When I was 17 I had really had enough of school. My relationship with the teachers was not real good; in fact my last day at school involved my science teacher punching me in the face. I wish I knew where he was, I might be able to take him by now!
A mate and I decided to leave Brisbane and drive to Canberra for an adventure. We packed a bag and jumped in his VW Bug and set off on the 800 mile journey to the strains of “Eagle rock” by Daddy Cool.
Garth and I got jobs as “Landscape Laborers’” which paid $10 per day. That seemed like good pay considering the best paying job I had had up until that point paid $25 per week. Basically the job entailed hanging off a jack hammer that broke up the rock hard ground at a doctors house while be yelled at by a foreman.
Garth turned out not to be a fan of this work or Canberra and left for Adelaide, South Australia.
I moved into Barton House which was a hostel that provided a shared room and 3 meals per day for $14 a week. I shared a room with a guy that had a habit of waking me up every night with the noise of him and a different girl nearly every night. He was my hero. He also had an amazing record collection which I ended up buying from him. I only recently gave them away.
Not long after moving into Barton House I walked onto a building site beside Lake Burley Griffin and ask some random guy for a job. He sent me to their office in the city. I did a 5 minute interview and started work the next morning.
I was now installing elevators for a company called Johns & Waygood. The project was about 22 floors of hotel to be called The Lakeside Hotel. The foreman wasa huge bear like guy who took us up to about the 10th floor.
Most of us looked new. The idea was that one guy would be in a small seat hanging from a rope inside the elevator shaft. The rest of us would manhandle big heavy tracks similar to railway tracks into the shaft. One end would be secured to a hook also hanging from a rope inside the shaft.
We would wrestle these rails into the shaft and lower them down to the guy in the chair swinging around in the shaft. The guy in the chair seemed to all of us to be quite deranged. He was constantly yelling at us, we called him Crazy Larry but not so loud he could hear us because he looked a real scary psycho dude. He had heart tattoos all up his arms but most of them had a scar where the name used to be. That can’t be a good sign of a healthy mind.
Then the rails needed to be bolted to the wall of the shaft. The foreman got a few guys to do that. I had to stay out on the floor and fit the rail to the hook. Apparently there was a right way and a wrong way to do this.. The hook had to go through the hole on the end of the rail and then you had t loop some of the rope around the hook to prevent the rail coming off the hook. I practiced this a couple of times and was then put in charge of this part of the job. I’m happy because already I’m making progress in the job and I am out here on the floor instead of in an elevator shaft. Maybe I can always be out here where it’s safe and relatively secure.
I hooked up the next rail and did the rope wrap around thing. So we pulled on the ropes and dragged this really heavy rail into the shaft which promptly came off the hook, it seems there is a right way and a wrong way to do that hook securing thing. The rail, hung in the air for a little while and then decided it was tired and would succumb to the forces of gravity after all and speared down the shaft. Crazy Larry, on the little rope hanging seat saw this huge piece of steel heading directly for his head. Now I don’t care how good your hardhat is, it’s not gonna stop a couple of tons of steel rail from penetrating even the hardest of hard hats.
Frantically he swung as hard as he could and managed to swing out of the way of this steel death spear by the skin of his teeth.
Now you would think someone would be just plain happy that they escaped a terrible death, but no, some people are just plain ungrateful. Crazy Larry is furious and wants to kill someone, the way everyone around me is backing away from me; I’m beginning to suspect it’s me he is going to want to dispatch from mother earth.
We can all him cursing as he climbs out of the shaft a couple of floors down and comes screaming up the fire escape steps swearing blue murder. I’m not feeling that good right now and wonder if the $46 a week this job pays is worth it.
Suddenly Crazy Larry bursts onto the floor looking around for the dead man walking who nearly turned him into a gigantic shish-ka-bob. The other guys were great, they pointed me out right away to this enraged psycho. Luckily the foreman was bigger than Crazy Larry and managed to hold him off me while he calmed him down enough to have my life spared. I had a new hero, I loved that foreman.
But then he goes and smashes my dreams of starting a foreman fan club by declaring that as it was me who screwed up, it was my turn in the swinging seat. This didn’t seem like a particularly good idea to me but no argument or whining would sway him. So as the psycho smiled nastily at me which did not make me feel real confident of ever seeing my mum again I climbed into the elevator shaft. Pretty quickly I could see it was a long way down.
That’s not a good time to discover a fear of heights.
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