Category: Childhood’s End

Mr. John talks about the time when the simplicity of childhood gives way to the complex reality of adulthood

The Summer Job that Tried to Kill Me Part Two

in which Mr John continues the story of the summer job that tried to kill him

Some of the most popular videos on Americas Funniest Home Videos and Ridiculousness are men getting their genitals punched, kicked, or otherwise attacked. Friends, I share this story with love. At the time, though, it wasn’t quite as funny. No one wants a detachable penis.

I am continuing this story.

After spending my summer healing and having a blast, I was ready to go back to work. There were only a few weeks left until school started, but I wanted to make an appearance and finish out the summer on a good note.

A Sad Homecoming

Tree Topping
Hoisting the tree and the flag for a Tree Topping

When I arrived at the job site, I was surprised to see that the rough construction was almost complete. A tree topping ceremony had been done, which meant the very top of the building had a large undecorated Christmas tree and a huge American Flag. The High-Rise Construction workers were tearing down their unneeded equipment, building materials, and tools in preparation for crews that handle the rough framing of the interior of the building. The crane atop the structure was constantly replacing heavy materials and equipment from the roof for items more suitable for the subsequent phase of the job.

Risky Business

Crane on Roof
A rooftop crane used in our story; the operator is sitting in the room located on the mast.

This process was not trivial and quite risky, a well-choreographed procedure. Here is a quick run-through:

On the ground, I was the rigger. I laid out heavy hoist chains in a cross pattern, and forklift operator dropped the load on top of my chains. The foreman with a microphone guided the crane operator (in a tiny room on the crane) to lower the crane hook to the load. “Crane Down.” 

Example Load
An example of the wood that was going up. This stack was about 7 feet tall.

The Foreman shared the progress, via a series of loudspeakers to the job site. I would loop each chain over the Crane hook, often climbing up the load to reach, then jump off, and the Foreman would announce, “Crane up”. When workers on the building’s roof did the reverse, unneeded materials were sent down, which I unhooked. They were then taken away by the forklift.

I was instructed, “Do not twist the chains, do not knot the chains, or someone (likely me) could get killed.” Crane rigging was a serious business. You needed to be tall, strong, and quick on your feet.

And now for the part we have been waiting for

The Crane Hook
A seriously heavy crane hook.

Now finally, the story. August in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is hot. To compound matters, job sites like mine were set atop pure white sand, which reflected the heat making the ground as hot as hell. Five minutes of work and you’d be soaked and dripping with sweat.

A quick note about my attire. In the seventies, bell-bottom hip huggers were a distinct fashion choice, especially among burnouts, stoners, and hippies. They were extremely low at the waist and super tight, and the extreme heat forced me to “go commando”.

Hip Huggers, I wore mine sans belt. Extra credit if you can guess whose famous crotch this is.

Doing the same thing for hours on end leads to boredom and complacency. Chance saw a crack in my vigilance and launched an attack upon my groin.

I clambered up my next stack of wood and clipped up the chain. I had to tippy toe it, almost jumping to get the clip on. When I turned to jump off, the Foreman yelled, “Crane up”, the chains tightened, and before I could actually jump, the entire load started to lift off the ground, myself included. 

The Foreman yelled out over the microphone “Stop the Crane!”, but by that time I was about twenty feet up in the air. The Crane stopped.  The Foreman followed up with, “Lower the Crane, SLOWLY”, which to the Crane Operator meant, let the crane free fall for ten feet then slam on the brakes.

Being dropped so hard caused me to lose the fragile grip I had on the load, and I fell, only I didn’t.  Seems that as I was trying to get the chain rigged, I caught some of my pants, pubes and man flesh between the load and the chain, so instead of falling, I splayed out backwards,  arms thrown out like some twisted caricature of Jesus on the cross, held there only by my crotch.

The rendering on the right shows where I was pinned. The top one was the waist band of my pants; the middle was the “lower pubic triangle” (just above Mr. John junior). That one had caught a decent amount of skin as well some flesh of the patch. The bottom one was “the boys”. Another decent amount of leg flesh got pinned along with just enough of the erm… boys “sack”  to cause great pain and alarm that my gennies would remain on the crane as I fell to my death.

Artist’s Rendering of the Cranes vicious attack

At this point the Foreman exclaimed, over the loudspeaker system, which if you recall, is in the center of Downtown Hollywood, “Oh My God the kid has his dick caught on the crane! ” For the remainder of the proceedings, his microphone remained open, so everyone was able to ‘enjoy’ my predicament.

Now back to my problem. I was stuck. There was nothing to grab onto, nowhere to go but down.  When the button snapped on my pants, everything stopped for me. Warm blood mixed with sweat as I heard my zipper unzip.  Intense pain followed as my pants gave up under the pressure and fell from my body allowing my bare-assed self to fall spread eagle to the ground. When it’s hot, you bleed.  A small cut will bleed like you’ve severed a small artery, and this was no exception. It was messy.

Instinctively my hands clutched at my privates and I investigated the damage. Balls; check. Dick; check. I looked up at the Foreman and found he had been joined by my dad who had rushed down expecting a castrated son. 

