I don’t need this, I thought, not more friction. Alan’s outbursts were enough, a blight on an otherwise great crew. “What’s the problem?”
No answer. Then, “She’s just got an attitude. She’s not interested in accepting help where it’s needed.” Neal started rummaging through his pockets, picking out change.
Aha. I thought I might know. “Where was it needed?” I asked gently.
Neal colored. “Well, it was nothing in particular. I just offered to give her a hand, to get her started, and she blew me off.”
“Is her work okay? Is that going to be a problem?”
“No, her work’s good.” Neal clammed up again for a few moments. He went over to the Coke machine and started putting his coins into the slot in a deliberate fashion. “She’s just kinda brusque. Her work’s fine, I guess.” He got his soda and then began to clean the lint trap in the dryer he wasn’t going to need for another twenty minutes.
And it was that anticipation, Neal’s attention to detail, that was the key to the problem, I realized. Neal is very disciplined, very organized—that’s what made me glad to hire him as the crew chief—but sometimes he was a little stiff when others, in his estimation, didn’t measure up. Precision is a good quality in an archaeologist, but a good supervisor knows when to emphasize it and when to lay off.
I sighed and leaned over to check the progress of my wash. When Neal started in with the terse monosyllables, he wasn't going to be any more generous with his thoughts.
“Who else?” I changed the subject. I’d talk to Meg myself tomorrow and see if I could figure out what was up from her side of things.
We ran down the list of other students, Neal offering his suggestions, me agreeing or reorganizing things so that we got the most work done with the most care possible. Finally, I gave him my plans.
“We’re getting down to Fort Providence,” I said. “Obviously, everyone has to be super cautious not to miss anything, from here on in. The English were only at this site for a little less than a year and they wouldn't have left much behind. If we’re going to find anything of that period, we’ve got to keep an eye on every soil change, every little thing. We can’t afford to blow it,” I finished, almost to myself.