Wednesday, March 11, 2015

a rough project...

I haven't told any nightmare field stories in a while...

I was in charge of a big field project that was just a big mess. Budget, politics, technical requirements, personality conflicts... everything was hard. And on top of that, we had epically bad luck. Things broke that nobody knew could even break. If there was a utility line located anywhere on the property line, we would find it the hard way. Maybe not by drilling (because soon I was utterly paranoid and had the drillers hand digging to 5 feet), but by driving over it, running into it - you name it, it got damaged.

Sometimes projects are lousy. But this project was not only terrible, but it dragged on and on. The core field people (those who were in the project for the duration), who had a combined 80+ years of field experience, all responded differently to the stress.

One person slowly built up a bottomless pit of rage, to the point at which he started pacing and muttering incoherently. He never actually released it (he did that on the next project), but he got so bad, with anger just radiating out of him, that even the client representative and regulators were afraid to approach him. Another broke in a different way: he got so sick of stupid interruptions and changes in direction that his repressed sarcasm boiled over and he got booted off site (permanently) for insubordination. When I heard about that, I yelled at him, "you were supposed to direct them to me when they're being ridiculous! It's my job to debase myself and agree to outrageous demands so that we can keep this job moving forward and end it!"

Me, I became The Girl who Cries in the Trailer.

I would get screamed at, or I'd have to referee a fight between subcontractors, or something would break, or the oversight person would announce that we had broken another of a million little rules and the job was shut down until I could fix it, and I would go into crisis management mode at the scene. Then, I would drive off to the trailer, start the incident report or the updated schedule or the work plan modification, and I would cry over my paperwork. Or, I'd close the door behind whoever had just made my life miserable and bury my face in my hands for a few minutes.

We survived, Mr. Insubordinate and Mr. Rage and me. We went on to do other difficult and technically challenging jobs. But we all agreed that we would not work on another project as bad as that one again.

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