Concrete and Capitalism in Vancouver.

The spirit of capitalism was alive and well. Everyone was winging it. Tom was pretending I was a concrete expert so I’d have a job and money to have the craic and survive in Vancouver. Tom’s boss was looking for cheap labour so there’d be more profit for the company. The Indian owner of the petrol station was looking for cheap professionals to jackhammer his forecourt and I was in the middle solving everyone’s financial problems, including my own. But now the Indian owner wasn’t happy. Wanted to know what had happened to his petrol pumps. Why weren’t they working, why can’t he make money, what did the Irish concrete expert do wrong now? This was awkward. I had the key turned in the van, ready to go, and I hadn’t a clue what he was talkin about. I played it best I could with: ‘It’s the switch inside, I’d say.’
‘Switch, what switch, why?’
‘Hang on I’ll check.’
It was around five o’clock, Friday evening, and I was just on the way home. Half a hole dug and the wages waiting. I got out and pulled off the cover and saw a myriad of pipes and meters and the overwhelming smell of commercial finite resources. India had keys in his hand, grabbed them impatiently, waited for an answer. I pulled down the first lever I could see and said: ‘Check now.’
He went inside and I rang Tom for advice. He answered with: ‘Where the fuck are you? We’re waitin for the van.’
‘Think I broke the petrol pump.’
‘Heh, how?!
‘Not sure, I was  just about to go and then Gandhi landed all emotional.’
‘Who, the basmati fella that’s always askin questions?’
‘Him, yeah. I think he knows I’m not an expert now.’
‘Sure he probably knew that after you cut the water hose and drenched the whole forecourt yesterday. Are the Health and Safety gone home?’
‘Yeah, why were they here again?’
‘Cos you nearly took an Asian woman’s eye out with a splinter of concrete this mornin…musta bounced up from the Jackhammer, you’re supposed to stop diggin when they’re fillin petrol….’
‘Was she the one with the Mercedes?’
‘Dunno, but she rang complainin anyway, said it was like a warzone down there. Have you much dug?’
‘About half a hole.’
‘You’re there all day.’
‘Oh yeah, the Jackhammer broke too.’
‘Oh for fuck’s sake. Why don’t you just blow the whole place to shit and get it over with?’
‘Hang on, the Indian fella’s back.’
‘Just tell him to fuck off til Monday.’
I hung up. New Delhi said: ‘It’s worse now, nothing’s working.’
‘I rang the manager there.’
‘What did he say?’
‘He said it’s important that the pump be deactivated for the weekend, for Health and Safety concerns, and we can restart it Monday.’
‘Health and Safety? This is somethin different, a lady nearly lost her eye this morning, how is this the same as a broken pump?’
‘That’s what the boss says anyway…’
‘You’re an expert, ok, you’re supposed to know this, can you fix my pump please….I’m goin to complain to somebody, this is unacceptable…’
He left then and I hopped in the van before he came back. Escape almost guaranteed til I turned the key and nothin happened. No lights, no sound, no move whatsoever. It was then I remembered it had a weak battery and now it was after dying cos I’d the ignition left on while I was dealing with the crisis. I rang Tom again. He opened with: ‘Are you on the way?’
‘Not exactly.’
‘How do you mean?’
‘I might need jump leads.’
‘Oh for fuck’s sake!’

‘Are the wages nearly ready?’



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