Room full of studs

It hit me like a hammer last night. I spend most of my time surrounded by women. I just wish it was because they find me irresistible. It’s not like that.

Yesterday was the first of my 12-week carpentry course at Algonquin College.

The course represents a notable break in my usual routine. Which is why I found it troubling that my biggest concern last night was what to wear. My casual brown leather slip-ons did make me feel a bit self-conscious in a room of steel toes. There were lots of tight t-shirts, faded jeans and farm caps with curled brims. I was the only one taking notes, mostly observations. I bet I was also the only one in the room with a meditation book and lip balm in my bag. And I didn’t mind. We’re 24 guys and one woman in this class. The thing that bugs me is I just know I’m going to end up in her work group. She’s the only one smaller framed than me in a framing and insulation class.

Our instructor seems fine and reassuringly empathetic (which should help when I inevitably screw up on the sub-floor). Tim’s been a builder for 20 years. He made a Martha Stewart joke that made me laugh (until I realized that no one else got it). I like his style — very calm and methodical. At one point, everyone was astonished when he drew a picture of a hammer on the chalk board. He was proud of that. Then he asked, “Does everyone know about tape measures?” I was about to cash out when the subject suddenly shifted to a heated discussion of proportions of overlap in layered floor joists. Never, ever, go beyond the quarter-point past the support beam.

To start the class, Tim went around to ask our names and for each of us to tell the group what we hoped to get out of the course. Bert built his own cottage last year and wants to find out more about roof struts. John’s an apprentice in a construction yard who is trying to get into the carpenter’s union. Margot (the woman) wants to build “insulated bird houses.” As soon as I heard that I thought, “Oh, God, she’s getting voted off Tonight!”

Me? I want to frame and insulate our basement so our heating bill will drop, and to build a kick-ass fort with Jasper 8??7Simon in the woods at Walden. Some of my very best memories as a child were made at The Fort in my back yard. That was 1977. I could always wing it with Jasper and Simon, but why? We live in an age when 2x4s are now actually only 1 3/4″ x 3 5/8″, but being handy will go a long way.

And, besides, it means I get to be with other boys again. Now, and when we break new ground once again in the woods of PEI. I’m looking forward to that.

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