Find a blue-collar man who is aware of the sensitivities of other men and you have found a sage. -Intellectual Shaman
Ambition can be marvelous, but it seldom is. It traps men who think they can steal from the snare. Pete had an “oh, screw it” attitude, but he could also get things done. He wasn’t a nihilist, but he didn’t have any grand ideas about life either.
I was 21 and I could talk to him about cars or just about anything. He would listen and make it all better by saying something like “Fuck young man, you just need to get laid. Take Ryan for instance; we got em drunk and took him to the strip club. And when he was tryin to take care of business in the bathroom, I paid five girls to jump him.” Pete cackled with laughter, but I knew him better than that. His wife loved him and he was kind to her and to his dog.
Pete knew how to talk the talk, which is more important on a blue-collar job than you might think. Nobody says what they mean. It’s 99 percent bull shit and the guys know what’s true and what isn’t because they’ve been doing it for so long. To say what is, is taboo.
Pete walked with a sense of humor, a swagger that annoyed the boss, but put a smile on everyone else’s face. He wore a John Deere hat and tried to act like a hillbilly. But if you talked to him, he always had something to offer that pointed you in the right direction.
“Well you sons-of-bitches, we’re scalping sprinklers today,” he said.
“How many?” One of the college kids asked.
“I want at least 200 scalps from you,” Pete said.
“Stop your complaining soldier; we have work to do.”
There’s something nihilistic about maintenance. I’ve never understood the hair trimmer, the auto mechanic, or the janitor who work jobs to keep everything running and looking nice. They’re needed, but how much oil can you change, or hair can you cut, or bathroom mess can you clean up before you want to let things go. The world is a mess and maintaining it can drive a man mad. It might just be me; it probably is me. That’s why when the boss suggested I should do maintenance for a career, I thought he was joking.
Pete unlocked the silver box and turned the sprinklers on so we could find them. In seconds, every man swooped down and scalped each head with a dull knife. There’d be dirt and roots hanging from the grass scalp when we threw them into our buckets.
This went on for hours until our knees were soaked, our backs were sore, and we’d cut so many scalps our trucks couldn’t hold them.
“Back to the fort!” Pete yelled.
I’ve rarely seen ambitious men work for just enough money to be free while avoiding serious responsibility, but Pete managed this with style.
When I started working at the golf course and I was unfamiliar with blue collar bs, I began to suspect that 75% of the interactions I had with the pro shop were practical jokes. I was paranoid.
“Jose to Andy…Jose to Andy”
The voice coming over my radio sounded like a fake Mexican accent. So, I attempted a better Mexican accent I’d learned in my Spanish class in high school.
“This is Andres.”
The voice sounded confused. “I need you to rake the sand trap near the number 10 green.”
“No Bueno,” I said. And I walked into the pro shop. “Which one of you guys is screwing with me?” I asked.
“We’re not screwing with you; you just screwed with Jose.” And they all roared with laughter. The entire golf course probably thought I was a racist asshole.
Pete met me in the break room later that day. “Jose was pretty confused,” he said.
He knew it was me, but I think he realized I had just made an ass out of myself. Pete wasn’t bothered though. He changed out of his work boots and put on his golf shoes.
“My wife keeps telling me I play too much golf, but she didn’t realize I had a mistress before I married her.”
Pete had a sensitivity for people. He could tell where they were at and he knew things about them, even things they didn’t know about themselves.