The job was somewhere down past Gastown. It was supposed to be for ex-convicts and addicts that were trying to rehabilitate, but they were partial to Irish fellas looking for work too. All we had to do was go down and check out the safety video and we had the start.
$12 an hour.
Had to get a bus.
There was a junkie with no money and the driver let her on for free. She had hollow cheeks and cut fingers and asked people questions all along the way. Her voice had a coarse Canadian lilt, like a squashed toy and she wanted to know things like: ‘Where you from, son?’
Got off and walked through a shopping centre where there was about 57 Asian people doing Tai Chi. They were totally silent, like ghosts, and I wasn’t even sure they were real til one fella got excited on a balletic turn and nearly clothes lined me when I was walking past. I said sorry but he pretended I wasn’t there at all I so kept going.
Found the spot. There was a big skip full of waste, broken glass, bin bags, rubbish, plastic, wires and timber. Two Canadian fellas were standing beside it, talking. One said: ‘Should we start cleaning out this container?’
‘No,’ Said the other fella. ‘Let the Irish do it later.’
I kept going. Found where to check in. Few more there too, wondering. They got us all to sit down then wheeled out a portable telly and a Video Player. It was like an auction for antiques. The fella in charge was clean shaven and well versed in condescension. Knew how to speak to the proles. Fresh from Starbucks, truck outside, squeaky clean steel toe boots. He took out the VHS and stuck it in. There was a bit of fuzz and then it started. A big voice full of polite warnings with:
There WILL be hypodermic waste on this job. (Picture of a needle with a load of blood around it.)
There WILL be LIKELY exposure to Asbestos on this job. (Picture of a fella coughing and his lungs lit up in bright red flames.)
You WILL encounter potentially POISONOUS rodents such as Rats and other Vermin. (Picture of a Rat in a forest somewhere.)
You must use SAFETY EQUIPMENT such as MASKS and GLOVES and OVERALLS.
Afterwards, your man turned it off, smiled and said: ‘Any questions?’
I went: ‘What do we do for safety equipment?’
‘Oh, that’s comin Friday.’
‘What do we do til then?’
‘I’m sure it’ll be fine.’
‘But what if it’s not?’
‘There’s really no risk.’
‘Yeah, but…the people workin on that have their own gear…’
‘What about Weil’s Disease?’
‘I haven’t seen any rats yet…’
‘And the needles?’
‘Yeah, there’s probably some of those, but, just be careful.’
‘Will you be on the job too?’
‘No, I’ll be supervising and administrating from the office, any problems though – just call me.’
He turned his back and I left for the Skytrain home. They were still doing the Tai Chi on the way out. Your man that nearly hit me was well in the zone at this stage, looked like he was trying to wrap his leg around his neck. I gave him a wave but there was no getting through to him at all so I kept going.