Thursday, April 29, 2010

boat shop boot camp

One week later. Wow. Where did it go?

I feel like I'm in a kind of boot camp. I wake up at 6 am (earlier than I would normally) and am at work by 8 am, which makes me feel like I've already accomplished something, before the day even begins. The day flies by - before I know it, it's 10 am and break time, then again at noon, and again at 3. The phone is constantly ringing with different requests. It's like how it was when I first started at the library - each person who came in had a specific question, each one unique. "I need to know the oldest church in Glace Bay." "Can you get me the Chronicle Herald for June 5th, 2009?" "Do you have any books on lobsters, for kids, for my son's school project?"

The difference here is, at least at the library I knew what books were, and fiction and non-fiction, and so on. Here - it's like they're speaking another language. Customers say the name of the part they need and they seriously might as well be speaking Greek. "4-stroke engine." "Clevis pin." "Retainer ring." "Cotter pin." "Such-and-such spark plug." To me, they're interesting words, sure, but no picture forms in my head of what the word might mean. Nothing - it's just blank. Mind you, it's STARTING to happen - the few parts and products I've worked with this past week are my little safety zone, my island of knowledge. I feel so relieved when a question comes in that I can actually answer!

What amazes me is how each time a request comes in that to me sounds like "Bla bla bla, bla bla bla bla?" the guys in the workshop come out to help me and they know exactly what the person is talking about, and what questions to ask. To them, it makes sense - they have a picture in their head. Not only of what the part looks like, but what it does, where it's supposed to go (in an engine? on the end of a propeller? underneath the boat? on a mast? on a sail?), and what other parts might work instead, if we don't have this specific one.

Not only that, but then there's the behind-the-scenes part of the job. The mechanics, if you will, of running a medium-sized business, with two locations (here in Baddeck and in Dundee, an hour away) and staff, accounts, orders. There's the computer system we use to organize our inventory, and how THAT works. (It's the same kind of idea as the library software - all the pieces are listed in the system, and you have to find them, and cross-reference them, and build lists of them. But, it's a whole new system to me, and I'm learning it all. Plus, each time I use it I'm dealing with a product I'm not familiar with - see previous paragraph.) Then there's ordering from all our different vendors - some are close by, some are across the country, and I'm still just learning all about that.

So it feels like I've just been through my first week and a half of school, for some complicated subject like map-making or medicine. A kind of boot camp. When I was in university, one of my room-mates joined the Canadian Forces. In the weeks leading up to leaving, she was told by someone, If you can endure the first few weeks of boot camp, you'll be fine. And I've been thinking of that now. Get enough words and time under your belt in the new subject, and you'll build the confidence you need to learn the rest, to stay with it. You'll know you already made it through three weeks, too. Or something like that!

I should also mention that I'm really liking it - the staff I work with are fantastic, everyone is motivated, works hard, but is also friendly and goofy. We make jokes all the time. I feel supported. I feel excited about this new adventure. (Most of the time. Sometimes I'm just tired and overwhelmed.)

The feast was wonderful. I'll probably attend more of them (they hold them once a month), and then write a longer piece about them at some point in the future, but basically, it was everything I was expecting, only much better. (I suppose it was better because it was real, not just imagined.) There were sixteen people, myself included, and you didn't know until you got there who else besides your own party would be there.

There were six courses - all "taster" size, but by the end of the meal I was so full, and stimulated, and not just by food. You could bring your own wine, and the banter and conversation was a lot of fun - talking to some people you wouldn't ordinarily have sat down to dinner with. The house is a reclaimed and reworked old farmhouse, and the couple that own it have a precise but relaxed "old-style" aesthetic, if that makes sense. Example: big wide white-washed boards on the walls, mis-matched but vintage silverware and china, and reclaimed chandeliers hanging. Not to mention the tree trunks, still with a few branches, holding up the ceiling. Magical!

Today finds me sitting at the table in the house by the lake. The dog is running around outside with a stick in her mouth. The sky is overcast. I work later on at the library, but it feels kind of like a day "off" - I know my way around the library, I feel a heck of a lot more confident there than I do with marine parts.

Norah Jones' new album, The Fall, is playing. It's so good. It's like Norah is growing up, her dreamy vocals feel mature, and there is a grittier, more rock sound. Kind of how that album that Alison Krauss and Robert Plant made together sounds. And funnily enough, I feel like it matches the aesthetic I was talking about, that the chef and his wife have in their old farmhouse. Anything that's old or worn is there on purpose, and shines, despite being faded or weathered.


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