First Time Gate Guarding – Day 30

Day 30

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday that was a pleasant surprise was we found out they had instituted a change with the water vendor, I’m assuming at least partially  based on what happened with us.  Going forward they are going to have the company scrub and sanitize the fresh water tanks quarterly (they changed their contract with them) and it will be done onsite so the gate guarding folks can watch it being done.  Very cool and so nice to know we were heard.  We also got a visit from our company support person and he brought us some donuts when he brought the water and said thanks for doing a great job.  That was really nice.  Speaking of water, we did really well this week only using about half a tank.  The X factor appears to be how many sinks full of dishes we do, and because we went out one night, and I cooked less, we didn’t do dishes every day.  Also the new popup canopy Lee bought for $50  is working great.  It extends our shade coverage during the hottest part of the day, which is much needed.

You can see the shde square it throws

You can see the shade square it throws

If it's not windy we can have both the tent and the awning

If it’s not windy we can have both the tent and the awning which gives us even more shade

And the new tent was up just in time, because the day started out pretty hot, and by 2:00pm it was 93 degrees with a cloudless sky.  I worked outside between 1:00pm and 2:45pm and got so hot Lee had to make me take a break and come inside in the AC.  It’s fine in the shade, but this new policy forces us into the sun for longer periods and the gusty hot wind didn’t help as I was struggling with the heat.  Pretty soon I was sweating and feeling pretty flushed.  On the plus side. my legs will be getting that sun I was looking for, but I may need to bust out some sunscreen as this sun is quite intense.  Thanks for all the great suggestions on how to solve the gate problem by the way! (We think we have a winner, but I’m going to test it first before I make the big announcement. – Lee) Lee has a call in to the ranch owner to get permission to make this very minor modification to the gate, and our Account manager seemed pleased that we were trying to help solve the problem.  I am also glad I took my rings off because my hands got caught in the gate a couple of times.  The combination of heavy gate, gusty winds, and sweaty hands isn’t the best.

Right as I was typing that last sentence, the ranch owner stopped by and I went outside to handle trucks while they talked about the gate.  Lee was just starting to explain it when the oil company man coincidentally showed up.  The ranch owner immediately turned away from Lee and started to talk about the problem with the company man, who said he would put drop bars on.  Lee and I were both completely cut out of the conversation.  The ranch owner did ask why the new policy, and the company man stated that it was easier for all their gates to have the same rules.  The ranch owner, to his credit, said he didn’t care if the gate was shut all the time, but was concerned for me since the gates were heavy in the wind, which was nice.  The downside is now we are at the mercy of when/if the company man gets around to it and their solution is not our first choice.  It will actually increase the work load even more. This will require lifting the drop rod, walking each gate over to it’s open position, then dropping the rod before going back and doing the other side.  That will increase the time we spend wrestling with the gate even more on non windy days.  It will probably be the same or a little less on windy days.  Well, it is what it is, but I got to experience first hand what it is like when people make a change to the job you do every day and don’t even ask your opinion.   Not that pleasant of an experience, for us at least. In the meantime, Lee found he can use the chain to hold one side of the gate.  It  involves some bending down, but works in a pinch when it’s super windy.

yimg_0199

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Its hard to get the hook on the rings but its better than nothing

The ranch owner  had said he would stop and talk to us on the way out, but instead he used the ranch gate, watched me struggle letting a truck in, then took off. No discussion, no update.  Boy, I got mad.  And really, really fast.  And let me be clear, the ranch owner is a nice guy and has been very polite to me, but apparently he had more important things to do and I didn’t need an update.  And that’s what made me angry.  There is a pattern here with these jobs we have been taking (camp hosting aside) where they are hard work, low pay, and the expectation seems to be you will accept the conditions as is and shut up about it.  And for those of you who are perfectly fine with that, more power to you. I finally realized in that moment that I am just not.  I’ve worked plenty of low level positions in my life (security guard, waitress, monitoring station operator, secretary) under way more dire financial circumstances than these and I still felt I had a voice. In these temporary jobs I mostly don’t feel that way.  And you  have to understand that by nature I am a rule follower.  I have to force myself to stand up for myself.  I am much, much better at standing up for others, but generally when it’s me I let things go, and let things go and then blow.  So when I do get worked up enough to say something  I want to be heard. I don’t expect to get my way, but I want my concern acknowledged, and if possible addressed.  I think that’s pretty reasonable, but apparently in this world it’s not.  And I never signed up for that.

Lee of course has no problem at all speaking up for himself and I end up often being the “voice of reason.”  But I am getting pretty tired of that and standing out there in the hot  sun fighting that gate I was really tired of it.  And before I go any further I feel the need to kind of prove my case.  I almost got knocked off my feet a couple times today so let me show you what I am dealing with here.

This is the size of the walkway I use to bring the pieces of gate together

This is the size of the walkway I use to bring the two gates together

 

Around that are these cattle guards and as you can see my foor can easily fall in so I try to stay on the walkway

Around that are these cattle guards and as you can see my foot can easily fall in so I try to stay on the walkway

Running back and forth AND trying to stay on that walkway is tough, plus these gates are heavy for me and when the wind was gusting I almost got knocked off my feet a couple of times.  The scampering back and forth doesn’t help as I really try to be deliberate in where I step.  Basically it’s like walking a balance beam holding something heavy with the wind pushing at you.  And it was very hot.

