January, 2010 

Bird posters in workshop

It’s been tough since the end of December. Sam, the lead carpenter, has been struggling with cancer treatments and the frustrations of the health care system. His carpenter’s union insurance is not covering much and it’s a nightmare for him. It’s a perfect example of what needs to change.

He was misdiagnosed for months at a clinic and is understandably angry that things are now worse than they ought to be. Clark and Eric are good to him and friends have taken him in for hot meals and companionship while he undergoes chemo.

But Sam’s anger is a disease of the spirit that long predates his illness. His contempt for just about everyone and everything is usually masked with arch joviality that is now acid-in-your-face every day. Staring down mortality has not made him a nicer guy.

What to do with a talented craftsman with a hair-trigger temper who can make things right or undermine the entire project? While I leave it to Clark to choose his crew, I can see that Sam does damage to morale and slows work to a crawl. But of course no one wants to add to Sam’s heaping plate of woes, and he knows it.

This month, the days no one is on site outnumber the work days. And worse, the days that Sam’s here and does nothing outnumber the days he’s willing to work. Eric is patiently helpful and finds a way to work alongside, or around, Sam. But on this frigid Friday, there’s no one working, again, and I’m cold hearted for resenting it.

Bird posters in workshop