When you work in construction, you meet a lot of really interesting people. At times it’s a regular freak show with all of the differing personalities, backgrounds, habits, etc. Mix a bunch of freaks together in a trailer for a year and you come up with a cocktail for disaster…or maybe for future therapy.
When I was out on site last year, we had anywhere from five to eight people working in the trailer at any one time from our company. Then we had subcontractors coming in and out of the trailer all day long, usually looking for someone to answer a question, accept a delivery, to use the bathroom, steal some coffee, etc.
One of our regular “squatters” was Joel. Joel worked for a company that tests soil, concrete, structural steel, etc. and he would do all of the inspections. There would be weeks when he was onsite every day and he would camp out in our conference room for hours on end. I thought he was working on reports for our project, but as I found out later he was also writing up reports for projects that other companies were doing. We were just a convenient pit stop for him because no one ever gave him a bunch of shit for sitting around our trailer. He was one of those people that is annoyingly chipper…I remember that even after watching our superintendent, Napoleon, chew him a new one over and over again that Joel would still have a big stupid grin plastered on his face and bounce all over the trailer greeting everyone with his usual “Good morning! How’s it going today?”
One of Joel’s less attractive habits was that he was a Class A mooch. It never failed that when someone brought food into the trailer for a meeting or a group lunch, Joel would mysteriously materialize. I swear, it was almost like the guy had a built-in homing device that knew the minute I brought a Panera bagel pack into the trailer and he would eagerly bound into the trailer and snap up a bagel. We used to joke among ourselves that Joel could be 30 miles away and sense a box of Krispy Kremes being opened and would somehow magically transport himself to our trailer to partake of the gooey goodness. It was truly astonishing.
So everyone likes a free snack, right? And I didn’t think twice about it. I love a Krispy Kreme just as much as the next person, so how could I deny Joel a simple donut? But it became pretty evident over time that Joel had a serious problem.
We had a tight schedule and offered our curtainwall subcontractor a free barbeque lunch if they could meet their scheduled finish date. The curtainwall guys were all from out-of-state and had been away from their families for weeks, and they were really excited about sitting down with all of us for a good meal (translation: it was free and there was going to be someone with honest-to-goodness boobs there – not man-boobs). I hired a barbeque catering company on the recommendation of our office manager and they delivered everything on site. Well, the barbeque was…not awful, but let’s just say it was a good thing we had two restrooms and lots of Charmin that afternoon. Ick. I even sent poor Sylvester to the Food Lion to get some Pepto, it was that bad in the trailer.
The catering company put the leftovers in our fridge, and frankly no one wanted to touch them…except Joel. He had magically appeared as soon as the curtainwall guys had finished eating their lunch, helped himself to a plate and pronounced it delectable. For the next SEVEN DAYS he came in the trailer and helped himself to heaping platefuls of bowel-disrupting barbeque, coleslaw, and baked beans. One afternoon, as I went into our little makeshift kitchen and watched him load up his plate, I asked him if he had been enjoying the barbeque. “Oh yes,” he said eagerly, “and I really appreciate you guys letting me share some of this food with you!” Apparently, it wasn’t having the same ill effects it had on the rest of us because then he would disappear onto the jobsite for several hours and Lord knows, if you’re having bad potty problems the last place you want to be is in a portajohn…but he never reappeared at the trailer that whole week after ingesting the barbeque.
At this point, everyone started talking about Joel’s moochiness and it became our little inside joke. Someone would bring in Chinese food for lunch and the second the smell wafted down the hallway, one of us would yell out “here comes Joel!” and sure enough, within 15 minutes he would show up. It was downright creepy.
The last straw for me personally was The Pizza Incident. It was so bad that it took me weeks to convince the guys that I wasn’t bullshitting them and it had really happened. We had ordered Pizza Hut pizzas for one of the Owner/Architect meetings which occurred every other Thursday. Typically I’d get enough for our office staff, the owner’s reps, the architects, and our laborers. My boss Eeyore is one of those annoying people that subsists on coffee, Cokes, and maybe an occasional pack of Nabs or a half of a donut - then at least one or two other people would never eat any pizza so we always had leftovers. That week we ended up with two extra pizzas and for some odd reason they never made it into the refrigerator as they routinely did (the laborers usually ended up taking them home for dinner that night and didn’t do that, either). So when I came into the trailer on Friday morning, the pizzas were sitting on a table in our conference room. I immediately swooped them up and dumped them unceremoniously on the top of our “recycling bin” (which was a huge joke for another time) for Sylvester to run to the dumpsters next time he did a trash run.
Well, the trash run never happened, and Monday morning the pizzas were still on the top of the trash heap. I was standing at the copy machine and Joel came in for his usual morning routine. He spied the pizza boxes on the top of the heap and I saw a gleam come into his eyes.
“Pizza!” he crowed, “What kind is it?”
“I think what ended up being leftover was a supreme and some pepperoni…but it’s been sitting out since last Thursday so it’s going to the dumpster as soon as I can get Sylvester to take it.”
I walked out of the room and into my office next door…I hear some scrabbling about, the microwave door opens, shuts….the microwave runs, beeps….the microwave door opens, shuts….I hear someone rustling through the plasticware and pulling out napkins too…and I looked out of my office door to see Joel proudly carrying his trophy pizza into the conference room.
He. Ate. The. Pizza. That. Had. Been. Sitting. Out. For. Five. Days.
How the man did not die from either food poisoning or choking on that rock-hard pizza is a miracle. Seriously.
Once the guys finally believed my story, one by one they started making fun of Joel. I felt kind of bad for him, because obviously no one NORMAL is going to eat gut-grenade barbeque or five-day-old pizza that has been sitting in a nasty trailer with mice, roaches, and God knows what else running all over it. Ugh, it gives me the total shivers just thinking about it. Joel was obviously blessed with a great digestive system that enables him to ingest things that would kill a normal man.
A few weeks went by and Joel stopped coming by the trailer…I suspect he realized that his gravy train was over and we were onto his sick eating habits. Either that or he found another jobsite to forage for food.
Every now and then, I’ll be doing something in my normal routine that reminds me of something that happened to me out on the jobsite. Tonight, as I was cleaning some questionable cheesecake out of our refrigerator and disposing of some expired sour cream, only one thought kept running through my mind…
“Damn, I wish Joel was here, it’s such a shame to throw all this nasty shit away when someone could enjoy it.”