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The New Guy

February 12, 2009

The first day at a new job can be a little stressful, you know. New guys stick out like sore thumbs. They just have that look about them–they’re a little too eager, a little too clean somehow, a little too crisp and fresh looking. And they nearly always pay too close attention to everything, because they don’t yet know what to pay attention to.

So the other day was my first day on the job making saws full time.

Not exactly a new job, and yet when I showed up for work that day (i.e., went downstairs to the shop!) things definitely felt a little different. Hmmmm. At first I thought it might be the intense quiet the shop sometimes has before I start working, before the sounds of metal and wood being shaved away fills my ears.

But no. That wasn’t it. Hmmm. Well maybe it was the light. The light coming in through the block windows in the morning sometimes imparts an improbably lyrical quality to the cluttered and messy benches. And that morning the benches were quite … lyrical.

But nope, that wasn’t it either. I walked over and picked up a half finished brass back for a dovetail saw I was working on and just kind of weighed it in my hand. It was right at that stage where the brass really starts coming to life, where all roughness is filed away and nice bold chamfers are filed in. I love that stage. It’s like watching a tiny sunrise. Hmmm. My thoughts wandered.

What had changed was me. Working for myself in my shop was something I had wanted to do for a long time, and now here I was. In a sense I was the new guy at work again, and yet I was the old guy too. OK, I was the only guy! It made for some boring gossip at the water cooler, let me tell you. (“Hey, did you hear about Andrew?”) But there in the shop that morning was that moment of release when something you have worked toward for a long time is finally at hand. Moments like that often bring with them the feeling of, “Well what do I do now?”

So do you know what I did? I walked back over, weighed that brass back in my hand again, and lost myself in the rhythmic, solitary work of the artisan saw maker. Life just couldn’t be better.

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