10 October 2007

Just A Girl

Today was eventful. Melvin nearly amputated my ear, Chuck accused me of talking too much, and I was informed that welding is a man's job. Two of these things happened as a result of the really annoying job we had to do today.

Most blades will pop out of their sheets fairly easily when you apply a little torque. The blades we had today? Not so much. They were big blades in relatively thick sheets, and over half of them had a sort of tab-like thing at the end that made breaking out more than two at a time nearly impossible. (On most jobs, I can grab at least four or five blades at a time.)

Now, Chuck has been with the company for over three years, and even he was complaining to Melvin about how difficult this set was to break out. I gave up a few sheets in and asked Chuck if I could start building sets while he broke out blades, and he said that was fine. He made a few comments about "the girl" not being able to do the tough jobs, but I've gotten used to him joking around like that, so I run with it and play the "weak little girl" card when I want help with something.

Melvin came over while we were enjoying our verbal ping-pong and joined in. "I don't want to seem prejudiced," he said, "but this really is a man's job." I wasn't sure if he was serious, but I laughed as if he had told a joke and rolled my eyes as soon as he turned his back. Chuck went over and talked to him a few minutes later, and apparently Melvin said that I didn't belong in the shop; I should be in the office. Again, I'm not sure if he was serious, but Chuck and I both thought it was hilarious.

We kept complaining about how hard it was to break out this set every time Melvin walked by, and finally, when Chuck was holding the next-to-last sheet, Melvin got sick of the bitching. He grabbed the sheet and started slamming it against the edge of the table over and over again. Melvin is usually a pretty mild guy, so this violent action was totally out of character for him. The really scary thing was that when he started doing this, blades went flying everywhere, including next to my head. He explained that this was the way a former employee used to break out difficult sets. Chuck and I spent the next five minutes laughing and assuring each other that losing an ear wouldn't a big deal. Not at all. Got two of 'em for a reason, after all.

Because I've finally gotten used to Chuck's singular brand of humor, I'm comfortable playing along and tossing it back at him. He spent my first two weeks talking about how he wanted to break me out of my shell, and now that I'm not afraid to joke around with him, I think he's eating his words. He was mock-boasting about how he'd astound people with his skills if he came to my school, and I told him that my instructors would put him in his place pretty quickly. He leaned around the welding booth and said, "woman, you talk too much!" I'm taking that as a good sign.

Tomorrow is payday. Huzzah!

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