Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Perspicacity. (6/27/07) ~JCW


“Music is my aeroplane.”
-Red Hot Chili Peppers

“Musician’s Village, this is Joseph,” I say into the corded phone.

“Hey Joseph, this is Steve,” a man with a southern accent responds. Steve? Steve… 84 Lumber. We are waiting on purchases for 3058 Law and 3225 North Galvez. He continues: “I am not going to be able to get you all of purchase order X1330 today, but it should be in by the beginning of next week.”

“Fine, we can reconcile it if necessary. Thanks, Steve,” I tell him, and hang up the phone. Before I even feel the phone hitting the receiver, it rings again.

“Hey, this is Roy, over at Ram Tools? Those orders you put in for the 1800 Bartholomew block are under-priced. This steel is coming from China, and the 16-D’s are gonna be more expensive.” 16-D’s. Galvanized Nails used for framing and porch work. My mind races for a solution to a problem without a previously recorded answer.

“Ok, I will contact our purchasing department. In the meantime, keep assembling the packages, you will be hearing from Ed shortly.”

A dangerously heavyset man walks into the trailer as my push-to-talk starts beeping. “Hey, do you have a place I can sit down? I have really high blood pressure, and need to take a break from the heat. Do you have any water in here?”

I stare at him blankly, but the push-to-talk connects and snaps me out of my gaze. “Hey Joseph, it’s Adam. Can you pull out the framing plans for a P5 and read me some dimensions?”

“Sure, give me a second,” I say, as I reach for the only black binder on my desk.

The man, flushed, sunburned, dehydrated and weary, starts to wheeze. Please do not have a heart-attack in our trailer, I don’t have the time.

The phone rings again. “Hello, this is Joseph. How can I help you?”

“Hi, this is Natalie Shelton in 1825 Alvar,” a woman with a deep, raspy voice explains. “Your electrician never came back to fix my house. It’s also got a leak in the roof, and I need a lock for my tool shed. I already signed off on the punchlist-“

“If you signed off,” I interrupt her, “then you need to contact family planning, not construction.”

“Oh, well they won’t get back to me,” she said tempestuously, “and you are not helping either. What I am going to contact is a lawyer.” She hung up. Better her than me, I guess.

I look at the stack of paperwork in my box, and realize that it’s only 10:30. I need to take a break. I jump out of my chair and out the door as the phone starts ringing again. Outside is just as bright as it is hot, but a slight breeze makes the outdoors much better than the office. An overwhelming sense of calm permeated the Habitat construction site.

Behind the field office, people were gathering for a ceremony that had completely slipped my mind. Jim, one of the directors, was standing in the middle house of an entire block of Habitat houses. The houses were just framed, so the only construction above the floor plan was simple, skeletal woodwork. Ten to fifteen people were in the center of each house, eagerly anticipating the event.

“What we are doing here is unprecedented!” he was shouting at the top of his lungs. “Today, we will raise the front walls of seven Habitat homes!” A cheer came up from the crowds both around and inside the houses.

“Count with me! One! Two! Three!” with each number, the group in each house lifted the preconstructed front of the house and nailed it into place. “Four! Five!” An American flag rolled down off of each front as rose to standing vertically. “Six!” These walls are going up fast. I was standing at the center of the block, and the sight was nothing short of surreal. “Seven!” Each group began nailing their walls into place.

“Listen to that sweet music!” Jim yelled, as the hammers pounded away across the entire block. Everyone was cheering. Like I said, surreal. Time felt like it had paused for all of us to enjoy this moment.

“You have to stop and realize the good we are doing here,” someone said. Stephan, a supervisor on site who was also enjoying the show, had walked up next to me without my noticing. “It’s pretty cool, right?”

“It’s pretty cool,” I responded. “It’s really cool.”

“The funny thing is, I didn’t see any of those volunteers glue down those front walls, which means, we are going to have to pull them all out anyway,” he informed me.

I couldn’t help but laugh. My push-to-talk started beeping again.

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