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So I sat down at the bar after a long day of climbing around in the deck of that warehouse, spraying dry-fall into my eyes all day and the beautiful young barmaid took a look at me and asked that ever obvious question….” So are you a painter?”

What I said and what I thought were two different things. What I said was: ” Yeah, and a Taper”.

What I thought was…and I’ve used this more than once wearing my painted up whites, and cut pot stained t-shirt, fingernails coated perpetually white: “Actually I’m an accountant, can’t you tell ?”

What happened next made me wish I were just a bit more of a smart ass instead of being tactful.

This youthfully ignorant girl nonchalantly says “Painting’s easy. I painted at my house last year.”

My response was again a politically correct absurdity designed wholly to placate her stupidity at insulting a customers’ trade….: “Yeah, well ya know it’s not rocket surgery”

Whether or not she got this joke, her ego was spared and mine as I thought wasn’t even bruised. She didn’t know any better, so why ruin her night?

That comment burned in me though.

Here I was just like numerous brothers before me, covered in some of the most dangerous chemicals known to man on a daily basis. I had supported my self and my family for nearly 20 years educating myself on and handling/breathing/absorbing and applying those nasty chems to beautify her and so many others world. Protecting their machinery, and making clean their mess. Climbing and hanging from places that normal people would puke at. Steady sweating behind mechanical boxes and spraying dry fall over my head . Staining doors and splashing lacquer onto my skin, nearly exploding on at least one occasion. Continuing to hump it for the full eight hours (and usually more) while others planned and laid out in between bursts of getting after it (Someone mentioned…”we don’t get to stop”). Applying buckets and buckets of material all the while keeping a steady enough hand to make that perfect line on your little girls pink or little boys clouded skyline bedroom. Coating pipes in freezing temperatures on top of a building all day with low temp, and climbing the monstrous towers at Phillips/Conoco to make sure the pipes held up so the oil products could flow.

And as I get older the thing that gets me the most…..the thing that idiots who say “that’s women’s work” …..(whatever that is supposed to mean)… is something that made me write this blog.

A painter in his fourties turned to me in a conversation about our retirement plans and said something that rang my bell, even though we all know the truth. He said: ” Do you know any 65 year old painters?”

The obvious answer is no. The going dark comedy is that most of us never get to draw six pension checks before the reaper comes a knockin’

I’ve lost 2 brothers in the last six months, and every month I hear of anothers’ passing that I never had the privilege to meet. To those who think this isn’t a skilled trade I say “Fuck You!”

We make it look easy.

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