Friday, March 13, 2009

A Late Night

I don't care to mix business and pleasure, but it's late. It's just after 3am. I've been downstairs working on a model of a ... well, I can't say what it is. That's confidential until it's announced to the public. I had a nice dinner around 8. I put some 80s music on the Walkman and headed down to the basement. I've been working on this project for about 3 weeks now. I'll start painting tomorrow. I had planned to paint this evening, but that changed this morning.

When I start a project, the first thing I do is contact all the architects of the various buildings and have them send Autocad drawings via email. It's a tedious, horrible experience. Architects, in my opinion, are not always eager to share their drawings. In fact, when I call, I'm usually interrupting something else more important, like lunch or a game of solitaire. I can hear it in their voices.

This project was no different. I contacted two different architects and received the drawings. Another firm sent the civil drawings of the site with the topography and building layouts. It's my job to coordinate all of this into a beautiful finished project. There are always issues. Most of them are mine.

So this morning, I was laying out the buildings on the site getting ready to install the loading dock for the main building. It should have been a simple, 3 hours project with a lunch break. Instead, I realized immediately as I put the buildings in place, that something was wrong. The small building didn't "fit". I checked my drawings. I checked the site plan. I checked the drawings again. Idiots. They sent me a mirror image of the building I was supposed to build. Now I know what you're thinking, "Isn't it your job to coordinate all this and make sure everything works?" Well, yeah. Thanks for bringing that up.

So I started to break the building apart hoping to reuse all the pieces rather than drive to Charlotte and recut the elevations. I use another firm's laser cutter rather than having one of my own. It's cheaper, you see. I'm cheap. I'm also lazy and hate driving to Charlotte for 10 minutes worth of laser cutting. It's got to be done. Maybe I'll do that tomorrow while paint is drying on the site. I also procrastinate a lot, but usually not right away.

I didn't intend to stay up this late tonight. The music was good. The coffee I had this afternoon was still working its magic. Time got away from me. It does that sometimes at night. The windows in the basement are dark so I can't see all the things outside I would rather be doing. I got into my zone and just worked. It's honestly one of the few times this has happened on this project. To get as far as I have, it's taken every ounce of energy I could muster. When the temperatures hit 70 degrees last week, it was really hard to focus. But I did. At least a few hours at a time.

So late nights, another cup of coffee around midnight, and lots of Billy Joel and Journey pouring out of the speakers is a deadly combination. Did I mention the fumes? Yes, super glue, bondo, and fiberglass resin create lots of fumes. This is what my entire house smells like this morning. The resin was poured over the weekend. It can't be healthy for me. Even with a fan in the basement window and the house open all week, I can still smell it. Maybe it's just me.

I apologize for the long post and for what I'm about to say, but we're all friends here, right? I'm tired of building models. I've been tired of it for more than a year. It's just that it's good money when I have the work and I don't know what else I want to be when I grow up. I have a degree in Architecture. That's about the most worthless $44,000 piece of paper I've ever seen. Yes, I borrowed my way through college. My parents expected me to stay on at the mill with my dad and become a supervisor like him. I'm sorry, 38 years going to the same plant, seeing the same faces, doing the same job day in and day out is not how I want to spend my life. I will never understand how my parents' generation managed to do that. The mill closed two years ago. My dad was laid off. He's retired now and planting several hundred tomato plants, rows of butter beans, about 20 squash plants, and peanuts for my nephew. Some things did manage to run in the family.

Where was I? Oh yeah, I'm tired of building models. In 2007, I became very involved in the Presidential primaries. The candidate that I voted for introduced me to economics. I spent a lot of time reading and participating in online forums. Imagine that. My work suffered. I missed a deadline even with the help of a friend and one of the client's employees. I failed. And I failed HARD. I was tired of building models before then.

Since then, I have managed to limp on. Every time I think about doing something else, a project comes through the door. I see dollar signs and a new kitchen. How do you think I paid for the bathroom and all the other things I've done here. I may be cheap, but I do have to buy materials. I've only painted the living room twice. Actually, now that I think about it, I've painted the living room, the dining room, and the bathroom twice. It's only been a year and a half. I'm picky about colors. I have to live with them.

But this time, things are different. We're in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression. I'm a little worried. I did spend a lot of time reading and learning about all this last year when I should have been working. There aren't many projects for anyone these days. Architecture firms are cutting employees. Developers can't get financing. High end custom homes are a thing of the past. Even the remodeling jobs for my two best clients are drying up. It's time to move on.

