I passed my ASP test this Saturday, and I am ASP certified. I am very happy with my hard work, my determination, my sacrifice, and my don’t give up mentality. I’ve dreamed about getting this certification and doing safety work for the last few years. Its crazy that before summer 2015 I did not know what an ASP was. I didn’t even know that safety professionals were required in many types of business operations.
It was July 4, 2015 when my cousin Johnny came home and broaden my horizon. His trip to my house is probably what I will attribute to being the start that will change my life’s direction. Johnny worked in safety and I hadn’t seen him much in my life because of his work. With him guiding me through the process, I thought that I would easily be able to enter the field and excel.
Its funny how life works, Now lets get on with the life-story:
I came home for the summer of 2015. I left my apartment in Ruston to spend time with my brother and my friends back in Baton Rouge. I wanted a temp job over the summer but I refused to go back to the summer camp I worked at in 2014. That job was stressful. My co-workers were always in mess with each other, the kids need constant surveillance, and I was more interested in other things than watching kids all day. That’s a story for another time, back to this safety story.
So, I started out my summer 2015 by visiting an ex of mine in California. We went to Vegas and we went to the bay area. When I got back, I had nothing to do and I was broke because I spent 800 dollars on that trip. I couldn’t get hired anywhere either. Around late June, my tax refund came in and I had a little change to spend. Me, my brother, and my best friend Lauren had all planned to go to Essence Festival for 4th of July weekend. On about the 2nd of July, My mom had us clean up the house because our cousin lil Johnny was coming into town. On both sides of the family, all of the men named their first child after them. So, Johnny’s dad was my uncle Johnny. My Uncle Johnny died when I was 8 years old, and I only saw lil Johnny once after that. It was during my teenage years. My mom was the youngest of her siblings, and my uncle Johnny was one of the oldest. Lil Johnny was only about 5 years younger than my mom. They grew up together. Johnny wasn’t a young guy like I was. Johnny was in his late 40’s.
When Johnny showed up, he looked at me and said, ” man David, you done lost a whole lot of weight”. We all caught up and let him know how college was going for us. He was very happy to hear that we were doing well. My brother had just been accepted into Harvard Law School and I completed my first year in my master’s program. He said to us, ” If yall ever need any summer jobs during yall breaks, let me know”. I was happy to hear this because I needed a job. I didn’t have any money, and I was just reading books all summer. Johnny worked at an onshore rig just south of Houston. Johnny explained to me the steps to get on the rig. It would take about two weeks to get everything that I needed. I needed a Twic card and I also need to take an 8 hour OSHA class. He gave me the money for all of it, and I did everything as soon as I could.
I was thinking that I would do safety but Johnny told me that he wanted me to be a laborer. He wanted me to start off at the bottom of totem poll because he wanted me to see how hard many people have to work at the bottom. When I think on it now, I really believe that was bull shit. I think that he just didnt have the hook up like that. Johnny often told me that he could have had me in the office with him but he wanted me, a college boy, to know what it was to work hard. Johnny had a master’s himself but he had an inherent bias against college students. I had no idea why. He complained a lot about how professors were screwing us over. etc.
Johnny had a general foreman call me and give me the info on how to apply. He told me that someone would call me within a few days to offer me the job. The call never came and I called Johnny a few times wondering why I never got the call. Johnny got frustrated and he finally told me I would start the following week. He was going to come and get me that Saturday before and I was excited. I left with Johnny on the 5 hour trip to surfside. We discussed everything from women, school, to family. He was a really cool guy, and he was as raw as they come. I still burst into laughter thinking about some of the jokes he told me. Johnny worked so much that he didn’t have much time off. He just ended his 20+ year marriage, and he didn’t see family often because of his schedule. He wasn’t close to many people. He was happy that we would get a chance to bond.
