by Esther Elizabeth Suson
When I think of those humans climbing the scaffolding of buildings-under-construction, I think of sun-burnt men with corded muscles on arms and hands, wearing limp t-shirts and paint-spattered jeans. Especially in the fx, with all of them asleep around me, I think of them as people perpetually at rest unless they are hammering things.
After all, I only ride with them on early Sunday mornings up to BGC, and see them cycling home from construction around Rockwell’s The Grove. I think of them as tough, un-excitable men too tired to bother about a lone tiny female in the fx.
One Thursday, riding the BGC bus, we were taking that long and winding route towards Market. I was on the higher seats, so I was on a level with the lower scaffolding of a building-under-construction.
There were three men balancing on a slim, upright scaffolding right against the outer pillar of the building. One man was in the center, a length of rope securing his harness to the pipe above them. He was the most balanced of the three, holding no pipe or bar.
On his left, his companion had an arm hooked and wrapped around a bar of the scaffolding. Whatever the middle man wanted to put down, the left man took. He had no harness, and moved with slow grace in everything he did, even just turning his head.
The right companion was holding whatever the middle man needed next – in this case, a power drill. He also had no harness, and had one arm looped over a bar. Like the left man, his movements were milli-metrical.
The middle man took the power drill, moving with the same controlled, whole-body movements. None of the three seemed cautious – this was a dance they already knew, and survival was second nature.
Carefully, the middle man lifted the power drill and leant backwards, his whole body poised. He was a few degrees off from 90°, but his balance was so perfect the harness lifted but did not stretch. In that position, the only position that would give him enough space to use the tool, he started up the power drill.
I ride with them on the fx to BGC on Sundays. They are usually asleep, thrice-repaired faded backpacks on their laps. They are the least impressive figures on earth. However, working high and secure on the scaffolding, they step into a world of their own.