Saturday, August 25, 2012

Shit Creek

Stay Cool on 102 degrees days by wearing airtight hazmat suit. (Mattress is drying out after a mishap with ice chest)
It's a clusterfuck at the trailer park.
"I've seen shit fights at the monkey cage more organized than this," said the scooter man who got fired last week for reasons I can't go into.
An absolute clusterfuck with Oggy in the mess. I'm almost to the point where I'm saving money but I also have a dentist appointment coming up so that should eat up any profit from the last month. When it costs $2000 to make $2000 then you can do the math on how much money I've saved so far.

But I'm trying to stay positive. The park tried to fire me but the housekeeper had a fit and threatened to quit. I don't know why. She trusts me, I guess. But she's trapped because she lives there and the managers don't know what they are doing. I don't know what I expected. People like Colin Powell and Bill Gates don't flock to trailer parks to become managers. Basically, if you aren't a thief and can make decisions eventually then you can manage a trailer park. Or I should say, you can mismanage a trailer park.
I feel like everything is an issue of who will blink first. No one wants to spend the money to fix anything right but the renters will still need a place to stay because Mall Cops kick them out of parking lots. But when you don't instal AC vents correctly then they break and all the AC goes under the house to keep the moles and groundhogs nice and cool. People spend $15 a day in electricity. Yes, $450 a month. On top of $850 for the crappy rental Mobile home itself. And water must be purchased at 25 cents a gallon. It ends up being more than it would cost to live in Venice Beach. For a shitty broken down trailer with cockroaches and fire ants. You wonder why I live in my van.

So, someone stuffed an ac vent on top of a sewage waste PVC stack. Ok. The pressure eventually led to the PVC cracking at the Y adapter and all the toilet sewage and water from the tub and sinks all draining into the fiberglass insulation. I had been tasked with inspecting the AC units because several had the main vent disconnect and people were throwing money into the ocean because they were too lazy to get a flashlight and look under their units to figure out why three rooms weren't getting cold. Fine. It's what they pay me the big money for.  har har har. But you find all kinds of things wrong when you look under a a 1992 rental mobile home in a park where the last maintenance man was addicted to crack cocaine. The first one I looked under had a cat skull looking back at me. Half the fur was gone. It looked to have died a violent death. I plunged forward on my knees and elbows with a flashlight to guide me toward a rumbling mass of pipe.
Sewage, condensation leaks, Brown Recluse spiders, voles, feral cats, fire ants, toys, amateur porn mags, oh the list goes on. The AC was ok but under all these trailers is fiberglass insulation covered with a black plastic tarp. This is a horrible idea because it hides all the piping and also collect the gallons of condensation that invariably drip from the cold AC vents. This leads to black mold. You want to make a million dollars? Go invent aluminum AC venting that is PRE-INSULATED. If it doesn't need to be covered then it can be left in the open so you can see when it breaks.
Well, this one trailer #72 had a huge bulging area by the master bathroom. It looked and felt exactly like an upside down waterbed. But I smell raw sewage so it's not a waterbed.

I go report the problem to the manager.
"Oh, we had something like that happen before. It's nothing bad. It's a small condensation leak. Go cut a hole with a knife. Let it drain."
She hasn't even looked at it or smelled the sewage.
"I don't think it's a small leak."
"Don't worry. It won't hurt you. It's not dangerous."
And I'm really about to quit because she's a total idiot who hasn't even looked at the problem and she's trying to pass the buck so if something terrible happens I'll be blamed since she never looked at it herself. She's trying to avoid knowing more than she wants to know about it but I'm afraid it'll be a catastrophe if I unleash months of raw sewage under a trailer. If I do that she can always say, "Well, Oggy didn't tell me the problem was that bad. He just said it's a leak. I didn't look at it myself."
Awful awful dodging of responsibility. Let's give it all to the minimum wage temp worker whose job description is "Make Ready Handyman" and not "Toxic Waste Disposal Technician" I guess it's a sign of bad management when they pass the buck. But she's got bills and it does make sense to set me up for the disaster rather than assume any responsibility herself. This is how she has kept her job despite being totally deficient in managing abilities.
But the quandary is that I can't afford to get sick and I can't live with myself if I dump tons of raw sewage into the storm drain. But I need the job so I have to negotiate all these hurdles and still keep the job so I can eat. It's pretty funny. Fortunately, I don't really care about pleasing anyone or keeping a reputation of an obedient foot soldier and I decide that it's possible to get the job done by passing the buck to the real maintenance man who they hired a few days ago.
Handy Andy, as I'll call him, must be desperate because he can fix absolutely anything and has worked in the oil field and worked ranches and ridden bulls but he has found himself at the most piss poor trailer park in Texas. The deal they must've offered him probably includes free rent and electricity. But his first week I had it as 50/50 that he'd quit because my theory all along is that anyone who could do all these jobs and maintain a fleet of crappy broken Walmart lawnmowers plus a 30 year old tractor and also could fix a sprinkler system, maintain a pool, build a deck, insulate a house, renovate all the plumbing, etc. etc. WOULD NEVER WORK AT THIS SHITTY TRAILER PARK WITH ME AS HIS ASSISTANT. See? If you can tell at a glace what type of wire is "ground burial" and what kind needs a conduit then why are you wasting time screwing with half assed home repairs? The whole thing is a contradition. If you had the skills needed by this trailer park, and Andy has the skills, THEN WHY WOULD YOU WORK AT THIS TRAILER PARK? You should be getting the $40 an hour that the oil field will pay you in North Dakota. The management will be better. The food will be better. The situation will be better. I could tell the minute that he kneeled down in front of a lawn mower that had absolutely no compression and hadn't worked in a year that he was questioning his decision. People with as much handy skills as Andy do not fiddle or fuck around with junky plastic Walmart equipment. No. That's the reason they are handy because they know when to stop wasting time on junk. For instance, he owns a Yeti cooler that costs $350. It's to keep his water bottles cold. $350!!
So, Andy's first week was spent fixing all the junk we've got around. Some he could fix and some he declared was junk...not worth any time to fix. But in the eyes of anyone handy, none of it is worth fixing because it is all Home Depot disposable weed eaters and chainsaws. Why spend $100 in labor fixing a $110 chainsaw that is three years old? It makes no sense except to our idiot manager.

