Thursday, February 16, 2012
It wouldn't be uncommon to catch me zipping around on piers in the marina on my bike in oversized overalls. Sometimes I'd catch myself strutting between boats, owning the pier, toolkit in hand. These moments allow a pause for reflection. The only thing that's strange is how none of it feels strange. I am Bikey Sparky.
I am working at a marine electrical workshop in downtown Auckland. The marina we work in is the biggest in the Southern hemisphere with around 2000 boats.
Getting the job was the easy part. People ask how hard it is to find work in Auckland & it's impossible to give an accurate statement. I was invited for drinks wandering by the marina on my 3rd day in town. Shook hands with my boss at the bar & started work 2 days later. After a brief introduction, my friend Jim (that I met that day) turns to me & says "I'm sorry, I don't even know if you're interested in this sort of work, I just figured you're the kind of person where I could put you in a paddock & say 'Herd these sheep' & you'd sorta figure out how to do it." I've never had such an astounding reference. Jack-of-all-trades? Sure, why not!
It's so nice to be back at work! Relieving even! When I started, I worked 2 weeks straight without flinching. Feels like it's been ages since I've had something I could pour myself into & see some reward from. Being busy, working with my hands, being around boats & the water & learning something new.
My boss is a Bosnian army vet with a crew cut, bottlecap glasses, sharp tongue for swearing & wit, & a full belly laugh. (Sometimes I feel like new immigrants get a free pass for rude or vulgar comments, because people play it off as a cultural difference. Very cunning!) He wears his overalls permenantly & with pride. He also is the kind of guy you think would walk into the woods emptyhanded & come out carrying the body of a bear. All this for some reason makes me think he'd be great to talk to my dad; not only would my family appreciate his fantastic stories, but he seems to hold me in high regard & is probably in deep with the local Croatian mafia.
I am essentially his personal assistant or a gopher for the other boys. Helping carry batteries, fetching tools, or diving into the dashboard, bilge & other tight spots. (It's a job that requires surprising agility.) The best jobs were the ones I could get really dirty in the engine room re-wiring or something else I am limited to. No, no sparks for me. Dang. Where's the fun in that?
Isobel is the (other) backbone of the office, working the front desk, phones, payroll & just about everything else. We are the only 2 women in the electical world; Ivica's princesses, not to be fucked with in any way. The law has been laid. Ha - princess my ass! Isobel at least has a shield of girliness she's protected by. I've always been one of the guys, hanging back for a beer or a game of pool after work. He treats us as such though, & on one particularly special Wednesday, took us to the beach at midday & bought us ice cream. Who has bosses like that?
When we joked about the day I would leave, which was supposed to be just after the new year, Isobel would say with a hint of desperation "please don't leave me here". No worries darling! I'd be a fool to leave something so great!
The guys are alright. One's a cool pommie who likes his live music & has got a great tongue-in-cheek sense of humour - maybe the Brits were born with it. The other can be a bit of a sleaze, but stood up for me once when he thought I was in trouble. He has his moments, for better or worse. Easily handled, I'd say.
Turns out their wives are more the issue, & have a few with my close proximity to their betrothed. Pish posh, how absurd. It's a man's world I suppose. My full-days were becoming half-days when the holidays ended & I'd rather be busy than standing around, so I had my plans for leaving set.
I am accutely aware that in a couple months time I'll have an opportunity to do some amateur electrical work, jump at the opportunity & probably burn someone's house down. Bad, bad. It's been 3 months & even though I feel like I was just getting good at being an "electrical apprentice", it's time to take an offstep & hit the road again.