So I was upset, which made Lee upset, and we started talking about finding another gig.  Work is picking up in the area and since we are at the lowest wage we are pretty confident we could make more money.  Plus, we now know the questions to ask and could make sure we had a gate that fit our needs better.  I was close, I mean  really close, and the only thing that stopped me from calling one of the numerous job opportunities we have seen on the Facebook gate group was the young woman we initially interviewed with.  I like her very much and she has really tried to take care of us and I just didn’t want to do that to her.  So I took a deep breath and went back out to the gate.  I had three or four trucks lined up and  was struggling with the wind when Lee came out and said “Shut the gate”.  Since there were trucks in the general area I didn’t really understand but he quietly said “The company man he needs to  see it.”  (The company man was one of the vehicles waiting. – Lee)  So I brought the gate to center and of course it swung open with the wind, so I ran over to it and the company man saw me struggling.  He pulled up immediately, lowered his window, and said to Lee “The guy behind us is fixing this tomorrow.”  OK then.  And “the guy behind” was one of our favorite guys from the construction company so we got to talk to him a little and ask him if the drop rods he was going to install could be locked in both the up and down position.  No problem.  To his credit he looked pretty upset and he is fixing it first thing in the morning.  Well of course that made me feel better and in the meantime Lee rigged together our “Jim Jam” named after our friend Jim who had the idea.  Pretty awesome, and he even shot some video to show the difference.

Lee fixing the gate for me

Lee fixing the gate for me

He later used two of the smaller clamps

He later used two of the smaller clamps.  The Jim Jam is flexible so I can push the gate but it’s rigid enough that it also keeps it in place when I need it to stay

As you can see I look pretty wrung out, but at this point we had a solution

As you can see I look pretty wrung out, but at this point  I was happy we had a solution to get me through the day

 

So here’s the thing.  The wind problem is solved and more importantly the work associated with opening the gate is somewhat solved because Andy, one of our readers who is a long-time gate guard, suggested we only open half the gate for pickup trucks which honestly never even occurred to me.  We have been doing that all evening and it is waaaaay less work than opening and shutting the full gate.   So I have to ask myself was getting upset worth it?  Would this all have worked itself out if I would have just sucked it up and sat on my feelings? I think the short answer is “no”.  They wouldn’t have put rods on the gate.  Lee wouldn’t have reached out for alternative solutions.  We would have just suffered along and knowing us that wouldn’t have gone well. I think getting angry is OK.  I think not being satisfied with the status quo is equally ok, as long as either state isn’t all the time.  Great change comes from discontent. Almost every invention ever made came from someone being unhappy about something.  So again, it’s totally OK if you’re not a person who gets crazy about these sort of things.  And it’s even OK if you think we are wasting our time or making ourselves unhappy for little gain.  I don’t believe that, and it’s my life and my time.  To the contrary, I think I have to agree with Lee that a little more discontent is called for.  If I was OK with the status quo we would still be living in New England freezing our butts off right now.  The fact that we are not is a good thing even if everything else isn’t perfect.

This is actually the absolute best solution because only opening half the gate is half the work The little trucks (the bulk of our traffic) can drive through this and it forces them to go slow

This is actually the absolute best solution because only opening half the gate is half the work! The little trucks (the bulk of our traffic) can drive through this and it forces them to go slow.  So thanks Andy!!!

Thirty days into the job by the way, and new policy aside it has been fine.  We still have tons of projects to work on and the hours seem to be working OK for us both.  The key for us has been both of us to go to sleep when it’s dark outside.  We did discuss changing that to make the workload more equitable, but neither of us wanted to try to go to sleep when it was light out.  Both of us  have worked third shift a time or two in our past and it never went well.  Our current sleep schedules of 9pm – 4am (Lee) and 4:30am – 12pm (me) are close enough to our regular sleep schedules to make it work. We are really leery of messing with that.  The money is fine as long as we are getting a reasonable amount of downtime and with very few exceptions that seems to be the case.  Hopefully once this gate problem is solved we can go back to things being comfortable.

This wasn’t all we had to do all day by the way.  While all this was happening we were also getting the paperwork filled out for our summer job, which we are pretty excited about.  Because the job is for a large electric company the HR process is pretty involved.  We had to agree to a credit and background check (they said they don’t actually do the credit check, but we don’t care, our credit is great) , coordinate a drug screening and a physical, send three additional references, one of whom needs to be a former supervisor, and sign a non-disclosure. I read the last pretty carefully and it relates mainly to computer programs, processes, and company proprietary information.  I will need to be a little careful when I blog about the job, but it seems pretty clear this language is universally used for the power company employees, which makes sense. Nothing in there about pictures thankfully, because that would be a bummer, so I should be fine as long as I continue  my new policy of not mentioning the company by name. Since we have to print and mail this information (their policy) we are also printing out all the tax information.  All we are missing at this point is one form from Fidelity, but I think I have enough to get started.  Update:  Lee found a free fax service online and “faxed” our email so it was all done before we woke up!!  Nice.

