It’s day three of my new job, helping a contractor with a house remodel. In that time the work has become progressively more difficult, while the weather has become progressively warmer. Today we’re trying to finish up some heavy demolition, tearing out a two-story fireplace – lots of brick and cinder block to break apart, throw into a wheelbarrow and trundle up a hill to a waiting trailer. This after busting up a six-inch slab of concrete, which met the same fate. The work isn’t easy. Nor is it my chosen profession – let’s just say I doubt I’ll be adding it to my LinkedIn profile.
We moved to Colorado, specifically Fort Collins, about five years ago, escaping the Rust Belt at the bottom of the real estate meltdown. My wife had an opportunity to make the move with her firm and we jumped at it. I worked in television at the time, as the Executive Producer of a morning news show in Grand Rapids. And radio (and marketing) before that. I’d never had trouble finding work in the past, so we didn’t give it a second thought.
But now that I’m 50-something, it appears they’ve changed the hiring rules. Either that or word is out that I’m carrying the Ebola virus. After several years of looking but not finding anything, followed by a brief stint stocking grocery store shelves overnight (another job that won’t grace my LinkedIn page), I was hooked up with ‘Bob the builder’ by one of my wife’s co-workers. He was in desperate need of a warm body and I, like Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman, had nowhere else to go.
The last two days were cloudy and cool, but today the sun came out and shone from that perfect blue sky that is so prevalent around here. And while I always considered myself to be in decent shape, such a notion was dispelled some time ago. Now the Gods are simply driving home that point. By ten o’clock I am wilting in the heat – the deodorant I slathered on with such hope earlier this morning has long since forsaken me. By noon I am completely out of gas.
My nemesis this day is the 18-inch wide plank that serves as a ramp into the trailer where I’m to dump all the fireplace rubble. Having already muscled the wheelbarrow up out of the backyard, I’m winded and unsteady, and negotiating this incline becomes more treacherous with every load. As I was shown, the preferred method is to get a bit of a running start and just glide up the ramp with a few confident strides. But confidence is supplanted by exhaustion as my legs turn to rubber, leaving me wobbling like a drunk on a balance beam.
Eventually, inevitably, I lose control and spill a couple of loads onto the driveway. After that I simply avoid the ramp, push my wheelbarrow to the edge of the trailer and toss the broken stone and bricks in by hand. Bob is not amused but accepts the fact – grudgingly – that the extra 30 or so seconds it takes me to empty the wheelbarrow this way is still quicker than collecting scattered chunks of broken masonry up off the pavement. And it gives my legs ever so slight a respite.
Lunch, finally, and the chance to sit. How I’ll make it through the afternoon is anyone’s guess. Bob’s not much of a talker, so I polish off my sandwich and apple in silence, while a line from an old Simon and Garfunkel song plays over and over in my head…I’d rather be a hammer than a nail. Irony? Sarcasm? I’m too tired to give a shit. A quick check of my phone provides mute testament to my ongoing persona non grata status in the current job-market – no voice messages, emails or texts despite perhaps half a dozen outstanding applications. As it has been for almost five years.
So I dust off my hat and head back to my Sisyphean task, pushing another load of brick and concrete up the hill under that indifferent, perfect blue Colorado sky.
Image courtesy of blog.cachinko.com