Construction Observation

Ketchup and Mustard hard at work, hardly working.

The train took its time arriving at the platform, so I decided to use the time wisely: by testing my observation skills. Down below the train platform was a construction site. Over the months, I’ve watched it transform from a derelict building, to a pile of rubble, to an empty lot, to a hole in the ground, and, at present, the footer for some impressive new structure that will feature a lot of columns. There are two massive cranes that I’ve come to think of as Ketchup (the red one) and Mustard (the yellow one). On various days there is a revolving collection of backhoes, bulldozers, pile drivers, cement trucks, dump trucks, and a food truck called Josies. 
Usually, the routine follows a predictable pattern: I watch as a single worker in a golf cart lays down a line of cones to block off the turn lane on the street below. Josie’s arrives in the middle of this and turns into one of two entrances and is immediately approached for business. A team of workers with walkies direct traffic as larger vehicles pull wide in order to make the entrance. Ketchup and Mustard make slow revolutions this way and that. One low man on the totem pole sweeps the sidewalk. 

There was something different today. The site was active, but the usual clockwork of the daily routine was missing. The turn pp lame remained unconed. Josie’s was already entrenched and doing a lively business. The entrance gate was closed. Instead of the usual team of sidewalk-sweeper and traffic-directors, the entrance was occupied by two men engaged in a detailed discussion. The subject wasn’t clear. The tone was amicable, but formal. Something about it caught my eye. 

The more I watched, the more I became aware of telling details: both men were in a position of some kind of power, based on the cleanliness of their clothes. They were both clean cut. One of them wore heavy sneakers instead of work boots. His sleeves were short. His helmet was white and bore a single sticker on the front, which turned out to be the Los Angeles city seal. When he turned away, the back of his high viz vest read  INSPECTOR.


A third man joined the pair and shook hands with the inspector. Not part of his team, then. Not one of the normal construction workers either: his clothes were likewise too clean to mark him as a laborer. His helmet was cammo. He wrote a walkie on his shoulder, but arrived with his iphone in hand and earbuds plugged into both ears. Some kind of site representative, then? 

The discussion involved a lot of gestures, but none of them were particularly enlightening without context. It seemed to be some conversation about logistics involving the nearest intersection- perhaps something to do with the way the traffic was being managed. There was a lot of significant looks aimed at the curb where a makeshift ramp had been lumped out of concrete (?) to allow the bigger vehicles to make it across the sidewalk more easily. Perhaps it was not to code.

I realized, in the course of this, that no one was working. The usual workers drifted around the site, mostly patronizing Josie’s and picnicking anywhere that it was comfortable to sit. It wasn’t clear whether this was an official shut down, or just a hesitation until the Inspector man took his judgy eyes elsewhere. 

The Inspector eventually did walk away, but the train finally arrived and I didn’t get to see how the story ended. 

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on November 29, 2017.

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