This column appeared in the Gladstone Observer Monday week ago. Funnily enough, I was in Brisbane at the time. The ending is my contribution to the week long debate in our papers’ letters to the editor section re: which is the best trade. Mind you it was a pleasant change from ‘Which footy code is the best’. Yep, we live in the centre of Bohemia in my neck of the woods.
Thanks to the ‘recession we had to have’, Long Suffering Wife and I ended up in Brisbane for a few years. We met some wonderful people, but as a tradesman, I was a social leper. Towards the end of our time in the city, when people asked what I did for a living, I was automatically answering, “Drug dealer.” It was a social step up, trust me.
You see, whenever I announced I was a Fitter and Turner, many of them treated me like I dug through rubbish bins for a living. Then one fateful night I learned that as a fully qualified metal worker in the city, my weekly pay was on par with the kid who delivered our paper.
We were at a BBQ that I’d been accidentally invited to; they’d thought I’d be working when they invited Long Suffering Wife to attend. I did my best to mingle, and even tried a glass of wine, but most of it ended up watering some exotic pot plant.
Bored witless, I sat on the edge of conversations, which was how I came across Bruce the angry man. “Look at my phone,” he said to the small crowd about him. “Last year’s model,” he grumbled, and several heads shook in sympathy. “And, now they won’t upgrade my car! Can you believe that?!” Several tongues clucked in outrage as he pointed to the near new Commodore gleaming in the driveway; my ancient Kingswood sat rusting just beyond it.
“Tell ‘em to shove it and leave!” offered someone. “Nah,” he muttered, “they’ve given me a decent pay rise to compensate, plus some extra holidays, but I’ll be sticking it to them next year!” Everyone agreed that this was a good thing. “So what do you do mate?” I asked, thinking lawyer, accountant, or corporate raider.
Bruce sold carpets. Brucey Boy was earning just over twice my yearly wage, plus bonuses, a car, a phone, and free trips to Sydney a couple of times a year just for selling dust collecting mats. That was the exact moment I decided to leave Brisbane. Well, it was either that, or murder Bruce the whinging rug merchant in cold blood.
So we returned to Gladstone, a decent wage, less traffic, and a slightly improved social standing. Gladstone, a place where tradesmen are well regarded… yes, even Boilermakers.