Carra, the New Recruit and I have reached an accommodation, of sorts.
In work, Carra and I are kept busy completing the strip out of a forty year old Airstream trailer while attempting not to vomit. The aluminum cocoon has been imported direct from a trailer park in Alabama for the sum of £13,000 from a UK based dealer, and we are tasked with converting it to a high-tech touring advertisement for a chain specializing in computer sales . A very similar item can be found here:
on eBay for £800. Based on the Large-Nickson experience of importing goods to the different countries, import costs for this item would have been about £4000, including all taxes and fees. When the trailer arrives, sundry Project Managers, Marketing Executives, Salesmen and Company Directors gather to congratulate themselves on their business acumen in acquiring such a "classic" while Carra and I vacuum up the mountains of half-eaten moldy hamburgers, rodent nests (complete with embryos), pigeon feathers, mouse droppings and cigarette butts that are exposed after the cabinets have been torn out. The coup de grace comes when the bathroom waste sump is exposed, it's contents still liquid as it has not been flushed and the sluice gate is pressed firmly shut.
Tempers fray in these circumstances (particularly mine), especially when I discover that the schedule for reconstructing the inside of the Airstream is ten days. This means long hours, weekends and massive pressure to fabricate and fit a month's work of high-spec custom cabinetry. Alex, the genius salesman who devised this project, drops by to inspect the work in progress. he runs his hand lovingly down the sides of the derelict, and drawing on his experience, and the shrewd eye of a man who watches a lot of television programmes about restoring old cars says:
"What d'ya reckon Martin, 3/8 rivets holding this baby together?"
"3/8 rivets - that's all that's holding the shell together.I'd love to get my tools out, get my hands dirty on this baby....."
Alex is obviously smitten with the Airstream, and he continues,
"....And just pure craftsmanship and design. Can't get the skills who'd have the first clue working on this thing, these days, can we? "
I suggest that if this is the case, perhaps, being contemporaneous, I should stop work.
Alex, sensing that for some unfathomable reason 'his' workers are less than deliriously happy at the prospect of cancelling their lives for 10 days, sighs heavily and gets serious, telling me that I should let him know if I need any help, "any help at all, with getting this job out".
I suggest that Alex might want to come in at the weekend with his tools. There will be plenty of work with rivets. Alex suddenly remembers an urgent phone call to a supplier he has to make, and promises "I'll check in with you later, big guy", before disappearing completely for the subsequent two days.
I'm still fuming later that day as we complete the strip out and I get to grips with the plans for the interior rebuild. I step outside to have a quiet reflective cigarette (one of the devilish hooks of the addiction that sustain the habit is it's ability to offer 'respite' from work situations) and gradually calm down, fortified by the knowledge that for me, scholarly activities await in the none-too-distant future, an existence I anticipate as being completely unblogworthy, as I'll have nothing to complain about. I also write Version 25 of my resignation letter with some relish, this time debating whether to use the phrase "patronizingly glib marketing-speak" or "profiting on the backs of the worker's sweat" in the opening sentence of Page 3, Paragraph 5.
I'm joined by Carra.
"Fuckin 'ell, Martin, that were some graft, that were, won't it?"
I agree. He's worked really hard in horrible conditions and he's not getting paid well for it. We're wearing full environmental suits, respirators, face masks and the trailer is very cramped. It was indeed some graft.
Carra continues "I'm so fuckin hot. I'm sweating like a n****** on a rape charge. In Alabama."
He chuckles at his witticism.
I explode, at least verbally and explain to him what I should have explained the first time I heard him using this kind of language. For a second he just looks at me as if this is a riposte to his 'joke', then realizing that it's not, Carra apologizes, to me. This is something I hate - no-one needs to apologize to me for using racist language, as I'm not the subject of it, and Scouse jokes aside, have never experienced racism. I have however heard a lot of unbelievably crude, cruel language and attitudes expressed in Yorkshire since we arrived here, and I have failed to say anything. I do'nt remember the Englsih working class being, en masse, as crass, ignorant and stupid as this, although I might be wrong. I'm probably mad at myself, but I tell him;
"I don't want you to apologize to me. I do'nt care what you think, I'm not going to change your mind. I just do'nt want to hear your stupidity or ignorance. All you have to remember is that your talking about people I consider family and friends, so I'll tell you once. Don't use language like that around me. I can't change you, but I do'nt want to hear it. End of story."
Carra looks taken aback. We've gone from chums to conflict in a very short period of time, and he has absolutely no idea why. For my part, it is not the most eloquent speech I've ever given, and I'm not entirely sure that my motives are'nt driven by guilt more than high morals, but Carra seems to take the main message on board.
"Alright, man, no need to get at me, I did'nt know you were touchy. No offense, mate."
I have to work with him, at least for the time being, and I believe that I have as little chance of changing his worldview as I do of persuading Alex to help out at the weekend, so the encounter finishes with an accommodation. We return to our task after another smoke. An accomodation has been reached.