Lose the political correctness and go find that pipe stretcher

We all hear on the news about this over political correctness and how everyone’s become so sensitive. Well, get over it. Sometimes people get a laugh at your expense. It doesn’t have to be mean – good fun is good fun.

The year: 1990. The contractor: Peter Kiewit. The job: a huge highway job in Pennsylvania. My age: 19. My role: the college kid taking concrete quantities, slumps, and air contents during pours.

The mission: go get the pipe stretcher.

This was one of those four-mile long jobs where all of the management had walkie-talkies. The dirt guys, the concrete foremen, the project manager, the superintendents, and all the truck drivers had them. There must have been 300 workers on that job and 50 of them on the radio. It was a Friday afternoon and obviously, these guys had nothing better to do than harass a young kid. Yours truly.

I’ll never forget that day. Larry, the teamster, was driving me around. One of the guys on the radio said the pipe stretcher was last seen a quarter mile down the road. Larry drove me to the 898 Spur bridge, pointed down to the creek below and said “I think he saw it down there last”.

I came back up and said “Larry, didn’t see it. What’s it look like again?” No good answer from my buddy Larry.

So, Larry gets back on the radio and calls to Lorenzo the concrete foreman: “Lorenzo, where’s that pipe stretcher again?” Of course, everyone’s on the same frequency, so everyone’s laughing off mic.

“It’s up behind soundwall 1A”, Lorenzo said with confidence. Soundwall 1A was about 150 feet above the roadway up a 45-degree rocky slope. Larry didn’t care (and neither did the other 49 supervisors). So, yup, up they sent me to find that darned pipe stretcher. As you can imagine it wasn’t there either.

Anyway, I look back at that day all in good fun and in the tradition of a boy becoming a man, an engineer earning a true rite of passage from those that build America, and just good, pure, fun. That was an important day to me and one that every college student and every trade apprenticeship should experience. Humility – it’s good for you.

PS. Just for the record Kiewit, that was two wasted manhours on me. You lost $18 that day in labor! I’m thinking you don’t give a damn!

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