Dig we must


After a certain amount of time, one gets the feeling (“one” means me) that nothing ever gets done around here.  But lately, one would be wrong.

Invigorating confusion has been literally surrounding our little hovel, spreading into some side streets, for the past two weeks or so.  And it’s impossible for a civilian to guess how long it will continue.

The Biennale is all over the city, but here on our street we've got a real "work in progress" underway. (Our front door is on the right.) I'm beginning to wonder if this is really performance art sponsored by the People's Republic of Erewhon.

The gas and water lines need to be fixed, replaced, spayed, embalmed — something important, anyway.  I glimpsed the hole in one wet degraded portion of  a water pipe just unearthed — no telling how many gallons of the precious liquid had been lost forever (or on whose monthly bill the loss was charged).

This means, as everywhere in the world, they tear up everything and then have to put it all back when they’re done. Each phase is loud and dirty.  Here, the work is all at the artisan level — no big fancy machines that make lots of noise. But that’s fine, because the men laboring on this task make enough noise all by themselves.

This is what today's work looks like right outside the window on the left, behind which I am attempting to think.

I don’t mean the assorted incessant clinkings and clunkings of heavy iron objects copied from tools excavated in Etruscan mining settlements.  Chisels on stone, hammers on nails. This goes on all day but you can get used to it.  At least it’s not drills.  I’ve been through that too.

No, it’s the euphonious tones of the workmen themselves.  They are louder and more insistent than the noise of their implements. You can hear them as they arrive for work, getting closer and closer, walking down the street and over the bridge already shouting at each other.  And you can really hear them right outside your window as you try to think of other things, like what to have for lunch or why, if God is good, there is evil in the world.

They may be deaf.  Even if they are, that doesn’t stop them.  The comments are truncated, and inane, but almost always loud, and enlivened by unimaginative swearing and boring blasphemy.  I can understand enough of it by now to be annoyed.  I hate the blasphemy but I hate the inanity even more. I want to ask them why this is desirable, or (God forbid)  necessary, but then I remember they’re making 40,000 times more money while talking than I am while listening.

Besides, I already know the answer.  Instead of the missing motors, it’s their mouths that provide the energy necessary for their work.  No shouting and blaspheming?  The worksite suddenly freezes, men standing with half-raised utensils, staring at nothing.

And this portion of work is just outside our two bedroom windows. The whole street is helpfully covered up with wooden planks when the men go home at night, which means that I can lie in bed till after midnight listening to people going by. They sound like horses going over a covered bridge.

If we were to put duct tape over their mouths, the world would stop.  Or the repairs to the gas and water lines would stop, thereby prolonging the already prolonged project.

So if we have to endure bellowing and blathering in order to enable replacing that leaky pipe and re-cement those snaggled paving stones, I guess that’s the tradeoff. It would be nice if they’d work faster, but then again, it could be centuries since those pipes got a checkup.

I mean the submerged ones, not the ones in their throats.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Mary Ann DeVlieg
    Twitter: maietm.org

    Well, indeed, there is a “Venice Motel” in Seoul, but I can’t quite figure out where it is and I have a feeling I’m not going to find it to take a pic. But your point is proved once again, even if indirectly…

    • Erla Zwingle says:

      The mere sound of the phrase “Venice Motel in Seoul” inspires a surge of really funky and borderline sociopathic fantasies. I would give a lot to be able to tell someone “Meet me at the Venice Motel in Seoul.” That would be an excellent first line of some cheesy crime novel. I wish I were capable of writing it.

  2. Mary Ann DeVlieg
    Twitter: maietm.org

    Ah, the sound of Venetian workmen – I always thought it must be like the early morning rubbish collectors; if they have to be up and about, why not wake up everyone else too? And as every little noise echoes and rebounds off the stones, what fun it is to clank and boom around, and call out to your workmate at the top of your voice! When I have to leave on the 5am vaporetto, I don’t dare roll my wheely-suitcase but I lug it instead. Not sure that’s in solidarity with my neighbours’ ears or just because I don’t want to hear it myself!

    • Erla Zwingle says:

      I agree completely. I carry my bag also because I know how annoying it is to the neighbors because I know how annoying it is to me to hear those wheels on the stone. But then I ask myself, is it possible that I am the only person in the city who is this sensitive/concerned/compassionate/self-conscious? Now I know the answer: There’s also you. Now there’s two of us.

  3. Yvonne says:

    One smiles, in sympathy! I hope it wasn’t your water pipe giving up its precious cargo, which one would find out when one’s aqua account arrives! 🙂

    35 days … sono contenta, in fact, molto contenta.

    Yvonne recently posted..Everday life