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Mama’s Still in Charge

Posted by Ron Jones

Oct 2, 2014 1:30:00 PM

Every now and then we get a not-so-subtle reminder that in Mother Nature’s world, we are really not much more than minor accessories. After pushing hard for weeks to get a project to where we think it needs to be, after regularly waking up in the middle of the night worried about lead times and deliveries, after orchestrating a nearly impossible set of moving parts and finally starting to think we might have a little bit of control over the situation, a wicked curve ball is slipped by us in the form of an unexpected soaking rain, leaving us humbled and scrambling for a Plan B.

Waking in the darkness and knowing there is nothing to be done but listen to the steady beat of the wet drops on the roof, all we can do is hope the skies will clear and the sun will break through. You never get back a lost day. Not ever.

The margin for error is very small. We are more than two hours from the batching plant—two hours over winding mountain roads that stretch the limits of technology and concrete chemistry to the breaking point, and that’s if everything goes right. The preparations have to be precise, the inspector has to give his blessing and the crew has to be in place—and then the line pump and operator have to find the remote location and set up in time to make the final step in the delivery of the wet, gray slurry possible at all.

We can’t help wondering what the weakest link will be, the one that could cause the whole process to come to an agonizing, grinding halt. Does a truck break down? Does a driver get lost or stuck trying to turn around on a muddy road? Does the mix jam the pump and refuse to pass through the big hoses just yards short of where we need it?

When it’s all over and the roaring machines have headed back to where they came from, we finally take a deep breath. The crew settles into a relaxed and quiet routine as familiar to them as the lyrics of a favorite song. The pace is unhurried now, and confident. This is their time. The conversation is easier now, laced with jokes and laughter as they start thinking about putting the work week behind them and slip into thoughts of the weekend.

I don’t have quite as much luxury. There is material to get onsite for the next phase that begins on Monday morning; more scheduling of various participants; directions to be firmed for those who will be finding us for the first time. What has been forgotten or overlooked; what is the next weak link to sweat?

Finally it’s almost a full night’s sleep, almost but not quite. The rain continues in the minutes before dawn and the only thing to be done is lie awake in the darkness and hope Mama will be kind.



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