I didn't have a very good sense of what that word means. But it definitely had a slightly negative connotation to me. If I were to use it in a sentence, it'd have been "That damn roustabout!"
A floater. A transient. A rabble-rouser (if I had to use r-words). Something like that.
Maybe I got this sense from a vague cultural memory of the Elvis Presley film, where he plays a leather-jacketed biker who's fired from a singing gig after he gets into a fight with some college toughs. Or maybe it's just how I've heard the word used. Pejoratively.
But, as I learned from this opinion earlier today, I was off. At least a bit.
The term is often sometimes used to describe traveling circus workers. People who are hardly held in high esteem. So maybe that's where I got my vague understanding.
But the term is also a legitimate occupational classification for certain workers on oil rigs. Which is why Judge Selna (sitting by designation) uses it in this opinion. Since that's exactly what Juan Valladolid was. At least until getting crushed to death by a forklift.
Now, in my defense, my understanding wasn't completely off. The term is generally used to describe unskilled labor, whether in a circus or on an oil rig. Juan's duties as a roustabout, for example, "primarily consisted of cleaning and maintenance duties: picking up litter, emptying trash cans, washing decks, painting, fixing equipment, and helping load and unload the platform crane." So, again, not work held in high esteem.
Moreover, the Wall Street Journal earlier this year listed being a roustabout as . . . drum roll please . . . the absolute worst job you can possibly have. Think shoveling elephant poop. Or, as Juan discovered, getting crushed to death. Yikes.
What you're hoping as a roustabout -- at least on an oil rig -- is that you'll move up the corporate ladder. What's next? Roughneck. Them oil workers got all the cool names.
So let's hear it for the roustabouts of this world.