I spent most of yesterday figuring out how to best navigate working from home (in Hibernate mode, no less), while above and beside me, two bathrooms were simultaneously being demolished down to the studs. Next, they will be rebuilt to modern specifications, because buyers today seem to have lost their affinity for 1978 classic design. Yes, the plan is to impress folks for resale. Us humans are pretty good at reserving the best stuff for other people.
Tiles smashing, dust flying, classic rock radio turned up. These walls are now filled with the sound of twenty predictable songs on corporate owned repeat. Maybe I should offer up the house stereo... even a mixtape or two. The guys seem like good people. Unlike me, they have no trouble finding their groove. I’m awkward at the start: Do I make them coffee? Should I bake muffins? Would I be forcing these things on them if I did? They, however, they slip right into the flow, hardly noticing I’m there. Not in a way that disrespects our space or what we have going on, they’re just comfortable. And how could they not be? Day in and day out, they earn their living while weaving themselves into the personal lives of strangers.
Before I know it, I’m comfortable, too. I find myself busy in the kitchen, talking on the phone with a friend, leaning into the stove while one hand stirs ginger in a pot of honey. Life. I almost forget about the three men I do not know, helping themselves to all corners of our home. Actually, they are not helping themselves. In fact, they keep asking permission every step of the way: May I unplug this lamp? Is it alright to use your kitchen sink? Can I park my truck here? Do you mind if I leave my trailer?
I watch their ability to stack trades with considerable envy; this is no easy task and they make it look effortless. Time is expensive within this model, and lining up the progression of work is impressive when done well. And they seem to do it well. You just don’t have the painter sitting around all day waiting for the tile guy to finish; you have him at another job. But the way they're timing the arrival and departure of each job is something to watch. I bet the advent of the cell phone makes this particular ship sail much smoother than in decades past.
Anyway. What I’m trying to get at is not the technical dance between electrician and plumber, but the human interaction among this crew.
They tune me out, play their classic rock (but ask if I mind the radio being on), and move about the house in a familiar and comfortable way. They are at ease. The few expletives that slip through their conversation tell me they do not know I can hear them. That they do not realize this house, with its uncarpeted floors, is a vessel for sound that although once haunted me as a teenager, currently aides in my curiosity. A couple of words that feel non-derogatory, yet generally frowned upon in briefly acquainted company, offer me an understanding that everything else I overhear, is a genuine exchange between men.
So what was I listening to? Good people, that’s what.
They talked about avoiding high-fructose corn syrup, that Mexican Coke is better than American Coke, and how they read books to their children every night. I overheard one of the guys talk neurotic-leaning-Scout through thirty minutes of nail gun and associated air compressor use. There were also a few direct quotes that I wrote down because for some reason, that’s the sort of thing I do:
“Dude, keep your head straight. She really does love you.”
“Your pride will come back, man.”
“You got a little something on your beard.”
See? Good people. There was more, of course, but that is a brief overview. I don’t know much about male-centered locker room talk, or deer camp talk, or, or, or... but I’m currently living in the thick of construction zone talk, and I gotta say, it’s kind of an endearing thing.
Tomorrow, I should definitely make them some muffins and coffee.