WHO KNOWS WHAT A STEEPLEJACK DOES?


About 25 years ago, while driving through downtown Vancouver, I spotted a whit panel van with the words, VANCOUVER STEEPLEJACK SERVICES” and a telephone number written on the side.

“What the heck is a steeplejack?” I thought. I went to the nearest payphone and called the company. I learned  that a steeplejack is a guy who is contracted to do maintenance and minor repair  on smoke stacks.

That certainly explains why there are no steeplejacks. There are very few smokestacks. They were the first to go once we became conscious of carbon footprints. Chimney sweeps may also be an endangered species as it is difficult to get a permit for a wood burning fireplace these days.

But there is still the railway, When you live in a train town like Port Coquitlam, you see all sorts of people working on the railway. While I have seen small gangs of people with 8 pound hammers driving spikes into railway ties. Most of the work is now doe by huge machines. . I don’t think they’re called  “gandy dancers” anymore.

The other day I had a new client in my office. She was a lawyer with a fair bit  of experience coordinating the defences for people who were likely guilty. This was likely giving her some sort of an identity crisis, and she thought she would like to do something more meaningful. She wanted to work outdoors, and she wanted to do something somewhat scientific .

Being an archaeologist, I made some calls to people I knew would be heading into the field to dig holes in the ground. My lawyer friend was quite pleased about this as I left message after message telling people that I had a legally trained “pit bunny” for their crew. (I did warn them, however, not to refer to her as a pit bunny to her face. A charge of sexual harassment might ensue. These are these times, after all.

I went a step beyond archaeology in her case. Biologists also head for the field at this time of year. I phoned a company that specializes in preserving stream habitat. A lot of streams in British Columbia both rear salmon and act as a freeway for returning spawners. This, in turn, attracts bears. I phoned the company and asked if they were going into the field, and if they were, would they be interested in hiring some “bear bait” – someone to get attacked by the bear preferentially to the biologist.

There was a chuckle at the other end. “I don’t hire bear bait, he said. I hire ditch monkeys.”

I didn’t dare ask what a ditch monkey was, but I emailed her resume to the guy. Hopefully a job as a ditch monkey, a gutter sniper, or even bear bait would help her get  the urge to do scientific research out of her system.

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 604-464-4105. If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates.

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3 Responses to “WHO KNOWS WHAT A STEEPLEJACK DOES?”

  1. energywriter Says:

    Great story. I hope she finds a new career that she likes. Perhaps she could start as a Girl Scout leader.

    Thought of you Saturday when at the Virginia Living Museum. Each year about this time they have a Live Dinosaurs! exhibit – anima-tronic, of course. This time they had a creature called Edmontonosaurus. (I think that’s spelled right.) Anyway, wondered if you had run into one on your various expeditions.

  2. energywriter Says:

    Great story. Left a comment. sd

  3. mikebroderick Says:

    It’s actually Edmontosaurua, but it is still named after the hills around Edmonton AB. The real Albertan dinosaur place is Drumheller which is the home of the famous Tyrol Museum and pubs that have men’s and Women and excorts entrances. I went into one of those at 10:00 in the morning and joined a rousing conversation about using panty hose to keep dryer lint from blowing over the snapdragons.

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