These past two weeks have been full of drilling. “What am I doing drilling?” you may ask. Well my answer is this:
I was hired by an archaeology company to do grunt work for a project they were hired for. It’s for the CRC (Columbia River Crossing) project–the new I-5 bridge that’s going across the Columbia river to Warshington (maybe). Our job is to make sure there aren’t any significant archaeology sights, such as Indian burial grounds, directly in the path of the drill, and therefore none anywhere in the path of the new I-5 bridge. We’re also using the data to map the prehistoric landscape.
My job consists of many things, but mostly it consists of standing around trying to keep my hands out of my pockets to appear busy. This is my biggest challenge. Appearing busy in an office setting is much easier. As long as your staring at a computer screen, you might be doing work. Chances are you’re not. Like right now if you’re at work, you’re reading this blog which is not at all related to what you should be doing. But no one will be the wiser. Not so with an outside job. To appear busy during a drill job or any other similar type of thing, one must have a constant look of confusion or deep concentration on one’s face, as if in a perpetual state of bewilderment and or meditation. To compliment this look and further promote the deceit of having intellect, a pen in the hand and/or even a piece of paper will suffice. Make sure to write on the paper and look at it once in a while, because this is what people who are actually working do. Keeping your hands out of your pockets is a must, as it screams “money-waster.” If I don’t have anything in my hands I like to keep them folded across my chest or resting on my hips. The second option does wonders for appearing thoughtful and smart. Cock the head to the left ever so slightly.
Luckily, the dress code calls for jeans, boots, a neon safety vest, and a hard hat. I say ‘luckily’ not because this is how I like to dress (except for the neon vest part) but because of the attire’s air of importance. Think of all the things people in hard hats and vests do. Holding stop signs, drilling things, being a fire man…the list goes on and on. And when doing any of those jobs, you certainly look busy and important. Just imagine how busy and important I must look with a hard hat, neon vest, long pants, and a clipboard. Pretty damn busy, I know. And even more important.
But as busy as I may appear, I am not. And neither is anyone else. Before I go any further, let me explain who else I’m talking about. There are the three drillers (John, Billy, and Greg), and then there’s me, Matt, Kendra, and Jeff. These are the main people on sight who have an actual job to do. Kendra is an archaeologist and Jeff is the geologist. They both have to be there, analyzing the core samples when they come off the drill rig. Other than the drillers, they’re the only two people that really need to be there. Next there’s Matt and myself. Matt is an intern for the geology company, and I’m me. Then there are two people who work for the CRC project plus a trainee or intern of there’s. Then there’s two other geologists, including their boss who’s always calling Jeff to get updates. Then there’s a safety guy from some safety department that I haven’t seen since the first day, an ODOT guy or two, the boss of the archaeology company, another archaeologist that’s come once or twice, a few people on the phone that are in charge of something but haven’s shown up yet, and my dad–yes that’s how I got the job.
That means there are roughly 20 people that come to the core sites from time to time. That’s a LOT of people standing around trying to look busy, although some of them are too important to have to appear busy. If I was a suck up, I wouldn’t know who to suck up to because there are so many bosses.
Back to appearing to be busy, the best thing to do to appear being busy is to actually be doing something. But that requires there to be something to do. A lot of the time, I’m just standing there, looking down at the core in it’s 5 foot wooden box, along with the other people staring at it. A look of puzzlement comes across my face as one of my brows lifts. My eyes squint as I bring my forefinger and thumb up to my chin, which sits in the slot right between them.
“Do you concure, Kennett?”
“Why, yes. Yes, indeed I do concure. Proceed with the analysis.”
That’s what I’d say if I was important. But my job is actually to load the cores from the truck into their wooden boxes. I also label the boxes with a marker, drill the boxes shut once the cores have been looked at, staple the box’s nylon fabric hinges that are always breaking, transport the boxes to and from the storage facility in Vancouver, and help the drillers run errands like filling up their water tank. This may sound like a lot, but it isn’t. At times it gets pretty hectic with all the noise and cores coming off the drill rig, but most of the time it isn’t. And to make matters even worse, the stuff I just listed above is pretty much the same job that Matt has. Plus he’s an intern, meaning so he’s super eager to do everything that does or doesn’t need to be done. It’s a race to get to the stapler first to fix a broken box hinge. We play rock scissors paper to see who gets to screw the boxes shut. He’s always trying to get one step ahead. Maybe there’s no competition and it’s all in my head (probably). But nonetheless, he’s quick. Someone needs a strip of duckt tape? Matt’s got three torn in 4 inch strips with no dangling hair strands lined up and ready to go. A core section is about to be sent down the ramp from the drill rig? Matt’s been standing there for five minutes waiting for it. A box needs to be moved to the saw horses? Wait, what box? Matt went back in time and moved it there 10 minutes ago. Paying someone low wages and constantly reminding them that they beat 100 other applicants to get the job so they better be happy about it must be a good motivator because Matt is a great worker. When I look around at all the people at the drill sight, I see the person making the least amount of money doing the most amount of work. All the salary guys have got their hands in their pockets.
I started riding my bike to work, which is a 55 mile commute, to get some exercise. The first day I commuted by bike, the storage facility key jumped out of my backpack side pocket some where along the route. So as my penalty for trying to be environmentally friendly, I lost a key that’s most likely going to cost $300 to replace (the whole lock). Now when I ride two and from the job, I have my eyes locked on the ground searching for it along the roadside. I haven’t crashed yet, but I did get hit by a car yesterday. Right before the Sellwood bridge, a car passed me going around the corner–only 20 feet before you merge onto the bridge. He immediately had to put his breaks on, and hadn’t even fully passed me yet. I was still just a few feet off his right side when he began turning. I’m not going to yield to a damn car when it’s cut me off, so I held my ground and turned with it. The idiot still didn’t see me when we straightened out on the bridge and bumped up against my handlebars and leg. I yelled at him and said some profane language to watch where he was going, then waved him off when he slowed down to offer assistance or something. I didn’t crash or get hurt at all, just a tiny bump. But it’s occurrences like this that will keep ordinary people from commuting to work on most roads. I’m amazed by the number of commuters I see every day in Portland, but it’s nothing compared to the number if idiot drivers stuck on I-5 in gridlock. That’s why we’re doing the preliminary work for the CRC project–to make the bridge bigger and in doing so, decongest traffic in Portland during rush hour. And it needs to be done too. I can see how slow the traffic is coming into Portland from Vancouver in the morning and going North in the afternoon. It’s stop and go every single day. But making the bridge bigger/making the roads 8 lane instead of 6/raising the speed limit isn’t going to solve the problem. The problem is cars, like I always say. And I know I’m preaching to the choir, but I don’t care. Cars and bikes need to be separated if people are going to commute to work in mass numbers. And the bike path along the river in Portland is proof. That thing is always jam packed. We need more bike paths like that throughout the city and more bike lanes and bike routes from the surrounding suburbs. Someone should really get on this and do something about it. I would, but as you know, I’m already super busy. Just look at me: hard hat, vest, typing on a computer. Well, I Better get back to work. There’s a core that needs some of my intense inspection.