Thursday, January 17, 2008

(I Continue To Be) Not Lonely. Alone.

[Editor's Note: This essay needs a cake with one candle.]
{Author's Note: There is no editor}

I delivered some millwork I fabricated to a nearby jobsite. It's a marvelous shingle style rehab of an older house in the town I live in. A friend of mine owns it, and is his own architect. Another of my dearest friends is the general contractor. I dropped off the final piece of a railing I'd made, and the only person at the job was the general contractor's brother, a finish carpenter. And he shouldn't be alone.

Not because he doesn't work when he's alone. Not because he needs help, either. He's managing fine. He shouldn't be alone because it doesn't suit him.

He's the gregarious sort. He's got a sunny, chatty disposition. And he's rattling around in there by himself.

I don't know what happened to laconism. It used to be very common in the building trades. I met dozens of men who communicated, as Calvin Coolidge's biographer once described the president's conversational ability, by the "ugh ugh of the Indian." Real quiet like would be the Okie version of that. Anyway, they were not prone to running their mouths. I think they're all dead now. I bet the undertaker pinched them all before screwing the lids down, too, just to make sure they weren't just being real quiet like.

Most contractors used to be Henry Fonda. Now they're all Eldon the Painter. I'm not sure what happened.

I work alone most of the time. I am, as they say, a yammering Mick. And being half Sicilian in the bargain, I'm a yammering Mick that talks with his hands. Terrifying to behold.

Anyway, as I said, I work alone a lot, and it suits me somehow. I think it has to do with the nature of your employment.

The clock and the calendar hang on the wall, glaring at me the whole time. Every day is too short, and every week is shorted a few days. There will literally never be enough time for me to accomplish what I'm trying to do. I can never make a to-do list that makes any sense; each tick mark suggests ten others.

When you work for wages, your attitude changes. You have surrendered a sort of autonomy, and gained another kind. The clock and the calendar are Newtonian, not Quantum based measurements of time. And so the day is never too short, no matter how fine an employee you make. When it's over, it's over. The boss signed up to worry at 2 am on Sunday. You didn't. You just worry every once in a while if you picked the right boss.

My friend, the lonely carpenter, picked the right boss. His general contractor brother is a hardworking and determined fellow, and worries a great deal so his younger brother does not have to. But he's overlooked one aspect of the equation. Loneliness.

I'm not lonely, when I'm alone. The frantic never are.


Sam L. said...

I wonder how long that "Eldon the painter" reference will hold up. I just looked up Murphy Brown on IMDB and was surprised to see it went off the air in '98. I thought it was longer ago than that (I stopped watching it before the end.)

Glynn said...

[Reader's Note: Another good post.]

Carl H said...

Ayup. Nice.

Anonymous said...


I wish I worked alone. At least I don't have to work 5 days a week any more.


thud said...

Working alone and building doesnt get much better.