Volume 39, Issue 1, January 2004
Doing My Part
by Lyle R. Hill
Sometimes, knowing what to do and having the courage to do it is not all that difficult. In fact, quite often, doing the right thing is a relatively easy thing. But that doesn’t make it any less right … any less important … any less needed.
I knew about the problem … about the shortage. Heard about it on the radio. Read about it in the newspaper. Then, I received a personalized invitation from a local subcontractor’s association to help do something about it. They were trying to get anybody and everybody associated with the construction industry involved. Naturally, I accepted … because it was the right thing to do, because it would be an easy thing to do and because I wanted to do my part.
I arrived at the blood drive donation center at the appointed time and signed in. It only took a few minutes to fill out the required forms and then, after my temperature was taken and determined to be within an acceptable range, I was assigned a chair in the staging area and told to go to station number six, the one marked “Glazing & Metal Contractors,” and wait until the nurse called for me.
I couldn’t help but notice that each trade had its own designated table. The electricians were doing a brisk business and so were the HVAC guys. The plumbers table … a messy, dirty thing with a puddle of water underneath it, seemed to be keeping busy as well. I was happy to see that our industry had gotten behind the call for help to overcome the short supply of whole blood in this area. After a moment or two, I started up a conversation with the dejected-looking guy sitting next to me.
“So,” I began, “I take it you’re here to donate blood. What trade group are you with?”
“I’m a roofer,” he replied, “but they’ve rejected me because of my illness.”
“Really? You look OK to me,” I stated. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Bad case of shingles,” he answered.
NOTE TO READERS: I’m sorry. I know that as readers of this column you have come to expect sophisticated humor, contemplative antidotes and witty repartee ... not cheap puns or slip-shod innuendo. I got carried away … it was too easy. It won’t happen again. Now back to the story.
The nurse at station number six made eye contact with me, and by way of a sweeping up-and-down nod, let me know that I was to join her. After I sat down, she quickly strapped a blood pressure cuff to my left arm and pumped it up. She looked at my previously completed form, glanced at the pressure monitor and frowned.
“OK, Mr. Hill,” she began, “I just have to ask you a simple series of questions while observing your blood pressure readings and if all goes well, we’ll get you on your way in no time. So are you ready?”
“Yes I am,” I replied cheerfully.
“All right then, Mr. Hill. My first question is … do you ever suffer from night sweats … particularly on the night before a large bid is due and the quotation you are issuing has been put together with incomplete information and in an inadequate amount of time for proper preparation?”
“Well, sometimes,” I answered, sensing that a bit of perspiration was gathering on my forehead.
She looked at the monitor, shook her head ever so slightly and then looked back at the sheet of paper in front of her.
“Question number two, Mr. Hill. Have you ever experienced a nervous twitch while dealing with an architect … particularly when they are pounding you with an endless series of ridiculous, elementary, senseless questions about a job you will probably never even get a chance to bid?”
“Yes. Yes I have,” I replied hoping that she did not notice the uncontrollable blinking that had now started with my left eyelid.
“And Mr. Hill, does the twitching worsen into uncontrollable shaking when that same architect asks you to provide budget pricing based on a drawing that is the equivalent of what your 8-year-old grandson could produce if given the opportunity?”
Now both eyelids were out of control. The sweat was dripping from my forehead and my right hand was flopping about on the table. I think she was enjoying this. She relieved some of the pressure on the arm cuff and tapped her monitor twice as if questioning the reading she was getting.
“And what about your collection efforts with general contractors, Mr. Hill?” she continued before I could even answer the last question. “Do you suffer from anxiety, nausea or depression when trying to collect what is owed to you? And here’s the clincher, Mr. Hill. How do you feel when I mention the word retention?”
“Stop,” I screamed, while ripping the monitor from my arm. “I can’t take any more.”
She smiled … a sly, wicked little smile.
“Mr. Hill, you lasted a little longer than most. Some of the younger guys hang in a little longer, but for the most part, you glass and metal contractors are all alike. A bunch of beaten-down, weak-kneed wimps.”
I was embarrassed. I had never been turned down before. But then again, I’d never been hit with questions relating to what I did for a living. It was somehow all unfair. I just wanted to do my part.
“Has anyone associated with the glazing trade ever made it?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah. The metal suppliers sail right through. No blood pressure problems, no sleepless nights and no apparent concerns of any kind. In fact, nothing seems to bother those guys.”
“Well, Nurse, I’m sorry I won’t be able to donate today, but can I ask you for a favor that would go a long way toward helping me with my apparent blood-pressure problem?”
“Sure, what is it Mr. Hill?”
“The next metal supplier guy that comes along … can I be the one to stick the needle in? You know … so I can at least say that I did my part.”
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