Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur


The Couple On The Street

Filed under: People Watching — Laura Moncur @ 5:38 am

I’m at lunch. I should be at the gym, but I’m sitting in my car at the park. I feel like I need to rest. I would like to say that I’m resting at the park, but I’m not. I’m writing tomorrow’s entry.

They are sitting under the pavilion on the metal picnic table. He is wearing a red trucker hat. She is wearing a jacket that is several sizes too big. It looks like it could have been a letterman’s jacket in another life. It has a black body with brown arms. What team has black and brown for their colors? None, I guess. She probably bought it at K-Mart.

She was hanging on to him like he was a raft.
We both agreed, we’d never be the couple on the street.
 – Jill Sobule, The Couple On The Street, 1995

Her hair is brown and French-braided. It is bound at the nape of her neck with a white Scunci. They are both wearing jeans. He is straddling the bench and she is between his legs. I catch them looking into my car at me. “Is she watching us?” “No, baby. Come closer.”

Like a still life of our worst fears. I love you so much. Won’t you tell me please
We’ll never be the couple on the street.
– Jill Sobule, The Couple On The Street, 1995

They are in love. The way they are talking and looking at each other, I can taste their love from twenty feet away. I feel a guilty pleasure watching them out of the corner of my eye. The tree above my car keeps dropping snow onto my windshield, obscuring my view. If I use the wipers to remove it, they’ll know that I am spying.

[I]t’s one year later I still don’t have an ending.
The inspiration left.
I guess we’ll never be the couple on the street. – Jill Sobule, The Couple On The Street, 1995

He kissed her. I can see the scruffiness on his chin and almost feel the scratching on my own face. They stand and she gives him the coat. Oh, I should have know. It was his coat. He lent it to her because she was cold. “I swear she’s looking at us.” “No, she’s just on her lunch or something.” He takes her in his arms and the two of them are wrapped in his black and brown coat while they walk away from me.


People Watching

Filed under: People Watching — Laura Moncur @ 5:12 am

I like to read people watching entries on weblogs. They are like spying on people except that I can’t possibly get caught. I love to read about the ideas that other people have about the people they are watching. That’s probably why I like to write people watching entries. I guess I just really like to watch people.

It’s something that Mike doesn’t really enjoy. He plays along with my silly little game because he knows I like it, but he doesn’t really enjoy it. I could just sit at a crowded shopping mall, an amusement park or a coffee shop and the most exciting thing about all of those places is to watch the people.

The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best – and therefore never scrutinize or question.  – Stephen Jay Gould (1941 – 2002)

I love to make up stories about them. I see a man walking across the street with a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket in one arm and a bag of sides in another and I feel excited for him. He has a bunch of people waiting for him at home and when he walks into the door, he will be the hero. He brought the KFC. Maybe everyone is coming to his place to watch a movie. He and his friends argued all week about which movie they were going to watch and in the end everyone gave up. They decided to let the movie freak pick. He always brings the weirdest movies, but it really isn’t about the movie. It’s about all of them getting together.

That’s the kind of story that will instantly come to my head. I saw that guy crossing 7th East at 21st South. He looked happy, even though it was snowing outside. I was warm in the Beetle, just watching him. I pointed him out to Mike and started telling the story, but Mike was driving and we got too far away before I could finish the story.

Everything you can imagine is real.  – Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973)

I make up stories about people I know, too. Work acquaintances, people I talk to at the gym, and people I used to know a long time ago. I’ve found that in every case, my stories are completely wrong. Every time, they are strictly a work of fiction. They come to me so quickly that I sometimes believe that I can read the minds of people. Nope, nada, nunca. Every time, it’s wrong.

So, what is it? If it’s not clairvoyance, it must be my imagination. It must be what I want for those people. I want that guy to have a fun party. After trekking all the way to 13th East on foot in the snow, I want him to have the best party with that Kentucky Fried Chicken. He looked so happy that I didn’t want to think about ungrateful children or fighting in-laws. I wanted him to stay happy, so I imagined the happiest get-together that included KFC that I could imagine.

You try to give away what you want yourself.  – Lois McMaster Bujold, “Memory”, 1996

Maybe it’s a cry for what I want in my life. Maybe I want a movie party with a bunch of friends and a movie freak. I miss those days of casual get-togethers with KFC and tofu for Cory. My huge group of friends have all moved away to San Diego, San Francisco, even Japan. Yeah, that’s it. I miss my friends, so I was giving him what I wanted. I guess people watching has more to do with me than it does the people.


Gandolfo’s Deli

Filed under: People Watching — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

The server at the deli near our house does funny things with his lips when he’s concentrating. They are very thin lips that don’t lend to puckering very well, yet he puckers them up over and over when he isn’t watching himself. He puckered his lips up at least ten times while he filled Mike’s side dish cup with pasta salad.

He is very tan and has thinning hair on the top. His hairline isn’t receding; it’s just that his hair is so thin that I can see his tanned head through the gelled hair. I wondered to myself whether he had hair plugs and what he thought about Rogaine. He is about my height, which makes him short, for a man. He looks physically fit and he was wearing one of those “man necklaces” that are so popular right now.

He flirted with the girl in line before us. Her name was Rachel, but he didn’t call her name from the counter when her sandwich was ready. He brought it right to her. She was shorter than I am and had dirty blonde hair. She smiled back at him when she handed back the pen with a spoon taped to it.