I feel the park needs Andy much more than Andy needs the park. Really, the park is more along my speed because everything involves saving chips of sheet rock and taking faucets apart to save spare parts. No real maintenance man would do that but I like reusing old nails and taking ten times as long to accomplish things because I'm conserving resources. Andy is totally an accomplished oil field man with zero tolerance for frivolous conservation. He has seen waste and destruction our consumptive lifestyles require and he doesn't pause to find the recycling bin that I have displayed prominently. It's truly a waste of time to recycle because he knows the resources used and lost totally dwarf the amount we recycle. He's practical and constantly lectures me that I should always run the weed eater at full throttle even though I feel I'm saving gas and still cutting the weeds. This was a very similar conflict that I had on the Offshore supply vessels. The rest of the crew was there to survive and make money. I would stockpile their aluminum cans and refused to eat meat.

I'm a passive observer these days. I know they've tried to fire me once before. They don't want to hire me because they correctly assume I'm going to leave as soon as I can. They will milk Andy for every penny they are paying him and would prefer that he grow two more arms and do everything himself. Andy thinks I'm an idiot because he's probably one of the handiest people I've ever met so he thinks everyone is an idiot. He's a know-it-all because he knows it all. And I'm an idiot.
However, when I described the problem at #72 to Andy he said something that will forever go into my bank of collected memories.
"First, git a 5 gallon bucket."
The way he said it was so unfazed and practical, like he was describing in technical terms how to deal with a hazardous situation. If I described "an upside down waterbed full of raw sewage" to 100 people I'll bet 2 or 3 would show no reaction like Andy and tell me calmly what we were going to do with the next 5 hours.
He went on to describe how to do it and then he finally cleaned up his hands and decided I wasn't really listening to him (I was recording his words and tone mentally but I wasn't actually listening to his instructions or translating them into action I might do. It's one of my flaws) and he decided, "I'll do it myself."
This is the answer I wanted because when someone passes the buck then the best thing is to pass the buck even further. Also, I defer to his experience when it comes to waterbeds full of raw sewage.
"It's probably just condensation," said Andy.
But I suspected he was wrong so my estimation of him dropped a bit. It was only when he cut a hole in the plastic and let the sewage drain (I dumped the buckets of raw sewage into the storm drain) , then cut out the destroyed fiberglass and we got under there with a flashlight, that we could see the waste PVC junction had broken because the AC vent was routed improperly. But the gap between the two broken pieces was less than an inch so most of the shit managed to flow to the other side and down the waste stack. But the goopy diarrhea and piss slipped down into the fiberglass where it composted for the weeks that the problem was active. Andy was covered with shit when we were done and even I decided my gloves could not be reused.
The only solution I could think of was cut it all out and patch it together but it's hard to patch PVC when it doesn't flex to give you room to work. Andy didn't consider this for a second and immediately grabbed a rubber pipe repair clamp (I'd never know the size to pick) and together we wedged it up there and closed the gap with another totally half-assed repair.
"It's not a pressure line," argued Andy and I agree.
So, I'm learning again how practical handymen address these practical problems with maintenance. I admire his non-plussed attitude. He swears but he knows that he can fix anything given the right tools and the time. The only question is how much time does the problem really require to fix right and is it worth his time to bother and is he getting paid enough to do it. It's so practical and not at all how I think. I wonder what consequences will take place if I fix it. What resources are required? And I wonder if philosophically I'm justified in spending the time to fix it. Then I think if I'm getting paid enough.

That's all I have to say about that.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.