How to Work Construction for Total Rookies

To sound like one of those daytime technical college commercials that ran before the results of a Maury Show paternity test: Are you unemployed? Fed up with sitting on the couch all day in front of the TV? Want a career but can’t seem to get your butt in gear?

Actually the first question should be: Are you a little bitch?

If yes, don’t worry, bro. We were all little bitches at one point in the game. It’s not about that. It’s about right-ass now, dawg. And whether you’ve got the willingness to will your broke-ass up to some respectable-ass levels.

If you’re a grown-ass man, your job should entail skills beyond that of the average teenager. Construction is the most rewarding way for a guy with no real skills to go as far as possible, as quickly as possible. Many would-be master tradesmen avoid construction because their inner bitch convinces them they can’t hack it. They picture members of the muscle-y Village People, then look at their own scrawny arms in the mirror and think, Bro, I don’t even lift.

Bro, it doesn’t really even matter, bro. Not yet. First…

FIND A CONSTRUCTION-FOCUSED TEMP AGENCY

Your local temporary labor office will have jobs for even the worst of the worst, including you. This is not your final destination. Remember that, especially as the gnarly-looking crew of cracked-out day laborers you see there gives you a bad first impression. It’s a stepping stone, and your unofficial initiation into the Tribe of the Tradesmen.

Some people spend all their energy trying to get hired on full-time with construction companies directly, which is fine, I guess. But instead of spending weeks sending out resumes you could be working literally as soon as tomorrow by showing up to a temp office early in the morning and filling out the easiest application you’ve ever filled out in your life.

MAKE NICE WITH THE FOREMAN

The temp agency will send you out to several different construction sites, maybe the odd warehouse (which I’d avoid due to their dead-end factor). Some jobs are pure hell. Other days are so slack that getting paid feels like theft.

Doesn’t matter. Man up, do your day, and most importantly: hustle. This means making a good impression on the foreman and mentioning that you’re looking for full-time work. In my experience, and with a lot of guys I know, this method increases the odds of finding the job best-suited to your strengths and interests. As the temp agency sends you out to different places over those first couple weeks, you’re basically shopping around while acting as your own walking-talking-living-breathing resume. I say “first couple weeks” because that should be your time-limit for temping. The goal is full-time work via temping.

Technically it’s considered poaching if a company jacks a temp worker before a certain number of hours worked under the agency’s contract (usually somewhere around 300, I believe). Good news, though. That’s usually ignored by the grey-haired, old-school, twice-divorced sheet metal foreman who likes the fact you’re from his hometown and doesn’t want to waste any valuable time interviewing duds. Just keep it on the down-low.

APPEAR VAGUELY ANGRY AT ALL TIMES

Sometimes there is fuck-all to do on site. Or sometimes you’re so exhausted from hours of non-stop hammering apart concrete forms that all you can think about is sneaking off for a few minutes. Your brain and body (and perhaps even soul) will soon construct a caveman’s callous against these impulses. In the meantime, if you must dogfuck, the best way to do it is by walking around the site, pretending to look for a shovel or a broom, with a somewhat-almost-quasi-hintably angry look on your face.

In the unconscious mind an angry worker doesn’t register as a dogfucker. Seeing some dude with an air of anger in his disposition, other guys think to themselves, Oh yeah fuck, there goes John, look at him giv’r. Don’t bother him with that question right now, he looks busy.

Don’t milk this, obviously. But if you’ve never been on a site before, soon this will all make sense.

Think about it in terms of a marathon dance contest, like the ones 70s radio stations used to put on. Contestants were required to be in constant motion, even if the dancing itself looked shitty. The judges were always watching. Same deal on site. Eyes are everywhere. Consider looking angry while fake-looking for stuff as your low-maintenance fluff-filler secret dance move that helps tide you over through the muscle cramps.

Standing and smiling? Geddafuckouddaheuhwiddatshit!

DON’T WEAR GREEN OR WHITE HARDHATS

You’ll need a hardhat. Don’t buy a green one. Strictly for fags. Clueless rookies wear the fresh green. In prison that might put you up for rape auction. I can’t remember exactly but I think there was a book about it called The Crying of Lot 69 by Thomas Pinch-Him.

White is for the bosses, as in, “Look busy, here come the white-hats.” Got to work your way up to that one, bud.

THE PORT-O-POTTY IS WHERE THE CLASSY SHIT GO DOWN

If you ball together an excessively large amount of toilet paper and throw it down in the “fear orgy beneath the seat” prior to sitting down, you can prevent up-splashes.

And future hepatitis tests will thank you.

EX-CONS

If you currently don’t know a lot of people who’ve been to prison, you will.

DON’T ASK QUESTIONS

If you’re new you’ll have many questions. At times your mouth will even think it’s a good idea to ask those questions. Trust me, homie, at this point in your trades career there is no way they’re paying you enough to think.

Nod, work.

Work, nod.

Your voice is automatically annoying to everyone who’s worked there longer than you (aka everyone).

ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS

Construction is a wide world. Figure out what you like trades-wise. Ask guys you’re working with about different trades, which companies have a good reputation, all that kind of shit. Remember that no single opinion is gold. Everyone’s got their angle. Collect those angles and form your own.

For example, personally, I think iron-working is a fucking nightmare of a trade. Murders the shoulders, pinches the fingers, merciless exposure to the elements. At the same time, one of my buddies from Prince Edward Island is so proud of being an iron-worker that he bought a vanity license plate that actually says REBAR.

That’s hard as fuck right durr, b’ye.

This point obviously runs contrary to the previous one and that is on purpose. Contradiction will occur frequently in construction, from indecipherable statements made by your foreman to the way a blueprint doesn’t match up with what’s actually in front of you. Get comfortable with that.

CHICKS ARE HAZARDS

This a mostly male environment, which means the level of humor rises so high that shitting your pants is just as much of a workplace hazard as falling off a ladder.

It’s hard to convey in words the sort of elated giggliness that germinates in a non-politically correct crew of overworked, underslept men. To me, it feels like an affirmation that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, with the boys building shit, not emailing form letters and having to book eye appointments because of increasingly computer-damaged vision.

Girls destroy that sacred dynamic. Jokes suddenly need to be translated or tweaked. Even the dykiest of broads I know are never able to sync up exactly on par with bros bro-ing down on jokes the way only bros can do.

Working in a men-mostly environment changes the way you see women both on site and the universe. After a day of working with just dudes, or completely alone in the rafters pulling wire, chicks can become an enchanted, almost forgotten species. This fucks with the brain and libido in such a way that if the gas station attendant lady was a 3 when you went to fill up in the morning, she is guaranteed to have climbed to at least a 5 when you stop in there on the way home.

At times I wish there was a rule against total babes on site. Fucks up my whole day. I was perfectly happy chipping out faulty post-tension lines until my brain was hijacked and held hostage in BootyLand.

Speaking of, there’s a bobcat driver at my current site that is so hot I’ve accidentally dropped tools for no reason other than I got caught up with the 1987 hit song “Lady In Red,” which always starts playing in my head as she drives by.

She’s gotta go.

IT SUCKS

Look, some of the work you will face is going to suck unfathomably large balls. And when I say unfathomable, we’re talking legit-style. A size of sack so enormous that it would require the cognitive depth of an Indian mathematician meditating on a mountaintop, high on DMT, while sipping goblets of endangered goat blood. And that’s only beginning to conceptualize the size of deez nutz.

But I swear unto you thusly: I look back on my toughest days the most fondly. I’d be a pussy if I hadn’t seen them through and I’m now stronger than fuck because of them.

BE, LIKE, SUPER HUMBLE

Don’t backtalk, don’t sass. Give respect like you were surrounded by dangerous criminals, because you probably are.

You’ve got to earn your backtalk. You’re not there yet.

SHOW UP

Just show up. One of the most respected skills you can possess. That and being on time.

SMOKING CIGARETTES IS GOOD FOR YOU

Definitely, definitely start smoking cigarettes. At least one a day, you pussy. It’s good for camaraderie, it visually legitimizes the act of standing and taking a break, and it effectively masks the smell of lunchtime weed.

$$$

Construction is a a bumpy road but the money is good once you start moving up, getting tickets, getting trained on equipment, getting the lay of the land in general, and developing the dirty demeanor that every dude eventually gets when near-misses and constant close proximity to a painful death no longer raise his heart-rate.

The money can actually be relatively awesome. I know electricians who pull 6-figure salaries and you know how much they pay in student loans every month? Fuckin’ zero dollars, dawg. In fact, most of them were paid to go do their trade schooling.

OFFICE JOBS CAN SUCK IT

I’ve worked a lot of office jobs in my life . . . but probably never again.

I strongly dislike naggy chicks. In PC office environments, they’re everywhere. I also don’t like sitting all day looking at screens. Even typing this out right now is making me pretty restless. I’ve gotten up to the fridge unnecessarily three times since sitting down an hour ago to pound this out.

Screens may one day be proven extremely harmful to human health. Like how smokes were, way back. All I know is that glowing screens in excess give me a digital hangover. As for slouching in a chair for 8 hours, I heard someone say that sitting is the new smoking but that might be a bit of a stretch.

For all the testosterone on a construction site, I find passive aggressiveness in the office to be way more malicious. Construction dudes swear and smash things and then forget about it so they can move on with their lives. Office cunts will use PC language while eviscerating your dignity and squashing your nutsack forever.

What I’m trying to say here is that if you’re in your 20s or 30s and have no clue what to do work-wise, maybe you should consider picking up a shovel before Brenda from HR digs your cubicle-grave.

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Greg Pike

Written by Greg Pike

Greg Pike. Canadian. 3rd Degree. Credits: Noisey, VICE, Cult MTL, Thought Catalog, Street Carnage, Weird Canada, CTV Television, others. Influences: Gary Rogers (Thrasher's Skateline), Danny McBride (everything that man touches). 2019: book.

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