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Builders! Why Beer?

I don’t get to just design games for a living. I hope to, in the future, but my day job is in the trades. I show up to my full-time job, put in 8 hours and go home. Before this job, I had one as a labourer. For those who don’t know, that’s a bit like the trades version of doing your time in the trenches.

One of the things that touched my heart from the trades is the way all the trades treat each other. On the job sites I work at, you aren’t treated good or bad based your background or what you look like. You are treated well based on your competency and your work ethic.

There’s a pressure to the work site. We don’t really talk about it, but at the end of the day other people’s lives are in our hands. If a building falls down, someone usually screwed up. So, why does this matter? Because there’s that pressure at the end of the day that needs to be let off, and for us it is through “beer o’clock”. Sure, not everyone drinks, but even if you don’t, its sitting around with the people who do that defines the activity. It is a piece of the culture that ties people together across disparate cultures, faiths, ages, and all manner of walks of life.

There’s a stereotype to blue collar work, that it’s a group of gruff men. When I was younger, I was taught a lot of construction workers are mean. That gruffness often comes from a lack of patience, from that pressure from above. With so much on the line, they don’t have the time for people who get in the way, who are creating problems. That kind of thing can be easy fodder for a racist. And I knew one who tried to do just that.

We’ll call him Stan for this story. He always ran these work sites and would only hire white men. One time a company he hired sent a crew of Middle-Eastern guys. Stan was pissed. He ranted and raved, he drew on those old stand-bys that racists do; that this new crew wouldn’t be up to the standards that were needed.

But then they were. Not only that, they stuck around for beer o’clock and hung out. Stan actually talked to them, had a real conversation. Saw that they weren’t the story he was telling himself in his head. Over the course of several years, his job sites stopped being so white, and started to become wildly diverse. He realized he had been in the wrong.

That pressure in these jobs? It leads to the kind of place where egos can get in the way, and fractured workplaces cause so many problems. In that, they were able to dismantle one man’s racism, taking apart beliefs built upon hatred. It was an opportunity for the subject of racism to show that he was a person as well, that he was more than the stereotypes that had been built up aboud him. From that foundation, they built a culture together in the job site where all are welcome. It was on one of his jobs I first met some of the most diverse tradespeople. All of this because of a few beers after a long hard day of work.

So why beer? Because beer and hard work tie all tradespeople together through a bond of fellowship stronger than blood.