I joke with my kids about how ridiculous my CV would look if I put every job I’ve ever had on it.
Well, I’m going to go for it and post the stuff I’ve done here.
Rideau Lumber – Apprentice Carpet Installer – June-August – 1986
This wasn’t really an apprenticeship, but come on…I was 15, carpet installation is kind of a trade.
The crew showed up at my house during the Christmas holidays to install carpet in our newly renovated basement, and I got on really well with both the foreman/team lead/head man (Dave Bradley) and his assistant (Joey Henderson). These guys were really professional, and friendly and didn’t mind answering all my stupid questions about what they were doing. I joked that I would come work with them one day.
During march break that year, I went down to the lumber yard/carpet retailer where we had purchased the carpet and their services and asked the owner for a job for the week. He agreed to hire me for the week as a trial, and paid me $75!
Dave and Joey picked me up at 6am on my first day of work, and needless to say, the trial went well and I signed on for the whole summer. My wages increased, as I was working full-time for the summer. Here’s a summary of what my duties entailed.
- Sweeping – Oh my god, I did a TON of sweeping. Always my job was sweeping, and Dave NEVER let me away with any shortcuts. He taught me how to properly sweep a subfloor so you could lay down some adhesive and get cushion floor to stick, or whatever. I hated sweeping with a passion, but have never forgotten my lesson.
- Carry stuff/Go get stuff -It’s like these guys stopped thinking about bringing their tools with them after I started. They would just keep sending me for stuff from the van. One time I even WALKED two miles from the job to town for lunch for us all!
- Stretch Carpet – Pretty self-explanitory if you’ve ever seen wall-to-wall carpet installed. This involved carrying, unrolling, cutting to size and pounding with a ‘knee kicker’ the carpet and hooking the edges over the little nail board at the edges.
- Spread glue – I got really, really good at this. Any kind of carpet or flooring that doesn’t have an underpad is usually glued down to the floor. I eventually got good enough at spreading this goop on wood, concrete and other surfaces that I did a solo job at the end of the summer adhering some outdoor carpet on someone’s front step.
- Lay down sub-floor – Usually, if the house could handle it, we would lay down a NEW sub-floor over whatever existed before. The biggest job like that we took on during my summer was putting new flooring in the children’s library in Smiths Falls – Crazy. Anyway, this bit involved measuring, cutting, nailing or screwing and SWEEPING!
- Sit on a 5 gallon pail – This isn’t really a job responsibility, but it was where I sat…every blessed day, on a 5 gallon pail of flooring adhesive in the back of the van. We used a Ford econoline cargo van, and it only had two seats.
- Drive! – Though I was only 15, Dave finally let me drive the van one day in the late summer. I had been bugging him mercilessly since my dad was teaching me to drive our car, I wanted to try my hand at the big van.
- Drink – Yes folks…seems like nearly a job responsibility…every day after work my co-workers and I would gather at Dave’s house for a few pints.
That’s about it. I installed carpet for the summer of ’85. Welcome to the work-force Mr Coons!
Looking back on this experience in my 40s, there are some serious early leadership lessons I took from my experience.
First, a good leader never sends they’re people or team in to do a job they’re not willing to do. Dave Bradley got down on his knees with Joey and I on every job, and as a result we had a tremendous amount of loyalty to him. We knew from those experiences that Dave would be there for us whenever we needed him.
Second, you will have a hard time being really successful without a good partner outside of work. Dave and his wife Chris taught me this together. One of the first times I rode with just Dave (Joey was on vacation) I noticed that Dave’s name was painted on the passenger side of the van. He explained, that about a year before he had lost his driver’s license for a few months and in order to keep him employed, and their family in food and diapers, Chris would drive Dave to all his jobs so her name was actually painted on the Driver’s side – which reminded Dave that even when she wasn’t with him she and he were a team that were inseparable by the daily job. A lesson I’ve taken with me through my own marriage of 26 years.