Working in Loud Places

I’ve worked in loud and noisy places. I have worked with loud people. I am not loud. I don’t yell. I’m physically not able to unless I turn into the Incredible Hulk version of myself, and while that does exist, it’s very rare that it comes out. I am known as “the strong silent type”, so being loud even when it’s necessary and nobody is going to think I’m mad at them (just trying to communicate) is challenging.

What inspired this week’s article was a changing of the elevator in my apartment building. The elevator had been acting-up for some time, so it was being replaced. The old components needed to be lifted out of (or off of, I’m not sure) the top of the building, and the new components lowered into/ onto the building using a mobile crane.

This manoeuvre was a big deal, so big in fact, that I had to move my car to another location (lest it be in the way, or anything got dropped on it). This meant a change to my routine, but I could handle it. It only happens once in sixty-five years that an elevator is being lifted off the roof of this building. So, needless to say I’ve been rather distracted watching the proceedings. The guys from the elevator company were here early and waiting in the parking lot for the crane guy and his crane to arrive. I having been up early to move my car, I was also anticipating the arrival of the crane: “When is the crane going to get here? It should be here by now…” This might sound ultra-nerdy, but with my background in health & safety, I developed an interest in machinery and watching people work. Not only did I have to know how it worked and how people interacted with it to make safety recommendations, I also thought it was really cool to know this stuff. I think few people would expect someone with a business degree to show an interest in machinery, and I have a history of doing things people don’t necessarily expect me to do.

Anyway, back to the crane story. I don’t know what it is, but I am fascinated by watching people, men in particular, work (there were no women on this particular crew). It’s not for the reason you might think. It’s likely the way they interact and communicate with each other. They can yell, and they’re doing it to make sure that nobody gets something dropped on them by a crane, everyone remains uninjured, and the job gets done. They will also step back and watch someone else work: someone such as the crane driver, who works alone, except when someone is signalling to him. Whether they signalled or not, I didn’t see, because I was sometimes distracted from watching these men work by writing this article.

Since I am not loud, in an industrial environment, it can be difficult for people to hear me, even when I’m shouting to them, so sometimes a man would yell on my behalf. I didn’t need any jars opened, just someone loud to get somebody’s attention. I could sneak up on somebody and tap them on the shoulder, but you don’t want to do that to someone who is holding something sharp in their hand.

My cat is loud, and he was supervising the elevator/ crane operation. He alerted me to changes (“what are they doing now?”, or if the men have stopped working as if I could do something about that. Throughout the operation, they are yelling to each other, in order to be heard over the crane. Movements are coordinated like some kind of crane-ballet. 

Once the big, serous job is done, the crew act silly – making their work fun, while being safe (I’m watching this part closely, and so is my cat). They are telling jokes and making fun of each other a little bit, and I feel like I want in on the fun too. It might be funny Okay guys, fun-time is over. You need to get to work so I can get my car back into its spot by 4pm as promised.

They were done early with the crane. It seems like hiring a mobile crane is a lot like having a technician in to set up your internet (in case you ever want to hire one, you should know this). You’re given a time of 8am-4pm, and they show up somewhere between 8am and 4pm with a timing-cushion added for completing the work. Getting the crane out of this tight spot (going backwards) is a big deal. How many guys does it take to move a mobile crane out of a tight area? I don’t know, I didn’t count, but I do know there is only one crane-driver and the other guys are following him out of the parking lot. They’re probably making sure he doesn’t hit anything or anyone. I can only imagine the blind spots these machines must have. There is one guy coming late to the crane-moving party and he’s looking like he’s feeling left out. Or, maybe he had a better idea of how to get the crane out of this tight spot (around a tight bend and up an incline). He’s also bringing a “fresh set of eyes” to the task. Fresh eyes are important because the idea is that they see better than stale eyes. Phew – crane-guy made it out. Once all of the working-men were back at base, they were able to start carrying things inside.

I thought about going out into the parking lot (close to where the guys are working), asking them if they need any help carrying their equipment inside (this stuff looks heavier than me), and watching their reactions. After I had registered the looks on their faces, I’d tell them “I’m just joking, I hurt my back and I’m not supposed to lift things”.  By the time I had finished thinking about this scenario and laughing to myself, all  of the equipment had been brought inside accompanied by comments like: “Naw dude, that’s a 2-man job”; and “I’ll take the big one, you take that one”. Guys sharing and caring, and being funny – I like it.

The elevator guys will be here for another few weeks building the new elevator and getting it running smoothly. While they’re here, if I need a jar opened I know where to find someone to help me. No, not my elderly neighbour-lady. I’ll take the stairs up to the top floor, and shout into the elevator shaft: “HEY YOU GUYS! CAN ANYBODY HELP ME OPEN THIS JAR?”

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E-mail kathryn@kathrynreichheld.ca Hours Contact me anytime and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.
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