Have a seat, everybody — it’s story time! In this edition of Field Stories, our VP of Product Julian Clayton tells us about his first day on the job… when he was 12 years old.
I was twelve the first time I ever swung a hammer for a paycheck. My next door neighbor was a home builder, and every kid in the area either worked for him, used to work for him, or was waiting until he was old enough to work for him. At the beginning of the summer of 1986, I would ride my bike near his house at 5:30 in the morning as he pulled out with his crews. I tried to make it look like I was just out for a ride, although I doubt he ever believed a 12 year old kid was up that early without an agenda. After a few weeks, and a secret phone call to my parents, he finally let me jump in the back of his truck and head to work… like a man. (A 90-lb man without a clue in a world, but still, I felt like a man.)
That morning I struggled to get sheets of plywood up two flights of steps, one at a time, while the rest of the crew was hoisting the real loads up the back side of the house. If they had waited on me, we might still be sheeting that roof.
Around lunch time, one of the guys tried to get me to dig through the tools in the back of the truck to find the sky hook. I’d seen enough hazing where the sky hook trick wasn’t going to work on me. Just as I’d worked up enough courage to tell the guy off for attempting to make me look like a fool, I heard a yell from the roof. We were out of plywood, and there was still two inches of roof left to sheet. While they were shouting at me, my new boss came by and put his hand on my shoulder. He looked me in the eye and for the first time all day he wasn’t yelling at me when he spoke. The uncharacteristically calm tone told me he was serious and that I better listen. He said, “We won’t get this job done today if you don’t find me a plywood stretcher. We’ve all got other things to do, and we’re depending on you to get this right. Don’t let me down boy.” The last sentence may have been a bit more vulgar, but you get the point. I struggled for the better part of an hour looking for the plywood stretcher but couldn’t find it.
Eager not to disappoint on my first day, I ran over to another crew working the same development. They didn’t have one, but one of the guys said he had borrowed one from the crew working down the road. I didn’t know that side of the development very well, but they were nice enough to point me down the road where I would find the house with the crew that had the plywood stretcher. All I had to do was go all the way around the circle until I got to the house with the blue truck at the end of the driveway. All the way… around the circle… to the house with the same blue truck I rode in to get to the jobsite that morning… where I found everyone waiting to explain what an idiot I was.