Tuesday 30 September 2014

They Could have Dropped off the Face of the Earth...

By "The Log-Builder's Wife"
With John and half our fantastic team of Heavy Timber Specialists working on a CLT and Glu-Lam build in the Gulag and with Andreas Fricke with the rest of the crew on a Glu-Lam install in Saskatoon, I thought I should undertake a blog post while they are away.

The Gulag – you ask? That’s just what I am calling it since communications are extremely difficult and for a period of time they were cut off completely. They could have dropped off the face of the earth – or have been banished to Siberia.
In any case they may as well be east of the sun and west of the moon, or to be slightly more accurate: South of Fort MacMurray and North of Lac La Biche.

By the way – any opinions put forth in this post are entirely my own and I plan not to rant as it’s becoming extremely boring and predictable. Most of my rants are set off by paper-work anyway and I hate to admit it –some of the paper-work and compliance docs that I rail against are inspired by sincere concern and motivation to keep workers alive, in good health and coming home to their families. As an employer and spouse I can relate to that! (That is actually a point that John made from favourable observation of the Owners on the project that he is currently working on).

Circa '94. Not a practice we'd do today. Even if had our own TV Show!

Where compliance and procedure get legitimately frustrating is when those who are “in charge” seem to have lost sight of the intent of the rules and guidelines and use their authority more as an opportunity to throw their weight and will around. Personal ego impeding progress or even supporting un-safe practices while hiding being the rock-solid skirts of “just going by the book”.
Unfortunately “the book” does not always apply to what is expedient and safe in heavy timber. Ideally strategies should be developed in cooperation – but in the situation I am thinking about it appears that control and adversity are the motivators. This could be crazy-making – but sometimes you just gotta laugh because it is all so patently obvious and absurd as to what is really going down.

I’ve often wondered about the type of people that different jobs attract. Border guards for example… and I know one cannot (should not) generalize – but I have at times been very grateful knowing when crossing the US/Canadian border, that if that big dame packin’ and swaggering about like John Wane actually used her weapons rather than just verbally intimidating me, there would be some layer of accountability. (Not like some places in the world where people of that propensity are not reigned in).

Or how about those guys who work for collections? It’s been decades since we (through relying on a poorly informed bookkeeper – not me!) fell on the wrong side of WCB (OSHA) as regards remittance. “Mr Smith” was an extremely scary man and I did not want to get hurt. I wonder – did the “hector-the-collector” job suit his personality? A natural bully? Or maybe he just put on his “bully suit” when he got to the office in the morning and took it off before going home with a stop for yoga and a vegan take-out.

"Show me your tools...and I'll tell you if you are a log-builder".
Or the PST (that is provincial sales tax) auditor who examined our books a couple of years ago to see if we had been remitting. (We had). I’m happy to say that I stopped him short in his tracks – when in the course of backing up the legitimacy of our non-pst-able transactions I came across one where we should have remitted and that he had missed.
“Why are you telling me this”, he asked after a long silence. “We try to operate with integrity”, I responded, “and expect others to do the same”. 
I really felt bad for this fellow – working in a hair-splitting job like that could really injure the soul. But hey – just because I hate paper-work does not mean its evil….right? Maybe that was his happy-place.

I could go on…and I bet you have stories you could add. But much better shared around a camp fire where complaints become jokes to laugh at rather than the long loud wail of the self-employed!

Actually what got me thinking about the careers and jobs and the type of people who choose them was a run in with an acquaintance yesterday. She introduced me to her companion as the wife of a local log builder – “you know like in the reality TV show “The Timber Kings”. Hmmmm. “Don’t worry”, she added, “John will get his turn one day”. HMMMMM. I don’t think she believed me when I said that it was not our goal to ‘go and do likewise’.

I am so very grateful for our log-building colleagues, many of whom credit our roots to Allan Mackie and his School of Log Building. Particularly I am grateful to those who I have come to know as family through our mutual membership and involvement within the ILBA (International Log Builder’s Association). I look forward to our AGM’s where we get caught up on the latest tool, jig, and procedure. Where we share, show, and show off our innovations and discoveries with each other.

85-86? The B.Alan Mackie School of Log Building in Prince George BC, where many of the well-known names of today's log building industry began an adventure and learning curve that contributed to the "popularizing" of log homes. B. Allan Mackie Photo
It feels like a family gathering every time. And so it is. And here is what we really share; the common ground that transcends us from being merely industry colleagues or competitors. The log builders that I am thinking of are all innovators, problem-solvers and are fascinated and engaged by procedure. Those traits supersede our common craft and trade. I believe it is unusual that so many like-minded, inquisitive and enthusiastic people were drawn to this method of construction. I wonder about that.

As one of our colleagues said about our group…”it doesn’t matter who you vote for – or what flavour your religion. What ties us together is that we agree on which tool is the best”.

That concludes my somewhat aimless ramble and blog post. Thanks for reading!

“The Log-Builder’s Wife” 

(Oh – credit where credit is due: The Gulag Team: John Boys, Frederic Provost, Christian Bur, Dexter Devorkin and Graig Goodman. The Saskatoon Team: Andreas Fricke leading (thank you so much!) – Jay McKimm, Daryle Shackelly and on the crane (drum roll) Jochen Wagenblast and Owen Gregory!