6 thoughts on “My Life Pouring Concrete”

  1. This was all covered in Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff.

    Being a test pilot was a considerably more hazardous occupation than construction work. Even being a rank-and-file pilot of military fighter aircraft in peacetime was hazardous enough — have fly-by-wire and control laws made it any safer since the days of widow makers like the Century Series fighter aircraft?

    The enormous spotlight placed on the Mercury Seven Astronauts, in Wolfe’s view, changed all of that. The test pilots lived and died in obscurity, and whereas their activities were not top classification level secrets, the military preferred it that way. Whereas there was probably no stopping media attention on Project Mercury, NASA reveled in publicity.

    Men did die in service to NASA — the Apollo fire — but that it happened on the ground without the TV cameras running was a difference. An incident such as that in a flight test program would have resulted in an investigation followed by pressing on. After Mike Adams’ crash, was the X-15 completely redesigned?

    On the other hand, the loss of Adams may have accelerated the “winding down” of the X-15 program?

    1. …have fly-by-wire and control laws made it any safer since the days of widow makers like the Century Series fighter aircraft?

      Yes, drastically. For example, the only fatality I can remember in the F-22 test program was the 2009 accident at EAFB, which was in no way, shape, or form the fault of the airplane. I’m not aware of any fatalities in the F-35 test program. There were no fatalities, or even any Class 1 mishaps, in the B-2 test program. There probably were in the F-16 and F-18 programs, which were the first two FBW production aircraft (F-16A was analog FBW, F-18A was digital FBW with mechanical backup), but nothing like, say, the F-100.

      Full disclosure: I’m an expert in digital FBW controls, but I didn’t work on any of the aforementioned programs.

  2. Wow. Construction workers in constant pain. That part is BS.
    None over 50 years old. Needs his eyes checked as that’s about average locally except for immigrants that average about 10 years younger.

    Concrete can be tough work, especially if working with a stupid company that has no concept of efficiency and innovation. Of if, like many low skill workers, the worker works stupid. There are quite a few ways to get hurt for the careless. The critical safety tool is between the ears.

    With most companies, it’s just another job. Certainly easier than trying to pay your bills on minimum wage.

  3. I worked construction to help pay for college. It’s certainly physically draining, but I don’t recall any rampant drug use among the other workers. I certainly have respect for anybody who does a job well, but I’m not gonna mythologize construction work. I did injure my shoulder on the job, and as a naive teenager, I knew nothing about workers’s comp and didn’t get it seen about – that shoulder still bugs me occasionally:-(

  4. I worked on a pipe-laying crew in the fall of ’91. The foreman and I were the only two members of the group who still had driver’s licenses (DUI, you know). So at 22, with no prior experience, I was given the keys to an absolutely huge dumptruck pulling a 30 ft trailer. We worked in all weather with the exception of driving rain as that tended to fill the excavation faster than we could do the work. Our track-hoe operator was a master of the equipment and could remove 1/8″ of dirt at a time from the bottom of the trench. He also did a toot of cocaine 4 or 5 times a day. The foreman would take the lead pipelayer out drinking every Friday night so as to ensure he would spend all of his paycheck and that he would then show on Monday morning to work.

    Eventually he quit and they brought in Antonio, straight off the boat from Portugal, speaking not a lick of English. I was the assistant pipelayer and worked in the hole with him. I liked him a lot and he taught me a bunch. As I had the least seniority, I got laid off at Xmas. Antonio was killed about 6 weeks later when the walls of the 8′ deep trench he was in engulfed him. If I hadn’t been laid off, I’d have been in the hole with him.

    FF to 2013. I’m working as a millwright/maintenance journeyman at a surface mine. I was disabled-out after a 1200 kilo door crushed me to the ground because its hinges broke. Corrosion you know. I was pinned under it for an hour waiting for Life-flight to show up. They were afraid I would bleed-out if they lifted it before I was ready to transport. A crane then hoisted it off of me and I spent 2 weeks in ICU. I have bad or no signal for every nerve in both of my legs.

    It took months for my ears to stop ringing from the ambient noise at the mine. It also took a few weeks for all of my scars and black + blue marks to begin to fade from my arms and hands. Not related to the accident, but just normal wear and tear.

  5. I worked blue collar until I was 35. Surveying crew. Various sorts of mechanic. Sewer worker. Etc. Etc. One day I was installing the mast on a nuclear submarine, head down in the freezing rain, and decided I wanted to be indoors and dry. By then, computers had come along. Took a while to find someone willing to give me a job doing something for which I had no training. But in the 80s, it wasn’t impossible.

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