During my first year of apprenticeship I became faster and more knowledgeable. And Alex began to let up on the pressure…a little. And then came a revelation for me.
Alex, “Pattycake” Celmer and I were on a job in the San Fernando Valley, a mid sized job with perhaps 30,000 feet of drywall to install (hang). It was all routine by now; walls that were 12’ high and we could hang the first two rows (8’) from the floor. To hang the third row, we used wooden “horses” to get up that level. And then we came to a large room and a very high room. This large room contained an overhead crane that rolled on rails set on steel supports that paralleled the two long walls in the room. And those walls were about 30’ high and over a 100’ long.
It didn’t take us long to install the board up to 12’. Then we built a rolling scaffold to reach the rest of the way up the wall. “Pattycake” and I were the apprentices and so we were delegated the responsibility of building the scaffold. And this is when I discovered that heights made me nervous. Not simply height…but height when perched on a single plank while 20’ off the ground.
Scaffold building slowed to a crawl as I tried to do it with one arm wrapped around the scaffold frame. Of course Alex soon returned and began to berate us for our lack of speed. That didn’t help, it only made me clumsy, and that made me hang on tighter. So Alex jumped up on the scaffold and began the job of finishing it. With a few choice words for his two apprentices.
After the scaffold was complete, we were told to climb up and start giving Alex some measurements so that he could cut the board for us. At this point, we were only 10’ off the ground, standing at the mid-section of the scaffold, and it wasn’t too bad…if you could ignore the swaying motion every time you moved.
After Alex cut the first sheet for us, he handed it up. This meant that we would have to let go of the scaffold and use both hands to hold the sheet of drywall. Oh, no! But we did it and then successfully managed to place it on top of the sheet below without dropping it on Alex. We were more terrified of that possibility than we were of the height.
We nailed the sheet quickly and Alex then moved the scaffold down the wall so that we could measure for another sheet. After a few moves like that, we had about 30 feet of wall covered to a height of 16’. Now Alex said, “Jump on up. Let’s get the next few rows before we go much further.” Jump? No way! I crawled up onto the next level…This was going to be a long day!