March 22nd, 2007
Work today was good. Real good. We went up the inland Island highway to the Port Alberni turnoff and turned around to get onto the southbound lane. There were a bunch of 4-5 year old alders peppering the bank which needed removing. The slope upon which we worked was reminiscent of many a tree-planting day. I always get into my work but the challenge of the slope only upped my zeal to rip it up. Actually, it was Fred who ripped it up seeing as he was on the chainsaw.
We picked up where we left off from yesterday’s work, again, without the disabled chipper. A crew of six of us, one saw, one hellacious slope that the others weren’t too adept at navigating, and the alders. I just rode Fred’s hip on high and let it all hang out! I’ve numerous times been complimented on my work ethic and high rate of output by several of the C.O.’s I’ve toiled for. C.O. Person not excluded. Further to that, I’ve been told how appreciated my efforts have been from time to time, because it helps to bring up the efforts of the others who can often exhibit indifference to the work. Having 15 years of tree-planting under my belt, I’m all too aware of this phenomenon. Nobody on a tree-planting crew likes to be seen as not pulling their weight. A jail house crew is a different breed, though. Many times I’ve heard a fellow inmate say, “don’t work so hard, you’re making us all look bad.” A comment I thought was the sole domain of union workers. My efforts don’t and shouldn’t have any bearing with the others on the crew. At the end of the day we all make the same pittance. As I’ve stated before, I’m just looking to pass my time as quickly as possible. To sit around dog-fucking only prolongs the agonizing drag of time to my mind, so I may as well work. And work I do. Especially today.
Of the numerous incarnations of Crew #2, its many different assemblages of inmate, today’s was a roll-your-sleeves-up group. Peters is the only one who maintains a ‘methodical’ approach to his day. A byproduct of his being here for fifteen months, no doubt. Rick and Brandon are new and I gather don’t realize that slacking is an option. Fred is an experienced saw guy who knows how to work and young Richie, my old roommate with Troy, is a steady, determined worker in his own right. The way I saw it, being the one mainly on the bank with Fred, I just tried to keep up with him. As he dropped the alders which ranged up to 20 feet in height, I proceeded to toss them down to the others so that they could stack them for chipping at a later date. The key to stacking them for easy chipping is to have the butt end of them closest to the road. To simply toss them down haphazardly would only add to the grief of the guys stacking them and slow down progress. So I made the effort of delivering them in the orientation necessary, This required using the ol’ Caber Toss technique. By lifting each tree vertically and then flipping them into the air, the steep slope afforded me a handicap of an extra 50 degrees over your typical Highland Games participant which had me looking like a rising star in the sport. Without that 50 degrees, I wouldn’t have conceived of donning my ‘prison issue’ kilt for the day. Admittedly, it only takes some green beer to make me Irish for a day so culturally I guess I’m a bit easy. Anywho, my goat-like abilities and a combination of balance, strength and a keen feel for touch and physics, had me keeping up with Fred’s saw work. The result of my extra efforts not only helped to facilitate the work of the others but I suspect that they too got caught up in the blistering pace of it all. We kicked some serious alder ass today. Each of us easily did the work of two, without question, and from my perch I could see the smile on Person’s face grow as the day wore on. He was impressed to the point of not being able to contain it. I could tell that he was recognizing Fred’s and my efforts were drawing the others along for the ride. And ride they did. Given the fact that we only average around $3.50/day, our crew’s output was a sight to behold. Over lunch, Person said that he intended to stop on the way back to jail and get us all a popsicle. An obvious show of his pleasure as I’m sure it all reflects on him to his superiors. It’s becoming clear to me that I’ve gained the respect of Person for my approach to work and I’m fine with that. He sees enough duds and dolts roll through his watch, I suspect, and my capabilities register upon him. It’s just like tree-planting in that respect. Okay, it ends right there, admittedly. The pay is in no way similar and I’m still a red to his blue, but once the work starts I’m more of a peer in his eyes. I think he’s to the point of astonished. It makes me laugh actually. I’m likely challenging any preconceived notions he holds about inmates. Purely out for the easy money. ‘Thieves, dealers, fraud artists. All looking for maximum return from minimum effort.’ Well I wouldn’t think of giving anybody the satisfaction of confirming such suspicion. Least of all the ‘heads’ that run this place. Hell, they are all in jobs that drain them of any motivation to work. They just sit around all day and look at us. How agonizingly boring! The midsections of the majority of the C.O.’s here tell of this. I could outwork any of them, hands down! “Who’s looking for the easy pay now?” It’s my way of turning them all on their heads. And I enjoy that!