Saturday, April 19, 2008

Not exactly OSHA approved

Saturday morning, 7:30, crash, hallo!! Another crash, then a drill sounds vrrrzzz.

I pull a pillow over my head and sleep for thirty more minutes. It's just the neighbors, off their coffee break.

Like many buildings in our neighborhood, the house next door is under renovation. This one has stood almost empty since we moved here. I toured it three years ago, stepping carefully because the floors had rotted from a leaky roof and inattention. Only a caretaker still lived there, nearly always drunk, the ancient key keeper. Now he's gone, the building is sold and the new owner is remodeling from top to bottom. After six months of work, his crew has finished the roof. This quarter's project is the elevator.

Everything about this job is hand-labor oriented. The guys built the scaffolding in tinker toy fashion, and every now and then a pipe or one of the slats standing in as floor will fall to many curses from below. Each of those bricks you see here got lifted by pulley brick by brick (not crane or elevator, which is slightly unusual). Twenty-one days of pulley squeaks into the project, I have the feeling I've been helping too.

The workers are half old school and half new - you can tell by their outfits. The older guys wear one-color overalls and little hats that puff up at the top and don't fit over the crowns of their heads. The younger guys wear well-worn sports clothes and hiking boots. Mostly they don't wear hats, but when they do, they wear baseball caps with the brims pulled well down. There are no hard hats on site.

Even though the crew works seven days a week and starts each day at six in the morning, the pace of work is incredibly slow. The guys spend much of their time watching what is happening in our building, and if I so much as lift a blind three people will stop work to see what the stir is about. When I water our plants on the balcony the entire construction project stops. I feel like I'm a panda in the zoo, though I doubt the pandas comb their hair before they go on stage to eat their bamboo.

I watch them too though, and when I am resting and have run out of books to read, I count a wheelbarrow rising up, twisting and turning on the pulley, as high entertainment. Then the next brick goes past, some timber falls from the sky, hallos sound and life settles back to squeak squeak vrzzzz.


Anonymous said...

What a constructive (hee!) way to turn an early morning noise annoyance into something interesting for us to read about!

Kelly said...

This type of thing just amazes me! Who can afford to buy a building and renovate it so slowly???

Julia said...

Most of the buildings in Vinohrady that look derelict were bought by Italians in the 90s as speculations. They renovate them one by one as the money comes in from their last project or they hold onto them and slowly sell them off. An Italian firm sold this one three years ago. The new owner then probably had to wait another few years for the renovation money and the building permits to come through before he got started. What he is missing now, though, is a good foreman and weekend shift manager!

It's really all quite interesting for a person stuck at home, don't you think? Now if I can only sneak a photo of the workers little beany caps I'd be soo satisfied. (And do something about the dust, that's wish #2.)