March 20th, 2018
Hans has a hard job. He has always had difficult jobs. Every place he has ever worked has been physically and mentally demanding: the mail room at the Eagle newspaper, the Army, the oilfields, and now a concrete company. He has always had to push himself to the edge. It shows.
Hans drives a big pump truck for the concrete company. It has a 42 meter boom for the pipe. Hans transfers the concrete from the mixer trucks to the place where the finishers lay the slab. Sometimes he pours seventy yards of concrete for a house slab. Sometimes he pours a couple hundred yards for a larger project. He has to make sure that the work goes fast enough that the concrete doesn’t begin to set up in the pipes on his truck. The clean up at the end of his shift is always arduous. It is not unusual for him to have chip pieces of concrete from in his hopper.
Hans doesn’t have a start time. He is on call every day. He might have to go in at 6:00 AM, or he might need to show up at one in the morning. He might only work eight hours or he might have to work sixteen. He never knows. One day his dispatcher had him working for twenty-two hours straight. Even the corporate management thought that was a bit excessive.
Hans comes back from work dog tired and dirty. He typically slumps into a chair on his patio and lights up a Pall Mall. He cracks open a Lime-a-rita, and he sits there, staring into the distance. Gabby generally leaves him alone for at least half an hour. That’s a wise move.
Overall, Hans likes his work. He has always been good with his hands. He likes machinery; big or fast, or both. He prefers to work outdoors. So, construction is good fit for him. It just takes a lot out of him.
While Karin and I were visiting, Hans would light up and start talking. Usually, work is the initial topic of discussion. Later, he might talk about guns, or the Army, or cars, or those damn liberals. After a few drinks, Hans sometimes tells stories from Iraq. Some of those are funny. Some are very disturbing. He always tells his tales in the same matter-of-fact kind of monotone. He talks about driving a tank in the same tone as he talks about shooting a guy dead. It is like he is remembering things from a distance; as an observer, rather than as an active participant. He often would not look at us as he was speaking. He would look at something far away. Maybe he has to remember things that way.
At some point the dogs come out to the yard. Hans plays with his puppy. Hans smokes one cigarette after another. Fatigue sets in. I can see his shoulders sag. He becomes even quieter than usual. He gets a text regarding the next day’s assignment. He finishes up his last beer, and then goes to bed.
He needs to be up early.