Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dumb Courage's Cry for Help: Part 4 of When Limbs Break a Tree Calls on It's Roots for Strength.

Tattle tale is a word with very bad connotations for men. The animal most identified with the word is a rat. Other words for it are snitch and narc. When I was a child, those were words I never wanted to be called. Now, as a man, it is even more of an insult to be called or act in a manner that would be considered snitch, narc, rat or tattle tale.

In fifth grade, my teacher would turn his back to the class while writing on the blackboard. An occasional spit wad would fly up and stick to the blackboard. He would then punish the whole classroom by making us stay in during recess and copy pages of the dictionary. The alternative would be to tattle on the person who did it and with the exception of the perpetrator we could go to recess. The perpetrator was rarely turned in.

Early on in my apprenticeship, I remember being in a ditch that was about four to four and a half feet deep.  We were at a small airport in Falcon, Colorado. We, a crew of three, were putting in underground cable to provide power for the airplane hangers. The soil was very sandy, caving in often.

One of the dangers associated with excavations is being buried by a cave-in. The other apprentice I was with, Ely, refused to get in because he saw a huge fissure and feared the ditch collapsing. I jumped in with full gusto to show I was a harder worker and to be more liked by my foreman.

This is what I call dumb courage. I was doing something that put my life at risk because someone else expected me to do it. The other apprentice showed actual courage by standing up for a principle even when that was frowned upon by the majority of people. Granted, I didn't understand the magnitude of danger I was in while in that ditch.

Fast forward three years later, I'm a seventh step apprentice who has just done something that I thought was against the rules. I worked on an energized line with only two people. The rules in Denver say you must have three people on your crew to work on an energized line. 

After work, I'm glad to be alive. Inside my head, I'm drawing the proverbial line in the sand to never do that again. I remember thinking, "Mitch, the other apprentice, will be back on Monday and he'll have passed the lineman test. I'll never have to do that again." The actual rules in that town are that the minimum amount of people needed to work an energized line is two but breaking a rule that you thought applied still feels like breaking a rule to me. It, breaking a rule, brings me angst, a feeling of rebelliousness and guilt all at the same time. Those feelings aren't good for me when working around high voltage lines.

Those feelings aren't good for me when doing anything. I remember playing little league football while my dad watched. When he watched, it was like the part in the Lord of the Rings  where this huge red eye is glaring at you. The heat from the eye makes you sweat. Sometimes, if I didn't play well, he would do what I call a 'one knuckle tap' on my skull. It, the 'one knuckle tap' usually leaves a lump on your head. It's funny now, beause it reminds me of bugs bunny cartoons when he would ask, "one lump or two?" and then hit them in the head according to how many lumps of sugar they said they wanted, but it wasn't funny then. It also didn't help my performance as I messed up whenever I felt his eyes watching me.

If I would have had the courage of Ely, I would have said, "I'm not working until we get another guy on the crew!" Then we would have either got another guy, found out the rule, or my foreman would have done it. When a foreman has to do something he will give you crap to no end but in retrospect it would have been worth it.

I did go to the place I was staying and complain to my line buddy Keith
about how my boss was making me work energized lines with only a two man crew. Then I complained to my brother about it. I might have even jokingly sent him my password to my Facebook account with the instructions to tell everyone I loved them if I died. When the  weekend came, I was headed to Atlanta to visit a friend and sightsee. I drove my car to my favorite  foreman's house in Denver, where  he  let me park my 'Ol Betsy (my beat up car see previous blogs). He gave me a ride to the  Denver International Airport and I complained to him about the situation. When I landed in Atlanta, I complained to my friend there too.

Complaining about job conditions to friends and family is something that occurs at just about every job site. Maybe it was a way to put the responsibility of the danger in someone else's hands without them knowing. Now I see it's actually cowardly or dumb because instead of taking responsibility, it puts responsibility in everyone else's hands. Or maybe  I was taking my time to build up courage to say something. 

It's  too  late to change  the past and I certainly  took a long time to realize  that. In the very beginning of my life without hands, the phrases, "what if I would have done this?"  or, " I should have done that!" popped in my head and came out my mouth daily and sometimes hourly or even every ten minutes. Even now, as I struggle to open my in flight snack package in this tightly packed Southwest flight,  I wish I could have prevented that accident. 
But I now constantly remind myself that I can't change the past, I can only change the future.

Today I hit my 37th birthday. With that came a lot of retrospective thoughts  and self evaluation. A lot of it was depressing. Some of it stemmed from my college team, USU losing to BYU.
Nevertheless  my life has very few significant accomplishments compared to many others. Everyone my age has kids and is deep in their careers. They are going somewhere.

Again I remind myself, we can't change the past only the future so here goes: My future involves me taking an active role and asking the right people for help. My future involves me having actual  courage like Ely Gelynus, who told people when he was uncomfortable doing something. My future involves less dumb courage, which is me trying to  do things I know I can't do by myself without asking the right person for help. My future involves, god willing, children of my own. My future involves me not comparing myself to others. My future involves me having a career and going somewhere. That's one of the steps in moving on with ones life recognizing the mistakes and taking the necessary measures to not make those mistakes again. but not dwelling in the past.