As I lay on the hot sand, nude save my work boots, the foreman asked, “Are you OK??!”  Shaken, and at an age where my voice was still cracking, in a falsetto voice I squeaked, “I’m OK!” Men nearby took to gagging and the foreman was horrified. Considering the horrors that are often seen on jobsites, this was quite an achievement.

Not the Balls!

Realizing I was unharmed and intact I started laughing my ass off.

The Aftermath

Own It!

I learned that day that if you do something fucked up. Own it. I stood up nude and bloody. My father gave me a disgusted look and handed me his toolbelt which I used to provide a modicum of modesty. I was sent to the first aid trailer where the twig and berries were examined, cleaned, and bandaged.

I emerged still nude but with my penis and testicles wrapped in gauze like a sad pink mummy. Awaiting me were The Foreman, my Father, and the General Manager of the job. I was handed my final paycheck and suggested I go home for the rest of the summer.

I drove home dreading the dressing down I expected from my Father. Arriving home, I grabbed a six pack and went to my shed. I reckon I was in into the third beer when my Dad walked in sporting a very stern look.

“I was just fired too.”

Fuck.

He smiled and explained, the job was closing anyway so it was no big deal, his job was done there anyway. He went to the union hall and got another assignment. He also mentioned that he heard men talking about a boy that got his dick ripped off on a jobsite.

“Fuck you”, I said tossing him a beer. Looking back on it this was the best laugh we ever shared.

King Missile – Detachable Penis

“I took it home and washed it off”

The Vomit Story

Introducing: Puke Man and Gag Gal

Me: “Hey, Dad, I think the cheese in the fridge has gone off. “

Father: “Gu-u-uuuuuph

Me: “Ma. Maggot!”

Mother: “Bluuuuuuuuuuurk.”

I tried to do this at least weekly as one of my paybacks for all the years of torment I suffered. They both had dentures, and at the drop of a hat, they would pop them out gagging. Gross, but funny as shit.

Dinner was often a dichotomy

OMG Fish Jello
OMG Fish Jello

Mother was a cook of a unique nature; some of her food was amazing, but she also had no problem serving us the vilest of swill. She could take perfectly good ground beef and turn it into a hard, dry, brick, and label it ‘meatloaf.’ Her stew was a marvel of canned veg, insipid “broth” and meat so dry and gristly that chewing a single piece was exhausting. I can’t even begin to describe the trauma that was her soup, and what she could do to a fish was unmentionable. Expect more stories of failed dinners and misadventures with dentures later.

Much of her food looked like dog sick, and I was amazed that my folks could eat it when the most innocuous thing would make them gag.

And Finally: The Story

Ralph and Tiger
Kittens are fantastic, and cats are assholes

One evening, when I was in my late teens, we were sitting at the table after having been presented with some inedible meal. At the time, we had two cats; Ralph and Tiger. Awesome cats. Anyway, during dinner, one of the cats comes into the dining room and starts chucking. Cats (and dogs) can’t ever just quietly puke. They have to build up to a crescendo of vomit via a series of violent retches.

By the second retch, forks were down, and the gagging commenced. All dentures remained firmly in place when the vomit hit the floor. I found this extremely disappointing, so I commented;

Me: “Is that a lizard in there? Is it moving?” (laughs)

That was enough for more gagging and the revolting sucking, clicking sound of dentures expelled into hands. Mission accomplished. The chuckle turned into a full-on laugh, which earned me a death glare.

But wait! There’s More!™

The second cat noticed the pile of warm vomit and decided to “re-eat it,” sending both parents into full vomit mode, chucking into their napkins. By now, I was in tears laughing.

The second cat wasn’t pleased with the re-eaten vomit and barfed that up, prompting both parents to spew in their dinner plates. By now, I was hysterical. When the original cat started puking again, I completely lost it and devolved into uncontrollable hysteria. My mom, mid-vomit, yelled at me to ‘fuck off’ and tossed one of her dentures at me, which skittered across the floor where one of the cats grabbed it and ran off with it like a prey.

The spectacle was just too much. Still hysterical, I left my parents to vomit in peace and escaped to my shed (my sheet metal fortress of solitude), sparked up a joint, cracked open a beer, lamented my family, and laughed and laughed.

The Summer Job That Tried to Kill Me

Hard Work Can Kill You

My Father was a Highrise construction worker. An unsafe profession that paid well but took a toll on the body and mind. When I was 8 or 9, he fell three stories off a building and broke his back. He should have spent the rest of his life paralyzed. Instead, he was back to work within two months. A couple of years after that, he witnessed a beheading on the job. He was never quite the same after that.

Hollywood-Young-Circle
Hollywood Young Circle the building next to the arrow that wanted me dead.

One summer, I reckon I was sixteen or so, I was invited to take a summer job working a bank building on Young Circle in Hollywood, Florida. I was at the time, always thin, but I was strong like an ox and recklessly fearless.

