Most hand tools are pretty easy to use. Some may be used more efficiently by more experienced handlers, but the general concepts are pretty easy to grasp. Hand tools are pushed, pulled, forced, turned or pounded in order to function in their designed purposes. Rarely does one come across a hand tool that leaves a novice flabbergasted as to the tool’s function. There are always exceptions.
On any construction site, more than a fair amount of ribbing is handed out. I think it’s the comradery involved with producing projects together that provokes it.. Smart alecked banter acts is a sort of social barometer for the caste system of the site. One’s response to ribbing allows the entire crew to see where an individual’s lot is amongst the other ranks. The majority of the kidding on a small site is often passed out by the site foreman. His queries and proclamations ride the subtle line between team building, esprit de corps, or simply a time honored feather rustling that states “Yes, dung does roll downhill, and I, the foreman, can see where it will land from where I stand”.
All too often, though, this same foreman doesn’t do the hiring. That effort is left for the noble folks in HR who will never actually have to work with the folks they hire. Such was the case in early summer when I had the opportunity to work with ‘a new guy”. Wiry, bookish, slouched shouldered, greasy haired and arrogant, he had an air of entitlement in his conversational voice, and seemed burdened to have to work with the likes of the stone crew. Myself included. I couldn’t tell whether his haughty nature was a defense mechanism or a bona fide disdain for manual labor and those who worked it. It didn’t matter though, arrogance doesn’t last long on a close, functional team. I figured his attitude would be quashed through work site based tomfoolery. I just wondered how soon, and if I’d be the one to pull the joke.
Apparently the lad’s reputation may have preceded him. He was met at the parking lot by the site foreman before I could even close the door to the company dumper. After a brief greeting to the rest of staff, a wet fish handshake for all, and the assignment of company provided work gloves, the new kid was asked by the foreman to go grab the left handed flat shovel as the rest of the crew planned the day’s production. My foreman might as well have asked him to find Shangrila in the cab of the dump truck, or perhaps to pull a moon beam from his own posterior, but I wasn’t going to say anything. He could search all he wanted as far as I was conerned.
And search he did. When he finally did return, forty minutes later, he arrived with nothing in hand but his hat. “There were only right handed shovels in the trailer.” He muttered with some conviction and further sunk shoulders. I don’t think he saw that all eyes rolled for him. He continued to explain that he had grabbed each one of the eight shovels in the trailer, and checked them out. He said he’d looked at the heads, as well as the shafts, and found there to be no lefties what-so-ever. He had no idea that there are as many left hand specific shovels in the world as there are specific right handers. None! We should have asked him about the left handed tooth brushes, aerosol cans and surfboards. Perhaps he could have more easilly found a left handed pencil, and some right handed chopsticks to eat more crow with. It took us six hours to tell finally him about the futility of his quest, but eventually the joke was explained, thereby sealing his fate as the low man on the totem pole for the entire summer. If only he’d had some MANVIL cards as a kid, maybe training him how to actually USE a shovel wouldn’t have taken so long.
If there is a lesson to be taken from this at all, it might be that although a tool might be named for, and look like it was specifically made for one purpose, it might function perfectly well doing other things. It’s as possible to open beer bottles with a lighter, as it is to make shoes with a waffle iron.