In 2005 my brother was hurting. Like me, he's a journeyman
electrician, an instinctive mechanic. But he lived in Cleveland, Ohio
and couldn't find work. He'd get odd jobs here and there, but the last one wouldn't pay him and the bills were mounting. He was falling farther and farther into debt even though his evenings consisted of guitar
practice and his diet had a bit too many ramen noodles
in it. Life did not look good.
I knew of a job. In Miami Beach, building a 30 story condominium. The reason I knew was that the project manager, one of my old bosses, wanted me to work on that project. I wasn't too keen on selling my house and moving south. It would have meant a big raise, but Miami, Florida isn't the cheapest place in the world to live, and I figured the increased costs would cancel out the wage increases. But Mike needed a job, so he went. They hired him on the spot, and handed him the plans for this 36 story condo. Mike put it down to desperation. After all who gives an unknown electrician the responsibility of running a 36 story building whom no one has ever met before. Doesn't happen. The truth is he got the job based on the fact that he was my brother and their best project manager knew me.
Yet Mike got it done, the only one in Miami done on time and at a profit. He did it with a work force that largely didn't speak English, few skilled lead electricians, and intransigent general contractor whose idea of management was to call people names, and a company that basically went under beneath him from multi-million dollar losses on other jobs. On completion he was hired to take over an even bigger project, a condo with one forty and two thirty-six story towers. Eight million square feet. It was a year behind because little things like sleeves for the feeders had been left out by the previous foreman. Why does that matter? Because the contruction is pre-stressed concrete. Basically each deck is latticed with cables in a sleeve. At the end of each pour they are tightened to a torque spec. The cable tension gives the deck it's strength and makes it possible to use concrete in tall buildings. But if you cut through one of those cables it shoots out the side of the deck, snapping under enough tension to cut a man in half.
Buildings that big take a lot of power. Many conduits bigger than four inches in diameter must be run up the building, some clear to the top. They hold wire that weighs more than a 3 kilos per meter and must be suspended in place lest gravity pull it and associated switchgear out of place. Data, phone, cable, communications, all require raceways that were not in place and could only be installed with the aid of a several jackhammers. From day one he was behind the eight ball.
Then the company who hired him was bought out. The new owners from Boston didn't know who Mike was and found him irascible and over-paid by their standards. They hadn't been told they were getting a mess when they were buying. They came in with attitude. Mike stuck it out and gave them some back. Eventually they figured out he was the only guy keeping things together. Raises came. The job was brought back on schedule.
Today the building went on permanent power. Seven million square feet got switched on. Mike called me to celebrate, and to try again to get me a job down here. He's talking money, a lot of it, maybe enough to make the move worthwhile. And to let me know that he's a badass.
Well he is. I'm not sure I could do what he's done. Not many can keep a hundred guys who don't speak your language on the same page and getting things done right without much backing from the company. He's looking at a big raise, over six figures. And I remember three years back when he was flat broke and packing his van out of sheer desperation. Now he's the man, he's come a long way and I feel damned good about it.