Orientation

On my first day on the job, I was given a talking to by the Foremen and my Father. The foremen looked dubiously at the kid in front of him, long hair, low cut hip hugger jeans-wearing some random concert tee-shirt. He began.

Foreman: “You need to be strong in this job. We can’t have anyone to baby, Will’s son, or not. Now see if you can pick up one of those sheets of plywood and bring it over here.”

They were clad with fiberglass, an inch thick, and weighed about 50ish pounds. I grabbed two and walked them over.

Me: “There you go.”

Satisfied with my show, the foremen went on to describe the job. Before he began, my Pop interjected.

Father: “If you tell your mother any of this, you are done. Nothing! Not a word!”

With this ominous warning, the foreman began,

Foreman: “Look, kid, it’s important to be careful on this job site. Lots of men get hurt here, and I don’t want you to be one of them. Your father got blown off the building, and if he didn’t have a safety line, he would have gone splat. A man was carrying a glass sheet that broke, cut him from shoulder to knee. One hundred twenty stitches set him right. We’ve had more accidents on this job than most men see in a dozen jobs.”

Me: “Gotcha. Don’t bust my ass. Don’t die. Keep quiet.”

They weren’t kidding about the carnage

vulcan_hand_signal
Artist rendition of the aftermath of an idiot using a knife.

In the first week or so, I learned the ropes and got to witness more than a few accidents. Some of them were nasty. One incident I can never unsee was a guy using a box cutter knife to cut some rubber or something. He held the material down and pulled the knife toward his hand.

I think he misjudged how sharp the knife was because when it got to his hand, it kept going. His hand was split open from finger web to palm. I put a tourniquet on him, and the “accident siren” went off.

That damn thing was going off all the time.

Working the roof was hell.

We were close to the beach, and upon the top floor, the wind was pretty intense. Everyone soaked in sweat from the heat. Top floor work was hellish.

One day I was tethered to the building handing down these large plywood sheets to a guy on a scaffold. We were framing out the lower floor walls. My anchor rope was 20 feet long (so I could get to the pile of wood), attached to my safety harness. I was using a rig of cable to help support the 4 x 8 sheet of wood as I lowered it down.

Most of the morning was without incident until someone got careless. I was standing on the roof edge, rope rig in place, ready to kneel. Little did I know, but some asshole was carrying a 12 foot 4×4 on his shoulder behind me. For whatever reason, he swung it around and knocked me face-first off of the roof. Now I don’t remember a thing after this, but I was filled in on what happened later.

I flew out about 6 feet, missing the scaffold my partner was using (had I hit him, he would have fallen too). Holding on to the rope rig as hard as I could as the tether played out, tightened and slammed me into a column on the floor below. I was or almost was unconscious, the rope rig somehow got snared on my hand and boot, and the plywood didn’t drop on the group of workers on the ground.

I was battered and bruised with a couple of cracked ribs, but relatively unscathed. My “cred” when up hugely though, by not losing the wood and being “tough.”

There is no way you could get hurt

shoring-jack
Shoring Jack

Ribs taped up, they put me on light duty work, sweeping, emptying rubbish bins, sorting nails and such. I couldn’t get hurt, the foreman assured me, even thinking this is an invitation for fate to fuck you up, in my opinion.

A couple of days after the “incident,” my father (who was in charge of the columns and shoring and I were talking about my next job; ironically checking each jack on each floor for slippage and safety nails.

The contraption pictured is a shoring jack. While the real concrete columns cure and harden, each floor will have dozens of these to help support the building. The angle things holding the Jack-up are supposed to have a safety nail driven in them to keep the shoring from accidentally collapsing. The rig was made of 4×4 wood and weighed a ton.

I rested my hand where you see the arrow, and my Pop leaned against the other side. I hadn’t even started the “job,” The job was being explained to me when Fate saw the opportunity, and since THIS jack didn’t have the safety nails in place, the top 4×4 slid down to the small wood where my hand was. The noise was a cracking, squishing sound. The funny thing about getting badly damaged, initially; there is no pain. My Pop grabbed the jack before it could fall and do any further damage, and we looked to free my hand. After further review, this was a bad idea when a decent amount of blood started oozing from my the side of my hand.

That damn accident siren

The siren sounded, and someone called the paramedics. I stood there with a now swelling and painful hand. Men clustered around me, and I couldn’t cry or scream or do anything “unmanly” as this was the age of “toxic masculinity” and real men “sucked it up.” I stood silently and waited. A brigade of firefighters and medics showed up. A big production commenced as they cut away the area crushing my hand, wrapped it up, and with backboard and neck brace, in place we departed. An ambulance ride and a day in the hospital left me with a broken wrist, compression fractures, and something called compartment syndrome, which required several long cuts along my hand. I was sent home with pain killers and a prognosis of two months of recovery.

The best summer ever

An on-the-job accident meant that I would get paid regardless of work. I got a few hundred bucks each week (for nothing) and spent the summer at the beach, drinking, fornicating, and generally having a blast. In hindsight, this was the start of my “rough patch.” More on that later.

God, though, must have been pissed off because fate had set its evil eye on my penis. (to be continued)

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