So now I live in an F-150. I mean, I don’t live in an F-150, I have an apartment with an address and washer and dryer in the basement and an annoying dog next door that barks at me and pisses on my side of the fence, but I spend so much time in the company vehicle (the F-150) that that kind of feels like my home. It’s where I have my morning coffee. It’s where I write in my journal. It’s where I listen to music.
It’s a 2012—white with the company logo on the side. It had less than 6,000 miles on it when they gave it to me.
This isn’t how I wanted the past year to go. What I wanted to do was live on a boat half the time and live in the apartment half the time. I wanted to do a lot of writing. Play a lot of music. Go back home and help my dad clean up the junk yard behind his garage. Work on a boat. That didn’t happen though. I don’t have anyone to blame but myself. It makes me sad just typing that.
Now I’m a painter. Seems like if you work in building trades long enough at some point you become a painter.
The F-150 is too much truck for someone like me. It’s enough truck for, say, the boys that live a few houses down from me. They have a Ford Bronco on a lift kit that they park in the alley behind their house. They have the words “COUNTRY BOY” in a decal on the back windshield. They are in their garage day and night working on their Ford Bronco and a bunch of other cars. They stare at me whenever I drive by in my actual car. They aren’t intimidating. I think they’re just curious. Why would a person drive around in a car with that much rust? Why would a person not change their air filter? Why would a person let their muffler bang around like that? Why would a person not fix that high pitched squealing noise?
My girlfriend says the F-150 makes me look small. She asks if my coworkers laugh at me.
Right now, the morning commute is the only time I feel somewhat at peace. I wave to John across the street before I get in the truck. Sometimes I give his wife, Donna, a ride to the bus stop. It’s summer so Pittsburgh looks slightly less miserable. The main street in Brookline is lined with coffee shops, pizza places, tattoo parlors, a bike shop, a drive-thru beer distributor, a couple bars, the Mexican grocery, the Sunoco. My thoughts stop racing during the morning commute and they narrow down to one main concern. The radio sounds better in the morning. I notice it after I drive down a long curve that leads to Liberty Ave and I stop at the traffic light by the McDonalds. I can tune out the dj’s. I drive past a shit-load of car dealerships and my favorite beer distributor (which is closed for some reason) and the bronze works and then drive through the tunnel. On my way to the shop, as I drive over the Allegheny River, I look out to see if the Gabriel is taking loads up to Cheswick. When they are I think to myself, “They’re in for a long morning but it’s better than the one I’m going to have.”
When I get to the shop I scribble a few things down in my journal. I write down the jobs I did the day before and make a few notes about whatever I did after work. I’m always in a rush when I do this. I’m always in a rush anymore when it comes to everything. I rush when I’m writing in my journal for a few reasons but mostly I don’t want my coworkers to see me. Something about writing makes people suspicious.
The shop is an old steel mill that has been repurposed as storage space. Our shop is in the corner. It has thin steel walls and no ceiling. When you look up and you can see the rafters and the 10-ton crane that still hangs from the ceiling of the main building. In the office the half-dozen other guys that I work with sit around and talk about movies and lawnmowers and women and cartoons and how their jobs went the day before. Our supervisor gives us our paperwork—our jobs for the day—then I head back to the F-150. I make sure I have enough tape and paper and plastic and paint chemicals and sandpaper and tack cloths and caulking and papertowels and all the shit that a painter needs. We paint bathtubs and countertops mostly. It still sounds ridiculous to me now even though I do it every day.
I get back in the F-150 and drive to my first job. Some days I only have one job but some days I have three or four. Some days I have a prep-guy and some days I’m on my own.
A typical week:
Monday – Countertop @ Club at North Hills
Spot Spray Repair @ 19 North
Tuesday – Tub @ Mifflin Estates
Countertop @ Squires Manor
Showerpan @ Park Place
Wednesday – Full Bathroom @ Williamsburg Place (tub in white, tile in Almond Crust)
Thursday – Tub and Surround @ Governers Ridge
Tub @ JJ Land in Shadyside
Friday – Shower stall repair @ Hickory Hills
Tub and surround @ Hickory Hills
My days last from 7:30AM till whenever. Usually around 5PM but sometimes as late as 7PM. Once I worked until 10:30 at night. Everyday ends at the tailgate of the F-150. I pack everything up, clean out the paint guns, then get in the truck and send my boss a text message so he knows I’m done for the day. Then I get in the truck and call my girlfriend. She’s usually upset because I’m late. I’m getting used to it.
On the commute home I listen to talk radio. I don’t know why but I have no desire to listen to music at the end of the day. Usually I get stuck in traffic just before I get to the Liberty Bridge and I listen to Mark Madden. He’s an asshole but he’s not arbitrary. He has a code and I think people respect that. I admire him because he can go on a radio station in Pittsburgh and say “Steelers fans are whiny bitches” and still have a show. When I drive over the Liberty Bridge I look out over the Monongahela for towboats. When I see on I curse myself. When I don’t see one I curse myself. The Liberty Bridge is one of the highest in Pittsburgh. To the west you can see the Station Square dock with the Gateway Clipper Fleet and the Point and the Ohio River and the coal barges tied up along PWEL. To the east you can see the South Side and Downtown and the riverfront Tech Park along Second Avenue. Straight ahead you can see the bluff of Mt. Washington. I have this fear that the bridge will collapse one day while I’m stuck in traffic and I’ll fall to my death in the F-150.
When I get home I park the F-150 in front of the house. I put my paperwork and my journal on the dashboard. I meet up with my girlfriend and struggle to find something for dinner in my small refrigerator then we watch TV for awhile.