Saturday, July 31, 2010

Now I know why people join suicide cults...

I had that feeling this morning. That feeling that there was a message waiting for me on the phone telling me of some new crisis. Sure enough, Jimmy, one of my crew leaders, texted to inform me that one of the guys had said it was "too early" and he wasn't going to come to work. Now, granted, it was a new guy and he doesn't know the deal, or all that goes into streamlining a series of moves in a weekend, but still. Crisis.

Here's what happens when guys bail on us at the last second:

1. I call/text/e-mail everyone in the crew list for backup. This is now about 30 guys.
2. I prepare to go to a job and act as backup myself.
3. If it's a weekend, particularly a Sunday, I tell my wife and older son that I won't be able to do all those things we'd hope to do after all. There's usually crying.
4. I get maybe three responses from the 30 or so guys I contacted. Two can't make it. One can, but needs a ride from another time zone.
5. I call my partners in the industry. "Got another guy to spare?" To their credit, yes, they usually do.

The guys who have been with us the longest get one or two basic things down -- they know that if they want work, they have to show up. These are the guys in whom I entrust the entire reputation of the business, and I can't express my gratitude enough. The rookies never get beyond rookie status until they've proven they can show up on time, ready to work. Then they wonder why I never call them for work anymore. A catch-22? Maybe, but if you don't show up for work -- kind of an "Employment 101" thing, I used to think -- even one time, I'm far less likely to call them again.

I used to be very tolerant of no-shows. Lord knows we all have problems, or there are snags with Metro, or cars break down, or babies are being born. But after 2.5 years of this, I've come to realize that guys who bail on you at the last second will ALWAYS bail on you, with rare exceptions.

And this is just one of many daily crises.

I spoke with my friend and colleague Brian at Suburban Solutions this morning. He and I kind of treat each other's text inboxes as psychological dumping grounds. He called me after getting yet another "Can you effing believe this?" text from me.

"Chris," he said, "What keeps you from swallowing the barrel of a shotgun?"

"Right now?" I replied. "My wife and kids need me. Otherwise I'd go for the sweet release of cordite and gunpowder."

Needless to say, the slow season can't come fast enough.

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