University, you know the place where you go to learn how to face the rest of your life. There is a lot going on there in the four years you attend. Wine, women and song. You make relationships and yes, break some. You try out this and that, find friends and lose them. This is the story about how I should have lost one, but didn't, for way too long anyway. I hung on until it got so bad that he wasn't my friend anymore--but that was his fault, not mine.
Pal (Paladin) Stevens was my roomie for the first year and each one thereafter. He was everything I wasn't. Good looking, gregarious, made friends easily and made everyone think you were doing yourself a favor by being associated with him. I felt that way. I was the opposite of him. I was small, dark and a loner. Tongue-tied around women, I have to mention that. He played on my weaknesses, I know that now. I did have more money than he did and I think I had more brains. He never applied himself in his studies and never seemed to worry about where his next dollar was coming from. But he was smart enough to use my brain to pass the courses and when he needed a dollar, it usually came out of my pocket.
You wonder why I let him do this? I don't know. When we went to a party on my dime, he always picked out the best looking girl for his own, but he made sure I had a woman by my side shortly after we reached the festivities. So some of them were skags, but often those that were, I enjoyed being with and sometimes we became friends. After awhile it became a joke around campus. Pal was taking advantage of me, but I laughed it off. I was making good solid friends. His? He claimed to have a million, but none of them seemed to stick with him too long. He was just "good old fun to be around" Pal.
Sheepskin time, he asked me what I was going to do. "I have a position in a large construction firm as a site engineer. Bridges and buildings mostly. I get the site ready and then the construction crews come in and I turn it over to a different engineer. What about you?"
"I'm going to find me the richest girl I can and have some fun with my life. If you need a good word from me, just say so. I've made a million connections in the last four years. It should pay off now."
"That's alright. I think I'm set. No, I'll make my own way. We've been associated for four years, but this is the end of it. So I'll see you around. Good luck finding that rich pigeon."
I was severely challenged when I arrived at my new employers. The old man believed in new hires getting their feet wet immediately. I was given a site to prepare for a seven-story parking garage on the edge of a small sized city where the company was located. I was nervous but had to act confident. I was authorized to do thirty foot test borings to find out what we would need for the foundation. When we reached that level we had not found any kind of solid footing.
It was early Friday afternoon and the drill rig was pulling out on Saturday. I had the authority to stop drilling, but not to continue beyond that depth. No way was I going to okay a building based on the test borings that were coming up. We were in the last hole. "Keep going. You have time for another fifteen feet."
"Okay, but we had better get paid when we send in the invoice for the extra footage."
"It's on me. Don't worry about it."
Three feet later, a level of sand and mud showed. I was standing right there. The drill chief looked at me. I gave the signal to keep going. He shrugged. The drill went down through eleven feet of the same stuff and at forty-four feet the bit started in on solid granite. The crew chief said to me, "That was shit-ass luck. You get the okay for overtime and we'll map the rest of the site."
I tried the company headquarters and found everyone had left for the day. I had never met the owner, although his private phone was listed on the call sheet. With trepidation, I rang. "Mr. Burdock, this is Tim Schwan. I'm the site engineer on the garage project here in Halleckville. I need an okay for some overtime for the drilling crew who are doing the test borings. I hit crap at thirty-three feet and there is eleven feet of it. I need authorization for the drillers to go back into three holes for a more accurate picture of what is down there. We came to granite at forty-four and I want to find out if it holds true for the corners."
"I thought the specs called for a thirty-foot bore. What are you doing below that?"
I didn't answer that at first. I got brave. "I'm not putting a building on eleven feet of mud. Look, those three holes are at thirty feet already. It will mean only six hours to reset and finish those holes down to forty-five, and then we'll know for sure."
There was silence. I had exceeded my authority, but if this company was responsible and was one I wanted to work for, I was going to get the okay--or walk--or be fired.
"Go ahead. You've got my okay. I do want to see you in my office on Monday morning. Bring your report and an explanation of why you went beyond specifications." He hung up.
I dozed in the company pickup until the drilling rig was buttoning up. The drilling chief came over. "You are one lucky son-of-a-bitch. Just imagine what would have happened if you had stopped at thirty feet and put a garage on what would have turned out to be a virtual sink-hole. What made you give the order for us to go down further? How long have you been at this? You look pretty young."
"This is my first job. I don't know why I had you go down further at first. Just a feeling I guess. Now I think about it though, I looked around before it got dark. This is a level valley about five miles across. We have ridges on both sides of the valley. It stands to reason that eons ago the topographical picture was much different than it is now. There had to be bedrock down there. I needed to see if I could find it for this is going to be a big building."
"Damn good call. If your boss gives you any trouble, have him call me. He may anyway when he gets the bill." He laughed and swung aboard as his rig went by.
I knew that I was going to have to answer a lot of questions and that most likely this project might even be stopped because of the extra costs for the foundation. I hoped in a way I would be involved when the job was estimated. I had a few ideas that might even cut the cost below what the original projections were.
I didn't sleep much that night. I was worried about facing the big boss on Monday. I was walking around the lot after a late breakfast. An old beat-up Chevy wagon came dusting onto the site. I could see a man of about fifty driving and a young woman sitting in the passenger's seat. The man got out and walked over to the nearest hole. He looked at the dirt and the mud and finally, the eighteen-inch core of granite lying beside it. He ignored me. The Chevy was only a few steps away. I went over to the passenger. "Hi, I'm Tim Schwan. Is that Mister Burdock?" She nodded, but didn't say anything. I stood there until I was uncomfortable with the silence. I walked over to Mr. Burdock.
He acknowledged me with a glance. "I'm Tim Schwan. I talked to you last evening."
"Yes, I remember. In a way this is a setback for us. I didn't anticipate the job being held up. It's going to be more costly to build and the city may trash the project because of it." He looked as if it was my fault.
"It wouldn't have to be. Your design engineers would know that."
"If you've got some thoughts on the subject, what would they be? How would you build it knowing the situation here?"
"I'd double the pins in the bedrock to set the foundation on. They will be shorter than if they went to thirty feet as originally planned. Excavate and put two of the seven levels below ground not too far above the mud. The mud in a way is a disadvantage for it is unstable, but then it would act as a buffer and absorb the vibrations coming from the stories above it. This will give a longer life to the building. The ventilation system will have to be well-designed, but that is just some equipment. Selling points would be a lower profile against the skyline and that should please those that oppose an ugly square building. Also this is tornado alley. There would be no safer place for people to go if the warning was long enough."
"I can see you have thought some about it. All of this since yesterday afternoon?"
"Well I admit I didn't sleep much last night. I did exceed what the specs called for. I'm not sorry that I did, but I'd hate to be terminated for it."
"I guess I can overlook it this time. You did ask for authorization when you discovered the problem. I will see you Monday morning at ten. Have a good day."
I was new in town and lonely in a single rented room. That evening I dropped into a little country bar and dance hall for a beer. I nursed the first one for an hour and had just ordered a second when a group of five girls came in. The place started jumping then. The band started with several two-steps and then played a waltz. I had my eye on one of the women. Pal wasn't around and I was going for something first-rate for myself now. I asked the prettiest one of the girls to dance and she came into my arms, saying her name was Pam. Her perfume was somewhat hidden by some of her previous exertions on the dance floor, but it was a scent I would never forget.
.... There is more of this story ...