Mar. 15, 2013 - A Day in the Life, Part 2
“Back in the day......” is what all the guys hear these days when discussion concerning all the changes, personnel-wise and technologically, take place. I know because I'm usually the one that says it. But that's only fair since I'm one of the oldest guys in the field. Not that I'm “old”, just seasoned. Really. It does come in handy though, in times like this, because it allows me to relate to others what it's really like to be in the field. Especially for the parts of the job that has not changed much.
The first “A Day in the Life” was written, not so much, as a guide, but as a tongue-in-cheek perspective of life on the road during the “early” days. As it turns out, it's not far from the truth, but, it's been six years since it was written, and I figured it's time to update “project reality” for all the new blood that's has joined us, or will be joining us, especially since the company is being asked to bid on stuff all over the country, and not just in the eastern half.
One of the first things you'll hear about our work, is that it involves travel. Most folks, when they hear that term, think about romantic getaway cruises, or off-the-map adventures somewhere in the Outback, or camping in the mountains. The closest we get to that kind of thing is that our travels do sometimes seem as if we're trying to discover somewhere in the mountains to camp. In reality, we become very good at analyzing hotels and restaurants and finding trails that take us to the middle of nowhere.
Which project are you working on? A project that's “close by” means that you get to sleep in your own bed. The commute may be up to an hour. You still have to do all the chores at home. You get to spend weekends at home. The company will buy you lunch and gas and, sometimes, you get to eat lunch will your fellow pole-counting associates. And once in a rare while, you might even get to eat lunch with the office staff, including the owner of the company!!! Times are good when you're on a project that is “close-by”. This kind of project might last as long 3-4 months. Unfortunately, those don't happen but 2-3 times every 5 years.
A project of medium distance means that if you want to commute it, your drive will be at least 1+ hours. More normal is the project that is 1.5 to 4 hours away drive-time. These type of projects require hotel and restaurant knowledge. You end up having every hotel frequent stay mileage card there is. You get plenty of practice in trying to work deals with hotel management for reasonable rates because, that hotel will be your home-away-from-home for the next 2-8 weeks or so. Of course, you get to go home on weekends. You get up on Monday mornings, already packed, and drive to where you will be working. You check in, (if the hotel allows early check-in) and then you go “count” poles. YOUR WORK WILL HAVE TO BE ACCURATE, or you get to fix it on your own time, maybe. Our company's life revolves around getting information, and it must be right. All the time, every time. Lunch may or may not be with any of your co-workers that are also working on that project, that is, if there are other people on the project with you. After lunch, you do more extremely accurate work. Suppertime is the unofficial end of the “counting” day. This is also a good time to socialize, because everyone will have stories about what went on that day. Where to eat supper every day is a major decision. If you aren't used to eating out, you will become use to it quickly. You'll also get to eat at places that you would not normally go to. After the company pays for your meal, you get to retire to your company paid hotel room. Your project manager will all but guarantee that the person you are rooming with is compatible. And by some chance they are not, it can be fixed. After supper, you get on your computer and finish uploading your work for the day. Then you get to fully relax. Sleep. Get up on Tuesday and repeat. Now the hotel is home for the week and you basically repeat what you did on Monday. Drive to the area you're working in, “count”, eat, “count”, end of day, go to supper, eat, socialize, hotel, sleep. Friday, you work to the end of the day and then you drive home in your company vehicle. Re-read the previous passage. Maybe several times. This IS a typical work day, and each day the work must be accurate. Sound like fun? Actually it's not as bad as I make it sound. The work is very challenging and your “office view” changes every day because you're in your truck in a different area everyday and everything is paid for. Being goal oriented helps. There are several other perks too, like, just about everyone that works in the field have brains that work similarly. It creates a “family” environment (remember how your older brothers used to pick on you?).
A project of long distance is similar to the medium distance project except that you're gone from home for about 2 weeks. What we try to accomplish is doing 120 hours (3 weeks, 40-40-40) worth of work in a 2 week time frame. This allows us to take what would be the 3rd week off and relax because we've already worked the hours for the 3rd week. While your on the road for the 2 weeks that you're working, your work pattern pretty much follows the pattern set forth in the medium distance project. It's just that the distance from home has increased to a 8-12 hour drive, and you're gone from home 2 weeks including the weekend in the middle.
Most of the time, our guys are working on “medium” and “long” distance projects. THIS is why we try to make sure folks who are thinking about working for us understand, you will probably be gone from home a little more than you're used to. And with all the restaurant food, you may become a little more aware of the earth's gravity due to an increase in your weight. Or not.
A lot of our newsletters have some funny, or humorous, or even sarcastic points made in them (yes Mr. Johnson, nothing is sacred anymore, not even the newsletters), but, I felt this one needed to be clear in what it was conveying. I'm sure I'll hear about it, but, I'll just use the “I don't care” excuse.
So get ready. You'll be hearing the “back in the day....” story soon enough, but you'll also realize, “this information is stuff I really need to know, but this guy is so abrasive”. Out with the old, in with the new? Not yet.
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