Of Deadlines and Lew

What does working the woodworking industry mean to you?  Does it conjure up images of sharp chisels and a warm wood stove?  A relaxed atmosphere portrayed on TV where nothing goes wrong, and everything can be built in just a few hours?

Or does the mention bring back memories of phone calls from frantic customers, untimely mistakes, or a work load that seemed impossible?

In a recent conversation with one of the contractors we do work for he stated – ” your either working a schedule you can’t keep up with or your losing money!  There’s no in-between!!”

A number of years back we worked a large job.  The jobs super was Lew.  Lew was diminutive in size with greying hair and was approaching retirement age.  In fact this particular job would probably be his last before retirement.  He had worked for the contractor for almost 20 years, working his way up to super.

Each morning he would make his rounds through the project to check on the status of each crew.  Puffing his continual cigarette with the long, gravity defying ash on the end he’d yell “What the hell are you guy’s doing?”  followed by a surprised look on the face of the recipient. “You should have been done with this shit yesterday!!”  “Did you leave, get hurt?” His cigarette bouncing as he yelled – never leaving his mouth.   Some sort of retaliate  statement would be flung Lew’s way. “We’ve got a schedule to keep, get your shit in one bucket – or we’ll find someone who can” Lew would yell as he left.  Lew always got the last word.  He’d walk by us as we were installing the stair railings.  “Morning fella’s”  and walk to his next crew.

Lew didn’t take any grief, he kept a fire to the feet of his crew at all times.   It they couldn’t take the heat then he escorted them out of the kitchen.   He’d been in the business a long time.  Lew knew what a deadline was- what it took to meet it- and, most important, what little it took to derail it.

When I think about this business, or someone mentions how great it must be to woodwork or ‘create’  I think of Lew.  I think of a cigarette that always stays lit, an ash that never falls.  I think if there’s no one to ‘encourage’ you each morning then you better ‘encourage’ yourself.  It’s a fast paced, high stress business where mistakes and setbacks happen at the drop of an ash!

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