Thursday, December 10, 2009

This Is Where The Title Goes, Generally

[Editor's Note: From 2007. Things have changed a little since then]
(Author's Note: Yeah, they're worse, four ways from Sunday. And better, too, here and there. Just like always. There is no editor.)

This is the part of the year that grinds.

I work below ground. There are a few windows, but essentially no natural light creeps in. If you've never worked on a concrete floor for long periods of time, you're lucky. It sucks the life out of you through the bottom of your feet, is the only way I can describe it. The fluorescent lights overhead cast a greenish pall on everything. From November to March, it's like being suspended in refrigerated, dessicating formaldehyde.

There's none of the dampness of the usual basement to it. It's dehumidified to death for the sake of the wood I use and store. Between the low temperature and no humidity, all the heat and moisture is wicked from your body all the time. I have a heater, but I can only afford to use it when the items I'm working on require a warmer temperature for finishing or something. By late December it gets down in the forties otherwise.

My fingers don't work properly when they are cold. Many in construction don't mind the cold, but are enervated by heat. I'm the opposite, generally.

Everything makes noise. It's tiring to listen to it, and tiring to wear something to muffle it. I listen to the sports talk radio in the background because I don't care about sports.

Almost every machine I use is dangerous enough to hurt or maim or kill me in an instant, or perhaps debilitate me over the long run. There is a constant state of readiness, an alertness I imagine a person that hunts for more than sport has. It never goes away. It is taxing to have job where a mental lapse can be freighted with such dread. A surgeon must feel that way, a little. If you sneeze, someone might be hurt, or perhaps die. At least with the surgeon, it's not him.

People generally dabble in physical labor when they are young and then move on. Cubicle farmers often regale me with stories of their toil in life's vineyard of the aching back before becoming men and women of letters. It's different, you know. Many people-- and I do not really count myself among them, as I have chosen the path I walk in life -- have nothing but hard, unremitting physical toil stretched out in front of them from day one to the horizon, and beyond, and can never choose another way. I've done more than dabble in hard, physical labor, so perhaps I am able to talk about it better than most by sheer familiarity. But that's about it. It would be presumptuous of me to claim to be like the people born with their shoulder to the wheel. I've always cherished their respect where I could cadge it.

I'm not sure why I keep doing it. Some character flaw. A kind of stubbornness, perhaps. Maybe I like it. I don't really know.


Robert Megert said...

i admire your drive to continue to do it. Being one of those "cubicle farmers", i only get to do this kind of stuff as a hobby.

Thanks for sharing this.

Clarke Green said...

From my dungeon to yours. Have a happy winter.

Jean said...

My first week of business got me four orders. I was thrilled.
Then, nothing for a month. Two orders so far this month. Life is a tease but I'm not giving up.

NKVD said...

I have a plywood floor in my shop. I hear concrete is terrible.

My shop only has heat in the summer. It is above ground, so I have lots of light, during the day. In January it gets very cold out there - I wear gloves when typing on the keyboard of the CNC - at least it works all year round.

I agree about the tools - I think most people have no idea how quickly you can be injured or killed by them. In addition to the usual shop power tools, I also run giant chain saws in order to obtain the material I work. Mostly I leave felling to others, but even sawing downed logs with a huge saw is dangerous.

Why does one endeavor to make things? I have no idea. A few clues, some hints, but by and large, I am too busy making things to reflect upon the why of it all.

Oh yeah, I do get paid when I sell things - money is good.

Retriever said...

My husband's study is like that, The concrete floor is wicked: tiring to stand on, and dank. Every few years it floods badly, so we've stopped carpetting it. Restaurant rubber mats can make the standing work easier, tho perhaps not a good mix with glue and wood and nails and screws? One Christmas I found him a kind of low rubber footstool with a heater built in that he could put his feet on when sitting at a desk. Tho probably you are standing, or on a stool?

If I were working underground, I'd buy me some Costco happy lites.

Jill said...


Since I always have cold feet in the winter and I miss the radiant heat I once had in an earlier house, I bought a heated rubber mat to put under my desk.
Just warm enough to keep my toes toasty.. Try it out, they are $40 at Amazon

lorraine said...

Reading the comments to this post I reflect on your readers. They care. To sit down and read a blog, think about how it relates to you and articulate a response is really lovely. I dragged myself in from an 18hr shift as a nurse - for the most part a rewarding but thankless job and opened your blog 1st. I admit I am waiting for the continuation of an enchanted place but find you in the misery left over from '07 and feel guilty that I want something from you at all. Bless your heart and all of those of us who must toil for a living. There is a song by Jessie Winchester called "A Gentleman of Leisure" and another one by a group I can't remember that is "I
Want a Job Without Florescent Lights" - we can all relate. The "Happy Light" suggestion is a good one. I have them in my house to keep from jumping off a high building. So far so good. You did get some good advice from the faithful. Sorry this went on so long but as a person in the trenches - I identify and care too. Blessings upon you and I hope the bug to finish your novel bites - but I will tune in no matter what. love lorraine

concrete said...

I used to work on a cold concrete floor. Terrible. It sucks the heat right out the bottom of your boots and my hips would ache badly by the end of the day. Finally found some relief by standing on a piece of styrofoam insulation (the dense kind).

SippicanCottage said...

I am grateful to everyone that reads and comments. No man writes for no one. I like that people share their experiences here. I've found that the most valuable information on the Intertunnel is people pointing a camera out the window or at their own lives, with or without passion about it. Clinical's fine sometimes, ranting's more fun here and there. I find the majority of blogs to be ill-formed opinions about half-understood information, the source information worthless anyway.

Sometimes people just tell a joke or say something pleasant, or just say hello. Or just show up and watch from the margins -- the majority of people, of course.

Lorraine fears I am "in misery," but all I did was describe my surroundings. She's nice, as nice as anyone that visits here, and I don't want her to worry. I'm happy in my concrete hole, because it's physically less demanding than any number of other jobsites I've been at, and it allows me to see my family all the time. It is just a payment I make in cold feet, worth every penny.

I'll write that book, and others.

angelnfreefall said...

Heated socks. Seriously. My first instinct was the rubber mats, too. We used the ones you put in horse trailers. But I love the sound of the heated ones....I'd try that.
And perhaps one of those purportedly ultra-energy- efficient free-standing fireplaces that the Amish supposedly make- the ones being hawked on TV?
Failing that- rice in a sock, heated up in the microwave, in all your pockets. Stays warm a long time. Transfers heat to your body.
Or move to Florida. That worked for me.
Seasoned Greetings.

Daphne said...

I know why you keep doing it. I've seen my Owl House.