I got to Johnny’s apartment which was small with no bed room. It was big enough for him. There was a living room, kitchen, and bathroom. We were both big football fans so he had cable to watch T.v. He wanted me to have his bed but I declined and slept on an airmattrres. Problems arose when I did not start when he said I would. There was an issue at the plant with sexual harassment and everyone was sent home while an investigation was conducted. John would give me money to get food, and he would head off to work. Every morning I would go to the hiring office and wonder why I hadn’t been hired. I would tell them that this person sent me to them to no avail. Johnny was upset about the whole situation more than I was. It made him look like he wasn’t the big shot that he thought he was.
After two weeks, the guy in the hiring office finally said ” Fuck it” you are in. Me and my cousin were excited. We were both going to be working the night shift. I embarrassed him on the first day because I wore a white dress shirt under my FRC (fire resistant clothing). I remember my first night. We dug a trench. It was warm but not hot because we were working at night. I worked with a bunch of goof balls. My cousin showed up, took my shovel, and showed me how it was done. After about two weeks, word got around that Johnny was my cousin. We were trying to keep it under wraps but family resemblance was strong. Johnny sent me back to BR for a weekend to get my truck fixed so I could drive it to and from work. After two weeks, they switched me and I started working with these young black guys. I had a blast arguing with them about football all night. They used to call me New Orleans and lil man. The money they made from working a 7 day week was pretty good.
Everything seemed to be going well. Johnny put me on game that my ex girlfriend wanted out of our relationship when I couldn’t imagine anything separating us. We talked after work for an hour, and I’d scoop up food for us. My cousin moved downstairs into a two bedroom apartment to give me my own space. The layoffs began, and I wasn’t fired. He was happy to point out why that he was the reason that didn’t happen. We had a dinner at the job for no plant accident in over 20000 work hours. We were talking, and the guys who I worked with told me, ” your cousin say he cant even be proud of you, say you wont take the trash out”. It felt like a jab directly at me. I thought that if my cousin had an issue with some trash; he would come talk to me. I thought we were closer than that. He was slack talking me, family, to these people we didn’t know well. That was kind of a first strike, and it showed me that things were not going to be as smooth as I thought.
When he came to get me the first time from BR, he told me and my mom, ” David, you are not spending any of the money that you make, you are going to save it, anything you need, you ask me for it”. With that, I started deciding what I was going to spend my money on in the future. I bought me and my ex plan tickets to the million man march that October. He laughed at me and said, ” now you cant say shit about the mutha fukas who blow they first check cause you did it too”. I got the sniffles a week or two after that and I asked him could I have some money for some vicks vapor rub. He then asked me if I was broke, and I reminded him of what he told me and my mom. He gave me the money, and told me, ” next time, spend your own damn money”. He said it in a joking way but I knew he was serious. After that, I didn’t ask him for any more money while I was on the job.
My time came to an end in late august and I packed to leave. We talked about the great times we had. He convinced me that safety was a cool field that I could make a lot of money. I wanted to teach history on a community college level, but I kept thinking that I would be replaced by a computer in 20 years. So, I decided that I would become a safety professional after college like Johnny. He told me how to do it, and he wanted us to get our ASP together. Johnny told me that he would pay for the class and the test amount. All I had to do was figure how much everything cost and he could cover everything.
I went through a heartbreaking, long, drawn-out breakup the following month after I left the plant. Johnny was there for me, and his words were comforting. I drove down to surfside to see him in December 2015, and he was dating a new lady. He was very happy and I was happy for him. I gave him the information on the ASP class that took place in Houston in mid march. He said he’d pay for it in January, and he was excited that we were getting this opportunity.
That coming January 2016, I called him and asked when he would pay for the ASP class. He told me to call him in a week. I called him a week later, and he didn’t respond or answer my call. I continued to call, and he didn’t answer. My mom called me one day and she asked about the whole safety thing. I told her that I had not been able to get a hold of Johnny. She called him, and she pressed him. Turns out, he had gotten married to his new girlfriend. He told my mom that I should call him in about a week and he’d take care of everything.
