good construction smalltalk
Monday, July 12 2004
I had a nagging concern about some complexities in the bathroom wiring over at the idiosyncratic house on Eagle's Nest, so I went over there this morning to perform some tests before everything was sealed up in drywall. When I arrived, I found what appeared to be a father-son flooring team putting down plywood underlayment in the bathroom and kitchen while so-called "modern rock" blared from a boom box (yes, the members of this crew were white). The son was driving nails through the plywood directly into an ugly tile floor underneath. The father didn't speak much and I tried to stay out of his way while he continued putting down underlayment in the bathroom.
Then a third member of the crew arrived with a special tool for nailing underlayment to a poured concrete slab, the flooring material used in the bedroom (beyond the bathroom). The tool consisted of special clip that held .22 gauge rifle blanks against the backside of a nail. By striking this contraption with a hammer, the ensuing explosion propelled a nail fully into the recalcitrant substrate. "I tried everything else," the guy explained, "but this is the only thing that works." Nobody on the site was wearing any ear protection.
Meanwhile I was still trying to test my electrical circuits, which meant putting my hands in live electrical boxes. I don't know if you've ever tried to test 120 volt electical circuits while explosions take place at random intervals in the next room, but let me tell you, it is a most unnerving experience. I was so shaken that I accidentally tested the juice using the ohm setting on my multimeter (whose fuse I long ago replaced with a piece of metal). There was an evil hiss and it stopped working. I had to leave. I couldn't accomplish anything under such conditions.
By the time I got back to my house, I felt like I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. I immediately had a big fight with Gretchen about absolutely nothing. Multiply that by ten million and you have the experience of your typical foot soldier coming home from 18 months of extended duty in Iraq. Support the troops indeed.
Later this afternoon, after running to Woodstock and back to accomplish three different things, I was back at Eagle's Nest to resume my testing. Darren the drywall guru showed up in the midst of all this and we got to talking about Fahrenheit 9/11, which he'd just seen at the Hudson Valley Mall multiplex. In some ways Darren represents your typical American, at least in terms of how the news gets to him. "He even had me fooled for a little while," said Darren, referring to George W. Bush. "But when you see him in that classroom while the airplanes are crashing into the towers... You can just see him thinking, 'I'm safe here, I don't have to worry.'" Chalk another one up for Michæl Moore's propaganda!
Darren is about to move out of New York, and it's sad to see him go. But at least he's moving to a swing state. So I told him, "When you get to Florida, make sure you register and vote. And get all your friends to vote too. Especially your black friends." (Darren is white but his child's mother is black.) I then mentioned something about the ongoing Florida voter purge scandal, but it was a too complicated of a subject to make for good construction smalltalk.
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