I’ve worked a variety of jobs over the years; some that people would never expect if they didn’t know my past. I started young, very young, selling Regal Christmas cards from door to door. Somehow my mother got me started on it and I guess in the shyness of my youth, this did not bother me. I made some spending money and I think I was about nine or ten when I started this entrepreneurship. Now, I wouldn’t have the guts to bang on people’s doors and bother them. But as a little innocent with my cute cherubic face I could sell the cards and people weren’t suspicious of a child.
Innocence probably accompanied me through most of my jobs as a teen and young adult. When I was in college I had a job one summer surveying city lots for construction. I had worked in a store before that but the money was better surveying. I didn’t know how to survey but only one person on the team needs to know how to use the instrument.
The surveying teams were often two or three people; one (the actual surveyor) would set the instrument. Another would possibly hold the meter stick and another, the plumb bob, the weighted piece that gives a perpendicular line to the earth’s surface, important for accurate readings on uneven terrain. We were a team of three, consisting of the surveyor, me and another guy who was large, sweaty, unkempt and smelly. The three of us would ride around in the cab of the truck from lot to lot, me and the surveyor often saying disparaging things to the guy who never seemed to bathe.
I also was the more intelligent of the two workers and overtime the surveyor was teaching me how to read the equipment. The other guy wasn’t interested. This helped the day go faster because I was doing more than just holding a giant ruler. And there wasn’t a lot else to do when in a big flat space full of dirt.
It was summer in Calgary, hot and sunny, and dusty from all the grading trucks in the empty lots. So there were other workers there from those grading the land, to any operators of the heavy machinery and those pouring foundations for homes. I often worked with my hair braided, to keep it out of my face, and wearing this white, stretchy and therefore form-fitting halter top. With no bra of course. I actually had no clue that perhaps this got me more attention than I needed, often being the only woman on the site.
Yet I don’t really remember guys coming on to me, wolf-whistling or ogling me. Perhaps they were but if so they were surreptitious about it. However, I tend to think that it was because most of them were barely above the bar that would have them rated as intelligent. I actually don’t remember much about this job, except for the lunch hours. The lunch truck would come around and blare its horn. Everyone gathered there to eat, even if they brought their own food. Often they’d buy something else; a milk or juice, chocolate bar, or sandwich. The fodder was fairly pedestrian and there was little that resembled a vegetable that these guys probably wouldn’t have eaten anyways.
But the most astounding thing was to watch these construction workers eat, which makes me think that most of them had to be single. They shoveled, literally shoveled food into their mouths, chewing as pieces fell out. Others chewed open mouth and ate like ravenous hyenas. And others drank their milk or juice, pouring it into their mouths so that it spilled out and across their faces or down the corners over their chin and onto their shirts. In essence they ate like pigs.
Me sitting there in my white halter top, naively unaware that I was the only woman on site, gaped and was astounded at the animal ferocity of the men. These guys were barely human. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like if I’d been working on my own without a team. The other helper guy fit into the piggy category and was pretty stupid but the surveyor was a decent guy, educated and with manners. I think in a way that he probably was a shield to the other men. That and the fact that we were usually away from the construction crews, working where it was devoid of nearly inhuman men.
Still, I think back to that job and shake my head at what I wore, and I’m thankful that for all the animalness of the men in eating, they remained decent enough to leave me alone.