I called the safety people about the class in Houston and thank goodness I did. The day that I called was the last day to register for the safety class. I quickly called Johnny and I hoped like hell that he’d pick up the phone. He picked up, and he was half sleep. I told him, ” today is the last day to register”. He thanked me for keeping up with it all, and he gave me his info to pay for it. In march, I went to Houston and met his new family. Johnny was married and his life had completely changed. He wasn’t living in surfside, but he was living in Sugar land. His house was so big that his wife’s family also lived with him. The classes were hard on him because he didn’t want to take off of work. He would work at night, and we would go to class from 8-4 during the day.
After we finished the class, he asked me when I would want to take the test and I told him may. There was a 160$ registration fee and a 350$ testing fee. Johnny told me to contact him mid-April and he would pay for it all. In early April, I got a teaching job offer in Sacramento and I took it. I originally took the teaching job as a back up in case the safety professional idea did not work. I was working at Lowe’s and I started saving money for my potential move to California. I wanted to work safety in Missouri so I could be closer to JB but I knew that I needed money to move regardless of whether it was Missouri, Texas, or California.
I texted him in April about the registration fee, and he told me to contact him in May about paying for it. So, I took money out of my savings and I paid for it. We agreed that he would pay me back. Two weeks later, my registration was approved and I called him again about 350$ to take the exam. He told me that he didn’t have the 350$, and we again agreed that he would pay me back. I was studying hard for that safety test. By that time, I had finished my master’s program and safety was all I focused on. I scheduled my test for mid-may in Columbia, Missouri so I could meet with JB.
In May 2016, I took the Mega-bus to St. Louis and JB drove me to take the test. I was nervous, but something told me I would fail. I wasn’t very confident at all, and JB was constantly encouraging me. I failed the test by about 10 questions which was very close given that there was 7 sections. After a little meditation, I realized where the error in my preparation came from. I texted Johnny, explained that I failed, and I asked for money to retake the test. He didn’t responded at all. I called him and didn’t get a call back. I went out to a bar with some of my friends and they told me to reach out to him again. So I did, I texted him, ” whats up cuz?” his response was, ” good hearing from you cuz”. I knew from that response that he wasn’t worried about me passing my test. He wasn’t going to pay me back and I might not hear from him ever again. I had heard stories all of my life about family members screwing people over but it had never happened to me. It happened to me then.
Of course, my own immediate family asked me what happened and I told them the truth. I got responses like, ” maybe he didn’t have it”, ” he was probably going through something that he didn’t want you to know about”, ” yeah, you wouldn’t be surprised if you knew his daddy” “Its probably better if you paid for your own stuff”, and ” I talked to Johnny at Uncle Rob’s birthday party, he says he knows he has to get with you”. I thought it was weird that we had a culture that was quick to pull up dirty backstabbing family issues, but never attempted to do did anything about it. There wasn’t much they could do, but I thought they shouldn’t have made excuses for him. I thought that when they saw him at Rob’s party that they should have pulled him to the side and asked him about the situation. Confront him about the situation. Let Johnny know what he did was unacceptable especially to someone he considers family. I surely would have. My mom told me, ” you know they have plenty of Johnny’s out in the world, you have to watch out for them”.
With all of that, I never gave up on the safety certification. I decided to go with my teaching job in California, but I tried to raise money to take the safety test over the summer. I fell short of raising the money, and I decided that I would take the test out in California. I took the the test in late February only to fail it again by 2 questions. My brother and JB told me to get back on the horse, asap. So, I coughed up another 350$ and I scheduled the test a week later( aka last weekend) and I passed. I am now ASP certified, and I can get into a field that I am really excited about.
I’m sure the news will spread that I got the ASP certification. Johnny will find out and try to take a lot of credit for my certification. He does deserve some credit but he has to be a sad person if he feels no guilt over what happen. He was supposed to be a guide for me into this field. Johnny disappeared when I needed him the most. He had an ego out of this world, and I honestly felt that he wanted me to get my certification to make himself look good. He would say things like, ” we are going to be the only people on earth to have all of the safety certifications”, ” I got a plan for you”, ” When you get on with a company, you can get me in the door”, etc. Its almost been a year, and I haven’t heard from Johnny. That was part of my motivation to get the certification. It was part of my drive, and it fueled me. You shouldn’t have to go through that with family, but you cant choose your family so it happens.