out the house prior to sale to make sure that the home will be around by the time the mortgage is paid off) didn’t notice the small gaps at the doorways. It is only a quarter of an inch.

So I learned a brand new skill today: I can now haul dirt.

The basement of the place I work is quite cavernous, thousands of square feet. The foundation is extremely visible and made of nothing but huge stones and mortar. Problem is someone decided to mud over the foundation and make it into a living area (I have no idea how long ago that was, but I would guess decades). The mud that they slapped over the enormous rocks has long since turned to sand, which is now filling up the basement. It is nearly knee deep at the corners and along the wall, while being only a light dusting (say an inch and a half) near the center. I have to clean it out.

Dirt is heavy.

I spent three hours down in the basement today doing nothing other than moving out that dirt. I had a helper so that we could do double the damage in the same amount of time. We each filled two buckets, five gallon buckets, before taking them out to the street. Each bucket weighed in excess of fifty pounds, we carried them out two at a time (four at a time since there were two of us). That makes it to be 200 pounds each time we carried them out. I would guess that we only did 25 trips to get the dirt cleaned out, which sucks since I titled the post about sixteen tons and we only did about 2.5 tons. Of course the sixteen ton song is about shoveling, not what we had to do.

Every full bucket of sand has to make it to the street. That trek, from where we were in the basement, was about 200 feet to the stairs, the thirteen stairs, 30 feet to the door, and an additional 250 feet after that. Dumping the pails was taking about five minutes every time, but we were to sweeping near the end so I guess I didn’t really have to work all that hard.

On the upside, I get to do it again tomorrow! We only managed to clear one wall today, there are many more to be taken care of.

Seriously, Kids, stay in school.

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