Columnists, Tyler Mahan, V6I3

Sick on the Job

(Photo courtesy of Pixabay from Pexels)

With all the world talking incessantly about this coronavirus, it just seems like a good time to talk a bit about working through sickness. 

Thankfully, I am rarely sick. Sometimes I just feel really drained. Sometimes I feel sick of my coworkers: that’s for you Billy. Sometimes my stomach is gurgling, and I feel nauseated. When it is time to stay home and when to “man up” and get busy is sometimes hard to determine. 

Like many shed builders, I worked a few years building sheds on a piecework pay schedule. I loved the opportunity to earn as much money as my ability to build sheds allowed. I could give myself a raise by finding ways to improve my efficiency or by pushing myself beyond my normal pace. 

The only drawback was that in our set up there was no provision for sick leave or vacation. If I wasn’t working, I wasn’t making anything. I know that many of you are in that same situation. Whether you are building, hauling, or selling sheds, you need to be there to make a buck. 

I was working along one day about 10 years ago building another shed. I knew I didn’t feel well, but my children like to eat and groceries cost money. I had been telling a fellow builder, Paul, that I hoped I could make it to the end of the day. 

The building was coming together. I was building my doors when it hit me. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say I’m thankful I had time to turn my head and miss the doors. The floor was quite a mess, however. I spread some sawdust on the mess and headed for home. 

I recovered and was able to go back to work the next day. I discovered that none of my fellow shed builders wanted to clean up after me, so I started that day by sweeping the pile of sawdust. Not a great way to start a new day.

Last summer I headed to Norman, Oklahoma, to build a small shed for a nice lady. She was concerned about disturbing the neighbors, so she didn’t want me to start until 8 a.m. 

I was already somewhat worried about the job because of the late start. I unstrapped and began hauling my tools and materials in to find her backyard was tiny. The 8-foot-wide shed had to be placed within a couple feet of the back fence for the door to open without hitting the house. 

I had some trouble with my compressor that morning that slowed me quite a lot. My family met me for lunch at a nearby restaurant. When I returned to the jobsite, I didn’t feel very well. I chalked it up to eating too much at lunch and tried to keep going. 

As the afternoon wore on, I was forced to stop more often to rest. I finally told the customer I was going to go find something to eat and return. I had already decided I would have to return the next day to finish—a cardinal sin for a shed so small. I drove for a while, stopped at a fast food Mexican place (probably not a wise choice) to eat, then returned to the jobsite. 

I still felt awful and couldn’t work over about 15 minutes at a time. I decided to call it a day and head home. 

My family came by and brought me a snow cone and spent some time helping me load up. We traveled back home. I took a shower and climbed in bed. The next morning, I texted Billy to ask him to finish the job for me. I felt awful. He finished the job in record time—no one has ever taken so long to finish such a small shed.

The nice lady I had been building the shed for texted me a few times checking on me. She was kind and offered advice on dealing with sickness. My wife saw her a few weeks later at a local grocery store and she asked to be sure I had taken care of myself. Certainly one of the nicest customers I have had the pleasure of working with. 

We shed builders know the challenge of balancing our well-being with the need for a paycheck. May things be well with you as you face yet another day in the life of a shed builder. 

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