Friday, November 10, 2006

The Word From Devil's Island

Over there in my "About Me" I told you I was a land surveyor.

I began my current gig as project/site surveyor for a high-value golf course resort subdivision project located in the mountains east of Park City, Utah almost two years ago. To give you an idea of the scale here, consider that the developer has pledged $200,000,000 for county infrastructure improvements above and beyond the golf course(s) and housing. That's all roads, water tanks and mains, wastewater plants, power transmission and distribution, and storm water systems.

My daily commute to the site is eighty miles one way, in the company truck, and I get to do Parley's Canyon ten times a week in all weathers. Base elevation at the club house is right around 6900 feet and some of the lots are above 7400. I can look directly west at the ski runs in Park City.

There's been some stress. And I'm a little old for the production staking role - you can only get so good at knocking hubs and then you are just beating yourself up. With the coming of winter it's usually just my second man and myself on the site; during the summer we may run as many as three or four crews. The most important professional decision I've made in the last year has been to admit that I probably can't run my second men or the other crews into the ground any more - but I can train them to be as accurate and fast as I ever was. Even better than I ever was.

That's kept me going so far. My family life has suffered. My kids need more of my time than they've been getting, and my wife, well, just know that she only asks for my I.D. sometimes when I show up at the door covered with mud around eight or nine on a rainy night...

Just this past summer my crew, along with others, oversaw construction of several miles of roads, thousands of linear feet of curb, sewer, water, and storm drain, laid out a score of million-dollar houses and staked literally hundreds of building lots. I've mapped miles of terrain for new plats and worked with the golf course architect to tweak the existing course so "Tiger likes the look". Yeah, he's got a lot up here, too.

Meanwhile, here at the house I've got ten square feet of sink surround in my bathroom that's needed tile since spring. My neighbor (another surveyor, by the way) and I share a fence line that needs about four new posts set before the ground freezes. That's been the case since spring's windstorms and neither of us has had time to make it happen. Did I mention the drywall finishing around the new kitchen light? Nope. And there's still more.

I have power tools in my garage that are still in last Christmas' boxes.

Today's dance card had sewer staking in one phase, mapping in another, and I had promised to stake the temporary parking lot and the second swimming pool/jacuzzi in the main common area. One thing led to another (four things, actually - just a normal day) and I ended up running almost two hours behind in getting to the pool.

We parked on the top of an embankment overlooking the area where our structures were supposed to go. The normal activity level in this part of the site makes the construction of the pyramids look like a kid's refrigerator box fort on a rainy afternoon. It's busy with the dirt guys working right against the buildings where the carpenters, plumbers, ironworkers, electricians, and fire suppression troops are busy fighting for turf.

I shouted down to the foreman that we were on the way down, and would he please see about moving the roofers' manlift and that damned huge crane and that bunk of copper sheathing that wasn't there this morning, and we'd get his stakes in the ground.

A minute to assemble the staff that carries my GPS rover, one last look at the paper plan with my second man and some quick directions to him on what stakes and paint to pack down the hill, and off I went in my baggy khakis bouncing on the blue suspenders under the grubby orange vest and scarred hardhat, over the edge, with the trademark "LET'S GOOoooooo!".... and almost ran down a dozen suits and a couple of skirts (heels on a construction site! They never learn.), all wearing their spotless shiny hardhats and pristine orange vests.

One of the banes of a high-value site is the certainty that mid-level client reps will show up to Contribute. They have Blackberries but really want a company car or gold membership in the going club, and to get that they have to Contribute. One or two at a time they are usually manageable. When you get a whole herd they invariably come up with at the very least (best case) a Keen Insight like directing a change to trim color on an existing building. That only screws up a few days' production for the finish carpenters. The other end of the rainbow comes when they look out at the featureless expanse where the new ten thousand foot activity building is going to be and Chet the second assistant VP for countertops, who is visiting from the LA office suggests (brightly! - he's Contributing!) it be moved/rotated/lifted/lowered. Then you have to explain, with tact and diplomacy, that doing that would mean that all the utilities under the featureless expanse would have to be moved and shifting the building would ultimately mean that the club dressing rooms would end up halfway into the eighth fairway.

But I left you halfway through the herd of suits.

I didn't recognize any of them. I kept moving - my second guy knows that his place is on my heels and sure enough he came sailing down right behind me.

I heard one of the ladies ask "Who is that???" One of the Dockers boys said "I've never met him, but that must be "(Tmj) with (my company)"".

Heh. Fame. Minor, but still kind of cool. Cool enough to get me back in the saddle come Monday.

Have a great weekend.

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