Over twenty years ago, I was working in the heavy structural steel industry.
It still feels like yesterday. I can’t believe it’s been that long.
Hard hat. Steel-toe boots. Coveralls and ear plugs. Welding shields and thick gloves. Flaming arcs from blow torches carving swaths through fifty-foot-long, five ton “I” beams. Cranes and chains. Brutal conditions.
The temperature inside the facility, was the temperature outside the facility, at all times. A building made of steel, covered by a metal roof. All the bay doors had to remain open during operations for vehicles to enter and exit, loading and unloading flatbeds, forklifts, and boom trucks coming and going. Many of the warehouse windows had been broken over the years and never replaced. If it was 104 degrees and 95% humidity outside, it was the same indoors. No AC. We had a centralized fan leaning against a wall, six feet tall. Three of us could stand in front of it for a quick cool down.
It was a blast furnace in the summer.
We used to pour water into the hardhats, freeze them overnight in the breakroom, and wear it on our heads during the shift. Allowing it to melt naturally down the skin.
When I was employed there, OSHA hadn’t been to visit for an inspection in over three quarters of a century. We worked our days with 110 year old machinery: creaking wheels, moving cogs propelled by thick leather belts which had to be ordered from out of state. Primer ignitions with special hand cranks to fire up the equipment, and most new hires never returned after their first lunch break. We used to jokingly say, “Uh oh, the lunch monster got Larry. (sigh) Gone but not forgotten.”
In the dead of winter during the windy storms, the snow would blow inside and melt across the blueprints. The six foot fan was replaced by industrial sized space heaters and to keep the toes from frostbite, we had to find methods of keeping the steel toe boots heated at all times.
The hardest employment of my life. Nineteen emergency room visits in five years.
The site is shut down now, and a new medical facility has been constructed in it’s place (oh, the irony), but despite the misery accompanying that kind of labor, there was a hidden part of me which secretly missed it.
Punching the time card at the end of the day, feeling accomplished and thinking, “Wow. I can’t believe I survived that. I can’t believe I made that!”
The last two years of the iron work gig was specializing in “stairs and rails”. Constructing wheelchair ramps, and stairwells for new hospitals and local businesses; office buildings. Using math, applicable science, measurements, and calculations. Adept with a welder and a blow torch. Plasma cutters. Problem solving. I had a mentor in the business, and learned a ton.
I can’t utilize those skills anymore in the real world, as they are not fully applicable to my reality.
But, the itch was too much. That “missing” piece of the old life came back full force, and told me I had to somehow, someway, find a practical method of utilizing those “skills” I obtained from twenty years earlier.
Working in those types of conditions (back in the day), forced us, as a crew, to be creative, unorthodox, and work through very, very specific problems.
I believe that was the part I missed.
Solving problems, finding solutions, and being creative.
Side story: When we bought this house, I told my wife, “besides my daughter’s personal space, you can have every room, corner, closet, cupboard, nook and cranny, drawer, shelf and available space… decorate anyway you desire… just as long as I get the basement.”
And, that’s the way it’s been.
For the first couple of months, regardless of the bland concrete foundation on all sides, I occupied the basement comfortably, and set up a little desk with makeshift partition walls surrounding me. It’s a moisture free basement, clean, and quite spacious.
Then, it got cold outside, and my little space heater could only do so much…
I moved my desk upstairs, and now occupy a small corner in a back room on the main floor surrounded by Nancy’s art supplies.
Warm, cozy, and practical. I don’t need a lot in life to satisfy me. The current space suits my needs.
However… I had reached a point last week, where the basement started speaking to me and I had to listen. The itch, the need to find a solution, the urge to be creative and honing those old skills, became overwhelming.
Writing is a wonderful outlet, but there’s only so much one can do at a computer for creativity exercises.
I needed my own space again. My own office.
All my “stuff” from the move in mid 2020 is still in boxes.
I told Nancy on numerous occasions, “we have to get (insert friend name) over here, and see if they can help.”
“No… I’m tired of waiting, and relying on others.”
For some extra funds, I cashed out a little cryptocurrency and closed on a couple of small investments, and in five days I purchased the needed materials, and constructed six walls for my basement office space (lumber is horribly expensive). I had ignored it for far too long, and needed to manifest my ideas into existence.
All those old trainings, tutorials watched, the blueprints, the math, the tools, the designing, the problem solving, the calculations, all came back to me.
I initially made a bunch of mistakes, tore it all down, reconstructed the problem areas, and after hoisting the most recent wall frame, I decided to take a few days off, and rest.
As a one man operation (with the exception of Nancy helping me snap a few chalk lines), I had to utilize rope and make-shift pullys and strategically placed eye hooks to stand the frames up. I had more fun than I could describe. Transporting lumber in a Prius raised a few eyebrows, but I didn’t care.
It needed to happen and I care not how others perceive me.
Scared to death to commit, I fussed and fumed and hesitated while staring at all the equipment, tools, and wood scattered around the open space. Terrified to make a mistake. Terrified to start.
But, hey… that’s how we learn. We get beaten up, and then find snippets of wisdom during the experience. Other than a Ramset, I had all the required tools. Just needed the materials to begin the project.
Fear is the only obstacle. Once the fear is conquered… literally anything is possible.
At one point, not too long ago, I believed in the opposite. To my core. Thoughts are just thoughts.
Not knowing at the time… it was all in my head, and my biggest enemy, the only thing stopping me, was me.
I suppose that’s enough rambling for the morning. I hope all is well in everyone’s realm.
I’m still trucking along. Finding comfort in my hobbies. Staying productive, and keeping my downtime to a minimum. I sent a small, partially completed project to my editor for a Young Adult series I’m working on. Gathering her advice and opinions. Good times ahead with that one. I’m wicked excited to see that ball start to roll.
It’s now time to get back to work.
The award winning science fiction novel, Volume One of the Guardian War Chronicles, the Surrender Game is available for purchase on Kindle for only $3.99. Free, with Kindle Unlimited. Please subscribe in the provided area to receive a notification of new posts by email or feel free to like my Facebook page to receive information about the Surrender Game, the Guardian War Chronicles, and other installments to come. Please give this a like if you like it, share with others to help spread the love, or leave a comment if you wish. Be good to each other. Chase the dream. Chat soon and see you at the next one.