It was pouring rain that day in Raleigh, a cold rain that worked its way inside you so that you never could get warm. Eric, my roommate, and I were sitting in my car outside the work site. We were construction workers; this was after college and we were trying to find our way in the world. We were waiting for the boss and the crew, who drove over from Durham. We usually got there before they did. Start time was 7:30.
Another group of workers was in a car in front of us, waiting.
The rain showed no sign of letting up. Eric and I talked about whether we’d get sent home. We were building a mental health hospital in Raleigh and were working outside. We sort of wanted to get sent home because we didn’t want to work in the rain, but it also meant we wouldn’t get paid. We needed to get paid.
8 a.m. came and still no crew. 8:15. Nothing.
“Should we go home?” I asked. “Maybe they aren’t coming.”
“Let’s wait a little longer,” Eric said.
The other guys in the car ahead of us must have had the same discussion. They came to a different conclusion. They drove off.
“Should we go?” I asked.
“Let’s wait until 8:30 and see what happens,” Eric said.
At 8:25, the crew rolled in. The foreman stepped out, saw us and motioned us onto the work site and gave us our job, which involved laying rebar on the top floor of the building.
“Have you see the other boys?” he asked. We told him that they left. He nodded.
We worked the day. It never stopped raining and we never got warm. But we got paid.
The next day, the crew had just arrived as the other car with the guys pulled up. The foreman walked over to the guys as they were getting out of their car and fired them. “Ya’ll go home,” he said. “You’re not on this crew anymore.”
Walking away he looked at me: “We worked yesterday. As far as I’m concerned they laid out. Can’t rely on people who do that. I need people I can rely on.”