Saturday, November 19, 2016

How very strange

Back in the late 1980's, maybe 1988, I was given a large set of plans. There were roll after roll of plan sheets, from structural steel to landscaping. Then there were the large books that contained the specifications for a new hospital to be built in Sacramento. There were half a dozen of those. All were for the Shriners Childrens Hospital. And I was going to construct a detailed bid from all of this. A winning bid, hopefully.

At this time I was an estimator for a large subcontracting firm and we were going to bid on the structural steel fireproofing, all of the plaster and synthetic plaster, all of the lath and structural framing for the lath & plaster. Then there was the interior where we were bidding on the structural steel framing for the drywall as well as the light gauge framing. We had to bid on all of the heavy gauge backing to be installed for the support of all medical equipment. We were bidding on all of the drywall. Of course we included the pricing for the taping and finishing of all the drywall. We had a separate bid to install all of the acoustical ceilings; the framing and the tile. There was a lot of work ahead of me.

So I laid out the plans in order on my plan table and shut the door to my office. I began by reading all of the spec books, highlighting all the important sections. After a few days I put the books aside and began to 'read' the plans. I created spreadsheets using the old Lotus 1,2,3 software. Then I .....

I know that I was in that office for a very long time. And I remember thinking that the Shriners were spending a lot of money on this hospital. More than I had ever seen before. Disclaimer: I had only bid on one hospital before this, a Kaiser 'cookie cutter' hospital that had been much smaller.

After many weeks it was time to bid. There was lots of tension in our office and especially in mine. This was going to be a big part of our volume for the next two years if we secured the job. As an estimator, I kept my job or I could lose it on a bid this big. Then we decided to cut our price substantially to increase the odds in our favor. We called in our price and then we waited.

It turned out that there were 3 bids, quite similar in price and scope and mine was among them. The owners, Shriners, and the architect wanted to interview all 3 of the firms to determine who would build the hospital. On the appointed day, 3 of us, my boss, the senior estimator and I, went to the meeting, armed with facts and figures and fancy pictures of similar sized projects that we had completed. It took us about an hour to answer all of the questions that Shriners had for us. We went back to the office to wait for a phone call. We didn't have to wait long; we received a call that afternoon with the news that we would be building the new Shriners Hospital in Sacramento. I took a deep breath;  I was now a hero and would be until the next big job came along.  But that would be a long time coming, as the estimator of a large project would normally be assigned the job of Project Manager. And on a job of this scale I would be the PM for close to 2 years.

But it was not to be. The branch manager and I were not the best of friends. And he had just received an opportunity to be rid of me without showing any signs of being vindictive. I was to be transferred to a department back in Kansas City, our headquarters. From the new job description they gave me; Strategic Development, I was intrigued, although I was sad to lose the opportunity to be part of the construction team on the hospital. I wouldn't have to move to Kansas City; I would be given an office in a building adjoining to the one I was currently in.

The years went by; the new job was wonderful, as was my new boss. The 'old boss' was let go after a few years and I felt vindicated. Then I retired in 2004. I should have let it go but I always felt a little sad that I hadn't been able to work on that hospital. It had been my last big job and I had been cheated out of something. Then this year comes along and then this month. My granddaughter now has a beautiful room in that very same hospital. She is being treated by the fantastic staff there. I couldn't have ever imagined something like this back in the day. My granddaughter hadn't been born. I know it doesn't make a lot of sense but today I feel a real attachment to the doctors and nurses that work there. They are working in a building that I had a small part in its construction. My granddaughter sleeps in a room that I once measured and counted.

When you work in the construction industry you soon learn that you are there to just build the buildings and then you move on. You may have had an emotional attachment to a building; I know I had plenty, but you learn to forget it and look forward to the next one to build. It's pretty rare that you have a chance to revisit a special one. Considering why I am revisiting this one, I would gladly give up all memories of all the work I have ever done. I would give up anything and everything to have my granddaughter asleep in her own room at home in Susanville. Dreaming of the basketball game she will be playing this afternoon.  

Here's a photo that my son took last night. This is the lobby, looking straight up to the skylights on the roof. There is a lot of sunlight coming down through those skylights during the day. You can see the curved glass railing on each floor.  It's a beautiful place and it's filled with happy people. Everyone smiles. No one is sad here. I think the Shriners spent their money wisely.


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