A couple of weeks ago we had what will probably be the last snowfall of 2013. It slowed before it was time to go to work, so I went out with the snow shovel to clear a path for the postie. My goal is to make it through my lifetime without getting sued for negligence or fined for breaking the snow removal bylaw that states that thou shalt clear the walkway by 10:00 AM or face corporal punishment to the tune of $150.

“You’re pretty good with that thing,” said my neighbour keeping his fingers warm with a mug of coffee. “It looks like you were born with a shovel in your hands.”

I was going to tell him that I used to shovel professionally as an archaeologist, but I didn’t. I suspected he was hinting that I shovel his walkway as well. “Yes,” I said, tossing a shovelful of snow off the side. “I’ve done a lot of shovelling, but I’m about to be late for work. These days I do my shovelling with my computer.”

Snow shovelling bears no resemblance to shovelling an archaeological site.  First, there is vision. All a  snow shoveller expects to see is snow and sidewalk. An archaeologist has nothing but expectation and hope. The hope is that he doesn’t uncover anything, That would require paper work, and paperwork requires thought.

But the archaeologist will find something if it’s there. That is because of the archaeological mindset. Anyone who has flown in an airplane will have seen the X-ray images of their suitcases. They show a suitcase filled with a matrix of socks, underwear, pants and shirt, but in them are little prizes such as all that contraband you are smuggling into or out of the country. This is how an archaeologist thinks of dirt at an archaeological site. Instead of contraband, there are artifacts, bones, plant remains, and sometimes human remains all hiding and waiting for the opportunity to jump out of the matrix and confront the archaeologist to generate a report.

Actually, I was never really a good shoveller. Archaeologists who shovel well are ones that can finish the job with nice vertical walls what are devoid of any root material. They are walls that can be photographed  and the stratigraphic  layers  drawn and included in a report that will be meaningful amateurs and professionals alike.

My walls resemble the profile of Alfred Hitchcock at the beginning of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents series. They are either pot-bellied or the opposite – as if I went off chasing an elusive artifact through the wall and well into a neighbouring hole.

My walls also contain roots sticking out in a manner that resembles pubic hairs clinging to a bar of soap.

These anomalies, however, were never entirely my fault. Sometimes the walls caved in because some jackass got too close to the edge. (It usually comes as no surprize to site directors that that jackass turns out to be me.)

Also, the luck or the draw enters into it. I have often found 30 cm root sticking out of my ball that has to be sawn out with a chain say, and the vibration of the machine causes a small avalanche of artifacts to thunder into my hole.

As my career progressed, I found that the best shovelling is shovelling that someone else is doing. I did that by writing my own proposals and becoming the field director.

Mike Broderick , a one- time archaeologist, is a Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor with the Fraser Health Authority in Port Coquitlam where he helps people with mental health disabilities find and keep full or part time employment .

He WAS the Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he found employment for people with physical disabilities, A Supported Employment Coordinator at THEO BC (now the Open Door Group), and a case manager at Community Fisheries Development Centre where he helped people move from the fishing industry to something else because there, “Aint no fish.” This means he is VERY familiar with how a modern day resume should look.

He is an active ambassador with the Vancouver Board of Trade and a member of the Labour Task Force of the Burnaby Board of Trade He does some work as a field Archaeologist, is a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to Alive Magazine. He is always saying, “If you can’t be fit, you can at least be funny.”

He lives in Port Coquitlam with his spouse Cecelia. You can reach him at home at michael_broderick@telus.net or at 604-464-4195. If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates.



One Response to “DIG DIG DIG”

  1. Sharon Says:

    Great story, Mike. Funny and with a lesson – move up the ladder. From digging holes to plant bushes it is obvious that I’d never be an archeologist, especially since I can’t spell it. Speaking of spelling, take a few minutes to reread your posts before clicking the mouse.

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