Thibodeaux was skating on thin ice and he knew it.
Last week he had been sent to “charm school” because his apprentice objected to his correcting her.
He did not mind being sent to class. It was a hell of a lot easier than working. He missed his cigars and sometimes….ok, much of the time...the stupid was so thick you could cut it with a knife. The only real downside was he had to come back to the shop and undo all the crap-work that happened while he was gone.
Thibodeaux was a “frequent flier” at the re-education facility. He got re-educated about as often as most men got hair cuts.
The crux of Thibodeaux’s problem was that he did not have sufficient moral fluidity to realize that people’s feelings were more important than doing jobs right.
Thibodeaux came out of a heavy-construction background. Docks and piers and bridges don’t care if somebody’s feelings are hurt. Poor execution results in dead people and months of lost productivity.
Par for course, Frankie Lenapé (his apprentice) was late. This was another thing he had been educated on. Mentioning that work started at 7:00 AM, sharp was a micro-aggression.
Lenapé walked up to him and informed him “I am welding.”
That would have earned Thibodeaux a size 9-1/2 up his ass if he had tried that with any of the journeymen who had trained him when he was an apprentice.
Freezing rain had fallen during the night. Lenapé did not want to get her fingers cold.
Thibodeaux checked himself before he said “You are not certified to weld.”
Fine. If that is what the People’s Republic of Ann Arbor wanted, Lenapé could learn welding on the bridge trusses he was fabricating for the coming invasions.
Wordlessly, he gave up his place on the step ladder and started hauling steel into the shed.
“Whatchu doing that for?” Lenapé screeched. “You letting all the warm air out.”
Thibodeaux pointed the ice that still sheathed the steel. “You can’t weld through that.”
“Sho I can. Watch me” Lenapé bragged.
While most of the trusses were aluminum, at Wokes-Cold’s insistence, the knuckle assemblies where the tops of the two-halves gloved together were steel weldments that were bolted to the upper spars of their respective trusses.
Short of machining from billet, there was no way to fab them out of aluminum and have them withstand the shock and side-loads of what they were going to experience.
Thibodeaux no longer described the details as “male” and “female” details. That had earned him another letter in his file. Now they were the “bullet” and “clevis”.Thibodeaux's proposal that they be called "fist" and "catcher's mitt" had been shot down. Apparently, "catcher" had some kind of connotation that offended the brass.
As the step-ladder flattened out, the ends of the top spars got closer-and-closer together. The function of the “bullet” was to hit the funnel shaped “clevis”. As the gap closed, the bullet was snugly captured by the funnel and prevented it from buckling sideways.
The load that causes beams-in-compression to buckle is exquisitely sensitive to how securely the ends are captured. The bullet-and-funnel was one of the tricks Thibodeaux had to conjure up to get the portable bridge to pass the acceptance tests.
Thibodeaux sighed and let Lenapé show him what a great welder she was.
Thibodeaux had seen chicken shit that looked better than Lenapé's welding, but he held his tongue.
Lenapé ran out of weld wire and she directed Thibodeaux to change the fifty pound spool. Lenapé did not want to have to lift that much weight.
Thibodeaux started to walk to the supply crib when Lenapé screeched at him “Don’t you be wakkin away from me when I be talkin to you.”
Thibodeaux turned around, confused.
Lenapé was pointing at the spool of non-flux cored wire that was near the welder.
“You gotta have the gas hooked up to run that wire” Thibodeaux replied with what he thought was admirable control.
When Lenapé first became his apprentice he had given her the simple job of installing signage. He gave her the signs and a package of zip-ties.
Lenapé put the zip-ties inside her new tool box and pulled out a framing hammer and about a pound of 16d nails.
“No!” Thibodeaux thought. “She can’t be planning on nailing signs to steel beams….” just as Lenapé lined up a nail and gave it a tremendous whack.
The nail went flying off into one of the shed’s dark corners at super-sonic speed.
Thibodeaux picked up the zip-ties and extended them toward her.
She pretended to not see him. She reached into her apron and pulled out another nail.
“No!” Thibodeaux though. “She isn’t going to do that again? Nobody is that stupid!”
Lenapé was. The second nail went singing off into unknown, parallel universes.
It took Thibodeaux five minutes to stop laughing.
He spent the next two days in re-education classes where he was further indoctrinated that “Diversity is our strength” and that “credentials” were how the patriarchal, cis-male power-structure kept women and people-of-color repressed.
He held his tongue when Lenapé directed him to install the non-flux cored wire on the welder.
He gave the Ann Arbor salute; the shrug of the shoulders and a muttered “What ever”
Thibodeaux was surprised by how good the welds looked. Actually, they didn’t look any worse than the chicken-shit welds Lenapé had been making with the flux-core wire.
But Thibodeaux could hear the hissing of the ice and he knew that instead of being shielded by molten glass and carbon dioxide, the molten pool of steel was absorbing oxygen and hydrogen.
Thibodeaux knew that if he had cut into any of Lenapé’s welds they would have looked like bread crusts. The outside might look fine but the inside would be filled with porosity just like bread.
Back-in-the-day, his journeyman would have hit the worst looking one when Thibodeaux's back was turned and then laughed his ass off when the heavy, steel weldment hit the concrete. Then his journeyman would have made him grind out all the welds he had made and do them right.
Thibodeaux decided that the People's Republic of Ann Arbor deserved what they were getting. He held his tongue. When Lenapé had finished, he reminded her to sign the log so she could get "credit" for welding.