Men At Work

March 3rd, 2008

The foundation for our house was dug in early September. After years of dreaming, planning, and drawing hundreds of houseplans, we had a hole in the ground. I drove out to the site one hot afternoon as a work crew was setting up the forms to pour the basement.

Three pick up trucks were parked around the building site but there were no workmen around. I decided that they must have all gone to lunch in one truck as I got out of the van with my four year old son. My son scurried up one of the big dirt piles as I slowly walked around the foundation snapping pictures. As I approached the back of the hole I noticed some boots beside one of the trucks. Wait, those were not just boots, there were also legs…attached to the body of a …man! No wait – two men. Two men were lying down in the shade under the truck taking their lunch break. I was a little surprised to find them there, but tried to pretend that I had known they were there all along. I nodded and smiled at them and continued to circle the foundation taking pictures.

As I rounded another corner my perspective on the basement changed and I saw another man stretched out in the shade at the bottom of the hole. He had long flowing white hair and looked sort of like a wizard in jeans in a t-shirt. I waved at him and tried to remember if when I got out of the van I was picking my nose or talking to myself – because I was so sure that no one was there. As I completed my walk around the foundation I suddenly noticed another man quietly sitting in one of the trucks with a cold drink. He raised his hand in a slight wave. I slight-waved back.

It was odd how the men were separated from each other and so quiet. I suppose it was just a way to have an efficient break maximizing your rest without having to go somewhere for lunch. The silence was pronounced, but they didn’t seem like the kind of men that would be chatty under any circumstances. The strangest part however was not the quiet or the odd places they seemed to be in (under the truck?), or even the wizardy appearance of the guy in the hole, but rather how I felt suddenly disassociated with my own house. I mean I had planned, and drawn, and sketched, and sharpened pencils, and learned to draw elevations, and read books, and articles, and clipped magazine pictures and figured out a virtual reality architecture program, and measured staircases, and ceiling heights and porch depths, and taken pictures of every old house that turned my fancy to get to the point of actually building a house. And now walking the perimeter of the foundation of my dreams there are suddenly four strange men involved.

Four strange men I have never seen before. Four strange men I do not even know their names. Four strange men hired by our general contractor to build the foundation of our house. And suddenly I feel like I am a trespasser. I feel like an intruder. An intruder in my own dream.

The men were just men – hard working men on their lunch break. It was not their job to shake my hand or tell me that my foundation was the most spectacular foundation they had ever had the privilege to work on. And it was not really my job to shake their hands or critique their work or ask a bunch of questions since I had no idea what to ask and I know nothing about building a foundation. So instead I climbed the dirt pile with my son and looked at the hole some more and snapped a few more pictures. I was trying to make myself feel like this was my building site and this would be my house and I had every right to be here. But I didn’t. I felt like an outsider. So I loaded up my son and we drove home. Later that evening I crept back out to the site and walked around again. This time I was really alone and the house felt like mine again.