Always on the lookout for a new or untraditional quest, I snagged “History of a Pipe Dream” with the thought of, “Hmm, let’s see how this person experienced enough life to put a pen to paper and write her memoir”. I was surprised and happily entertained! Susan Miller’s simplistic writing style lent easily to a quick read and though, choppy at times, was worth a few hours of being a spectator to her descriptions of the “construction circus” lifestyle.
Miller began her autobiography with her socially awkward childhood torments that molded and formed her choices and decisions for living, career and relationships. Miller dispirited her readers with narratives about uncountable bullied actions by classmates and highlighted childhood memories from the farm in her beloved Carter Mountains near Cody, WY.
She continued her tale of living the life of a pipe fitter and her hurdles to become successful in a traditional male employment role when equal opportunities for women were slowly being incorporated into the working field. She detailed step by step instructions on installing specific pipes, interjected occasional outlandish anecdotes and included experiences only those in the construction field could match. Miller taunted the readers with interactions from numerous disco era co-workers, who unfortunately, were not always morally or legal upstanding citizens. Many of their antics and shenanigans would likely frustrate anyone who had a goal or time line to meet, knowing that teamwork, safety and knowledge are the keys to a successful day and work environment. With those shared disclosures, we understand her stubbornness and determination to continue down a non-traditional construction path as a woman, who also lugged along that “special someone”. That “special someone” was the first one to place the seed in her head that she could work in the construction field, originally encouraged her and gave her hints on how to earn a job. He could have been referred to as “someone sometimes special” as he was the man who was always good enough for now, but never for life because of his own evil addictions.
As her employment contracts were rarely long term, she crisscrossed and bounced around the United States. She explored each new area with travelers’ eyes and partook in regional activities. She bunked at questionable and outstanding lodging. In the moments when pipefitting work was scare or non-existent, Miller brainstormed and concocted employment opportunities. She wrote about scenarios with slightly pornographic prankster geriatrics at nursing homes, networking through bar flies and, with a small twist to traditional construction stereotypes, demanded her name on the prestigious limousine driving business stocked with non family appropriate movies.
Miller wrote a realistic, straight forward, non-phantasmagorical journey of her life becoming a rare female in the construction field. Some of her situations were unsettling to read, few humorous and others like reading a trade journal. Many of her scenarios were relatable with classmates, co-workers, lovers or just the daily run of the mill life tasks. Anyone beating their drum and marching the opposite direction may find solidarity with Miller. I wonder if one still needs to stand at the gate, stomping on feet, elbowing and nudging for a job or if technology and e-mail has changed that battle.