Why not just tell me?

I hired a new helper a couple of days ago. He’s unskilled labor, but is a hard worker and follows direction, two of the most important things. He wanted to work today to make a bit of extra money, so I told him to meet me at my latest jobsite. Now, we did NOT discuss what I was doing there, which turned out to be a mistake. This job is a nightmare. A complete replumb of hot and cold lines, gas line, and total sewer line replacement. And this house is BIG. And the crawlspace under the house is SMALL. I mean really small. It’s not a crawlspace, it’s a squirmspace. I already have little trenches dug everywhere to let me get under beams so I can get to where I need to go, but it’s not pleasant under there. It’s very tight, the house sits so low you cannot turn over, so you best plan ahead before you get under there. One of the worst I have ever been under.

So, I get there first and start setting up to cut and thread gas line. XXX pulls up, and we chat about another job I have going that he has been helping on. Just about now, he realizes that I am getting ready to cut pipe, and I have the board off of the crawlspace opening, which makes it obvious where we are going to be working. This young fellow went ballistic, with no warning at all. He started screaming at me about how he “wasn’t going in that hell hole” that if I thought he was then I was crazy. He just kept going on and on, while I stood there with my mouth hanging open. This finally ended when he told me that he was “outta here”. And he got in his truck and peeled off. It took me a few minutes of thinking, but then I realized…………CLAUSTROPHOBIC. Had to be. Nothing else will trigger a reaction like that on this particular job. I gave him an hour or so and called him on his cell. When he answered, I just flat out asked him if he was afraid of tight spaces. After several seconds of silence (I thought he had hung up on me), he finally answered……………yes, terrified. He then apologized. Now, there is no need to apologize for being afraid of something, I just wish he would have told me. I asked him to come back, and told him he could stay outside and cut and thread the pipe, that he wouldn’t have to go under the house. So, he did, and we worked the rest of the day without incident.

Claustrophobia is more common that most people think. And it’s not something you “get over”. It can cause horrible panic attacks, and in a tight space under a house, well that’s not a good place to panic….you will hurt yourself. Tight spaces don’t bother me, I have been in some really bad spots, and hung up under houses as well. But just because it doesn’t bother me, that doesn’t mean it won’t bother someone else. And I wouldn’t have fired him if he had told me. He thought I would have, so he tried to bluster and quit, so he could save his ego. Like I told him, some people are afraid of tight spots, some people are afraid of snakes, heights, bugs, loud noises………..the list goes on forever. We all have a fear of something.

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