Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Staying a lady in a man's world.

Early on I said that one of the things I most wanted to do with this blog was talk about some of the people who work here; they seem so unique to me in their attitude about work, in their enthusiasm, in their work ethic, that it seems  (as many people tell me) that I'm living in an amusement park, or maybe in a TV show.

I've also noticed what appears to be a bit of a bias in hiring. Most (but not all) employees of the shops here are female. Most (but not all) employees of the maintenance crew (hired by the people who own everything, and thus maintain everything) are male. I'm not going to even try to explain why so many of the shops seem to hire only females, but I can sort of undersand why the crew that repairs buildings, mows huge fields,  builds fences, etc.  are male ... it's physically challenging work! But there is one exception. And I've figured out how this lady keeps up with the men -- she works smart, as well as hard.

Her name is Kathy. Several years ago she was settled into a job she liked, lived in a place she liked (Grapevine) and as she was preparing to move into her 40's, she felt pretty good about things. Until the company she work for discovered what many others before it had .. the cheap labor of China. What a dilemma, from having it made to having to start over in no time at all.

So back to college it seemed would make sense, facing that system 20 years later than most. And what to take for a subject? Her interest  was in horticulture,  but where was a school and where were the jobs? She was advised to consider carpentry, where she could see the possibilities, where a college was waiting (Olympic College), but she couldn't see the future.

So into it she went, full speed ahead, not looking back, and now,  if you want to see someone who landed on her feet, check Kathy. Three years ago, which must have been about the time she was through school, she got employment right where she lived, at Port Gamble. And it is rarely that I have seen someone fit her job and fit with her fellow employees as well as she does..

Her hoticulture interest? Have you seen the planter box in the front of the quilt store? The one I get credit for? Not so. Since she came to work here she has been "just cramming flowers in as I find them." CRAMMING!!! With such attention to color, size, season?

And working "smart" as well as hard? Have you ever seen sheets of "slotwall" (not drywall) that are sheets of a hardwood with slots across the face to hold display cases on. I don't know what they weigh, but I would never manage to hoist them on regular basis. I watched Bill and Kathy in the quilt store one day when it was under construction. I watched as Bill hoisted one of the slotwall 4x8 sheets from a pile to the wall, and held it while Kathy leveled it, pushed it into place, then hit it with the nail gun while Bill finally wiped his brow. I could see it was not going to be Bill's favorite day that week.

But then, what a surprise. Kathy walked over to the pile, with the same difficulty lifted the next sheet, walked it over to its place and held it while Bill leveled it, pushed it into place, and hit it with the nail gun. And don't kid yourself. If its true that men sweat and women glow, she glowed as much as Bill sweated. When I  asked her what the trick was to getting the board up, she gave me the oldest answer in the book, "You have to work smart, not hard."

So what is this woman among men like when she's not at work? One of the guys going out for a beer? No way. She says she goes home to her "girl cave" with all the girlie frills that a lady could want. I haven't seen her house, but I can only picture the pinks she painted it, the flowered print wall paper, the smell of lavender, and of course the cookies in the cookie jar.

And those would not just be any cookies. She attended a potluck a few weeks ago, and about the time she arrived there the word was out that Kathy had brought her cheesecake. Never mind that she had brought a dessert and the appetizers weren't even out yet. No, as soon as someone mentioned Kathy's cheesecake it was half gone. I arrived a few short minutes later to see people scraping the last of it off the plate she brought it on.

And one other thing. This last weekend included a "Chili Cook off" which Port Gamble has never been involved in. This is the first heat of a cook-off, which means the winner here goes onto face some other winners, the winner of that goes on... you get the picture. But for me the real event was the apple pie making contest which (only for Port Gamble) faced some of the louder claimers of quality against each other, people like Steffi from Mike's BBQ and I who had been claiming easy victories all year, claiming that we were the BEST apple pie makers in the city of  Port Gamble if not in the suburbs as well.

And who won that apple pie making contest? The contest which hits the heart of every man with the thought of "Mom" and "Chevrolet" and perfect pie crusts? Was it Steffi who claimed her secret weapon was the apple tree she has at home? No. Was it me, who claimed I didn't need a secret weapon since I just happen to be a perfect pie maker? No.

No, it was Kathy who beat us all, the lady who is just as agile in the kitchen as she is behind the blade of a saw. "I've never met a nicer person," claims Bill, who works with her as much as anyone. "And if I lived with her I'd weigh 500 pounds."

1 comment:

Shirley said...

You should have been a writer1