And I found time in the day to read a really outstanding post by our friend Howard from RV-Dreams about balance in the lifestyle. (Howard and Linda are at the big RV show in Columbus, OH, this weekend, by the way, doing free seminars on full timing. If you’re in Cbus you should go to the show. Attend a seminar. Meet Howard and Linda. Buy an RV. Sell all your junk, quit your job and hit the road. Or just tell them we said Hi! – Lee) He talks about the need to really look at work/life balance and the fact that even after 12 years they need to keep an eye on things.  The post reviews their balance history and spoke to me on many levels and as is often the case with his posts they come at a very good time.  We need to remember that we are only a couple years into this lifestyle and obviously we still don’t have it figured out.  (Not me. I have it all figured out. – Lee) And that’s OK, because even people who have been doing this a lot longer still make adjustments.  It’s comforting and I really appreciate the fact that he wrote this.  And finally, just to show the day wasn’t all pain and misery here are a couple pictures of some lighter moments.  When the sun went down, things were much, much nicer.

I ,made Lee a new recipe ham and bean rollups. His response why are you serving me prison food lol. They weren't that bad

I made Lee a new recipe;  ham and bean rollups. His response “Why are you making me eat me prison food?”  lol. They weren’t that bad, but his reaction made me laugh. (This is her idea of “lighter” and “not pain and misery”. – Lee)

And we had a beautiful sunset

And we had a beautiful sunset


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9 thoughts on “First Time Gate Guarding – Day 30

  1. Tracy, this is long. Feel free to delete it. Just wanted to give my two cents.

    Once upon a time, when we were younger, (actually about your age) we were hired as contract Rangers at a state park in Maine. Ideal job, right?? Just ask any of the campers that came there and they would tell you how lucky we were.

    Actually, we were lucky BUT we definitely were overworked and way underpaid. We did everything from checking in campers to cleaning the cabins, to replacing logs that were rotted on the cabins, to repairing or replacing roof on the cabins, mowing the grass on about 2 acres, telling people which trails to take to get the which mountain or a good fishing hole, handling the rental of canoes AND teaching folks how to canoe ( no, you do not sit facing each other and try to paddle if you would like the canoe to move 😂). Add all of that to mountain rescues, when needed. Oh yeah, did I mention that we had to use the chainsaw and then the wood splitter to cut and split about 10 cords of wood a year. Then of course, there was taking care of the folks that had a bat in their cabin in the middle of the night and came screaming to our door plus a thousand other things that needed to be done in a busy campground. It was never ending.

    As contract Rangers, we had to cover the place 24-7 from sometime in May when the ice went out to the middle of October. One of us always had to be there and if we wanted time off it was up to us to pay someone to come in and take care of it. Like you, we were very underpaid so that never happened unless there was an emergency or if we could find a friend to help out. It didn’t seem fair when the “real” Rangers that were doing basically what we were, had two days off and someone came along to take care of their campground.

    We still remember those days fondlythough, although there were many days that we wondered what the heck we were doing there! We knew that we were taken advantage of because of the contract BUT we chose to do it. Yep, we needed the money too, but still it was something that we chose to do.

    We worked there for five summers and then just could not take it anymore. However, it was a choice we had made. Yes, there was a lot of work to it but we met some of the nicest folks (and some not so nice), made lasting friendships, learned some really unique job skills and lived in a cabin by a lake.

    Would we do it again? Probably not, unless we were hungry enough. Then you do what you have to do. My point is that there probably is not ever going to be the perfect “contract” job. You are the lowest man on the totem pole. All you can do is try to make the best of the job that you have. Getting angry doesn’t really help in the long run. It angers the people that are in charge and it’s horrible for your health. Try to take it a day at a time and remember it isn’t permanent. Hopefully, you two will find something that will be a better mix of off time and work time than the beet job, Christmas tree job or the gate guarding job. Those jobs where are you are either working or sleeping or have to be there 24–7 are the worst. Hoping that you find a better balance.

    One last thing in this really long comment. ☺ Tracy, I can’t remember what you did as a job when you started this but you mention it often and it seems that you liked it. Is there anyway to do something in that line while you are on the road? Just wondering.

    • Hi thanks so much for sharing. It’s an excellent point that looking back on things they are better in that light. I definitely feel better about beets out of the moment and who know maybe someday I will have fond memories of trees. I absolute could be doing something else, but we wanted to try these jobs because the traditional work keeps us on roughly the same schedule and in the same place. If you read back in our year one there were lots of logistics problems that made things rough and it was a lot harder for Lee to find work around my schedule. So I’ve committed to giving this a full year (my decision not Lee’s) to see if we can find a combination of these jobs that both feeds us and allows us to have some kind of life. It’s an experiment of sorts. Then we can decide how I can work my consulting in. The temptation has been here to such say screw it but I really a, trying to give this type of work a fair shot.

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