Leave it to me to change my career path in the middle of the WORST ECONOMIC COLLAPSE SINCE THE GREAT DEPRESSION!!!! (as the media continues to hammer us). What we need is a little confidence. I want to be confident that the job I'm starting on Saturday will turn into more than a seasonal position. I want to be confident that I can pay my mortgage payments. I want to be confident that everything will work out because it always has. I am hopeful. I'm just not confident.

It's late. I should go to bed. I have to drive to Charlotte tomorrow. It's only 45 minutes each way, but it's a boring drive. Maybe I'll take the Walkman and listen to Billy Joel lament about his innocence. Or maybe I'll listen to Skid Row waking up to the sound of pouring rain. Yes, I was a child in the 80s. I'm 36 as of two weeks ago. It's time to **** or get off the pot.

For those that are curious about such things, here's the last model I plan to build. I apologize again for the small picture. Can't give too many secrets.


It's 45 degrees, cloudy, and dark.


Kris said...

Oh Tom, I can feel your angst and your frustration. This is a real '3 a.m. post' for sure, that time of day when one's guard is down and truths parade across the mind. I, too, hope that you can enjoy your new job and working with people and plants. You're the kind of fellow that is flexible enough, willing enough, eager enough to even TRY new things, consider new avenues, and take chances. It's those kinds of qualities that will help get you, get us all, though this mess that unethical CFOs, etc. have created for us.
Good luck to you. We're all behind ya!
And by helping each other, we'll all get through this. Take care -- now get some sleep. :-D

Anonymous said...

Well, whatever you decide to do, I hope it works out for you. I imagine building models could get a little tedious, but then I guess any job can after a while.
Anyway, good luck in your future endeavours.

Tom - 7th Street Cottage said...

Kris, I wasn't sure I should even talk about this here. But I did start this blog to be a diary of sorts. Maybe it's the spring change in the air. LOL.

Thanks Stu. It does get tedious. The coffee shakes are the worst!

Heather said...

Hi Tom- I know just what you mean. I am 35, a little old to be deciding I hate my hygiene job. Oh, and I owe $55,000 for school. I thought oh, maybe nursing. But that would take another few years and will I like that? Lot of money to waste to not be sure. Is anyone ever sure? Several of my friends have been sure since elemtary school, I dislike them:) I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up but I am thinking it may not be brushing other people's teeth for them. But for now, it's "I owe, I owe, it's off to work I go." I think the economic downturn is starting to scare people. And if that isn't enough, spring fever ought to be,
Best of luck!

Dirt Princess said...

I feel your pain! I myself have a high dollar worthless (currently) piece a paper once called a degree. Mine is in interior design, and architectural engineering. I lost my job over a year ago and have not found anything since then. I do have some potential prospects, and I pray they work out. It is such a hard thing to deal with. I have wished many a day that I had gotten a degree in something else. But, this is my passion. I love what I do. There is nothing more amazing than coming up with an idea in your head, putting on paper, and then be able to physically walk into a building you helped design. It is an AMAZING feeling. I hope you find something that you can sink your heart into and enjoy working there. Have a wonderful weekend

Tom - 7th Street Cottage said...

Heather: I almost think of it as my mid-life crisis. No fancy sports cars for me though. I'd rather just grow some more plants. :)

Dirt Princess: That's why I garden. I love transforming something from my head into something I can experience. Architecture has always been about the sense to me, so gardening is a natural extension and it's a lot cheaper than buildings. Good luck on finding something. Lots of people in your situation.

Betty819 said...

Tom..I knew from your blog and your writings that you had more knowledge and abilities than you were showing. I'd wondered why you were working at Lowe's..Whatever you do, I think you'll always be successful. The story about your Dad is so true for many people in small southern towns. My husband worked in MD/DC area for one company for 36 yrs. same dept. but he moved up from entry level to MGR. of the dept. I've been married 45 plus years and I see a smart man that could have done more and better with his life. At least you got the opportunity to go to college. That's something that wasn't offered us. Keep your head held high; things will work out. Also keep in mind that you at least have a job; some of those with college degrees don't and some are homeless and having their houses foreclosed on. It's a sad sitution out there now; reminds me of some of the stories I heard from others about the depression.You can do it, you can!