Friday, April 20, 2012

Not What You Think

Winter is tough in this business. I stare at a computer, looking at numbers, calculating and devising a plan on how the summer is going to go. Looking back at how the last year went. Strategizing on how the next year can be even better. Patiently waiting for spring to break so you can get back out there again.

Once it begins, it is exciting but you know there is a long road ahead. Every morning I get up early and hit the road. I typically drive from 45 minutes to 3 hours to get to where I need to be. It's rigorous and wears a person out over a 6-7 month period where the work days can be from 12-18 hours. I am always away from home. I know every back road, every place to go to the bathroom when McDonald's or the Holiday hamburger isn't sitting right. You know every small town that no one has heard of and can tell them useless information about it.

During the hot summer day, the sun beats down, slowly draining a person of energy and life sustaining liquid. It isn't rare for me to drink a gallon of water, a couple bottles of Mt. Dew and the biggest bottle of Powerade they dare to make. Sometimes two, if they are 2/$3 as Casey's is want to do. I'm not even the one working. I'm just watching the progress made, documenting what I see so that those who make decisions have the information they need to justify spending millions of dollars.

I watch their actions, their routines from the time they step onto the dirt to the time they leave, I watch. Some to know their personality to see if they are good people, others to see if they are cheating, making a hard job easier that will cost them, and me, in the long run. Some are truly gifted at their craft and can make the most difficult things look easy. These are the guys you want more of, but they are rare. It makes the job easier and the bosses happy too. Too bad you can't always get the best.

It's funny, every day I talk with people, former professionals, who say that "they don't do it like we used to."  Some argue if they are doing it right or if it will hold up over the long term. No one can be certain but you hope it does. Some criticize work ethic, the hustle, the carelessness. They complain about the guys goofing around. Guys have to have fun when they work this hard. There is no way around it. When you work in this business, it's a lifestyle, it really is. Just about every waking hour is dedicated to it. It is hard not to be the way they are, even if you don't always agree with their actions. Some party all night, some take it seriously, some can do both and you just don't understand how they do it.

It's a difficult business. I often wonder why I do it. I have left the industry and came back to it. It's a business that once you are in, it's hard to do something different. It kind of gets in your blood. The smell of the grass, the dirt, the action. Someone who is good at it always gets another chance but it never gets easier. It doesn't pay great for what you have to sacrifice but it's a good living and I enjoy being outdoors. I don't have my boss looking over my shoulder and I don't have to punch a clock.

Years after you pour your heart into something, you can see how much it was improved. How it is holding up. How much better it is. Maybe where a few things went wrong or what should have been different, but that is hind sight.

Such is being a construction inspector. Making sure the plans are followed, the contracts are adhered to and the best product is constructed for the best price. Getting the most out of your contractor and keeping the residents as happy as you can. It's not an easy life but everybody thinks it is.

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