While Mike and I argued the benefits and disadvantages of Gandolfo’s compared to Subway and Quizno’s, he emptied the garbage cans. Both the cans were only half full and not in need of changing, so I could only think that he was doing it in an attempt to attract Rachel’s attention. He hoisted the bags of garbage over his shoulder, displaying his arms, but she didn’t notice. She was busy talking to her friend at the table and had placed her chair so she could watch the register instead of the garbage cans, but he wasn’t at the register anymore.

For a split second, I imagined that the smelly and rancid liquid in the bottom of those garbage bags escaped from those bags, drenching him in its garbage goodness. I imagined the embarrassment and humiliation that he would feel when Rachel finally did notice him drenched in the melted ice and fetid pop. I said a private thank you to the company that designed their trash bags that he didn’t have to live in that humiliation. She didn’t notice his strong arms carrying the garbage out, but she also wouldn’t have seen his pop drenched cargo pants.

Mike and I left before Rachel and her friend were finished talking. The two girls were lingering over their drinks. I am imagining to myself that there was a lull in the traffic right after Mike and I left. The server walked over to Rachel and asked her for her phone number and if she would like to go out with him sometime. I am imagining that he didn’t wait one minute to ask her out after we left. How embarrassing could it be to ask her out and fail when he averted the spilled garbage bag disaster?


New Neighbors

Filed under: People Watching — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Madison owns the house across the street from us. She found a new boyfriend and this weekend, she moved some of her furniture over to his swanky place on Harvard Avenue. We noticed that we hadn’t seen much of her. About three weeks ago when spring surprised us, she was doing some cleaning in her yard. I asked her where she had been hiding herself and she told us about her new boyfriend. She was living with him and she thought that they might get married soon. Her house has been empty since then and this last weekend she was moving.

Next door to her, the house had been for sale. It only stayed on the market for a couple of weeks before the “Sale Pending” sign went up. Last week, the “Sold” sign went up. Last weekend, we watched the old neighbors move out and the new neighbors move in. I still haven’t introduced myself to them yet. I guess I should, but I was worried that they were stressed with the move and in no position to receive visitors. What is the proper etiquette in this situation? Should I have run up to them when they were moving bookcases and chairs and introduced myself?

That’s how we met Rick, our next door neighbor. Back in July, we were trying to get the U-Haul back in time. Rick ran right up to the truck and introduced himself. He wanted to apologize in advance for the barking of his dogs. He had three dogs, Kelly, Wilson and Anna, and he was worried that they would bother us. Wilson is a real barker and will sound off whenever we walk by the house, he fretted. We assured him that we were far more worried about our dog, Sid, than his dogs. If our dog isn’t the loudest in the neighborhood, that made us happy. We became instant friends with Rick.

Rick got a new girlfriend. I don’t know when that big blue SUV started staying overnight at his place. I actually didn’t notice that he had an extra human living with him at all. I didn’t even notice that the barking next door got louder. I noticed that his cats, Pedro and Jahnsie, were a lot friendlier than they had been before. I noticed that their food bowls were out on the front porch, attracting an orange stray tabby. I didn’t notice his new girlfriend until he introduced her to us.

She has moved in with him and brought a dog with her named Stella who hates cats, which explains the exile of Pedro and Jahnsie. I love Pedro so much that I would just steal him from Rick and let him stay with us, but that isn’t neighborly behavior, is it? I watched his new girlfriend take all four dogs into her large SUV on Saturday. She truly is his soul mate to live with his menagerie.

I know that her dog’s name is Stella. I know that she’s Rick’s soul mate. I know that she’s a great gal, but I can’t remember her name. When Rick introduced us, her name got overwritten in my memory by Stella’s. I just imagined Marlon Brando in the rain, screaming at his large, gray dog, “STELLA!”


Human Billboards

Filed under: People Watching — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

There were two women on scooters in the lane next to me when I drove home from work on Monday. I was in the right hand turn lane and the scooters were going through the light. The women were both gray haired and overweight. I found it strange to see them on expensive Honda scooters. I always expect Mods in suits when I see scooters, but I guess that only pertains to Vespas. The light changed and the scooters drove away, but there wasn’t enough time for me to turn, so I was still stuck at the light. “At least I’m at the head of the line now,” I thought to myself.

On the corner of 7th East and 21st South there were two fast food employees. One was from Little Caesar’s Pizza and the other was from Quizno’s Subs. They held their respective signs and moved rhythmically in an attempt to attract the attention of the drivers. The human billboards were pointedly ignoring each other, as if you could ignore a person with a huge sign in their arms. I watched them, mesmerized by their movement. I watched their eyes, wondering if they would notice each other’s existence. If eye contact is made, do human billboards fight?

It was obvious that they were miserable. Human billboard must be on the bottom of menial tasks that you are subjected to when you work for fast food. “Hey, Monson, go outside with the sign and wave cars into the parking lot.” The employee complains, “No please, don’t make me do that. Why can’t I clean the toilets? I promise to wash my hands afterwards.” The boss is firm, “No, Monson, get outside or I’ll make you wear the Little Caesar costume.” With that threat, Monson picks up the large sign and trudges outside.

Of all the menial jobs I’ve done in my life, I’ve never had to be a human billboard. Would I rather clean the fryer filter? Yes. Would I rather clean out the garbage compactor? Yes. Would I rather mindlessly process pharmacy claims until my hands ache? You betcha. Even mind numbing boredom is better than being a human billboard.

I don’t know how long I watched their swaying signs. They were almost hypnotic. They didn’t entice me to eat pizza or submarine sandwiches. In fact, they made me a little angry at the restaurants for subjecting their employees to this. It would be different if they looked like they enjoyed it. Maybe if they had hired entertaining mimes or something, I would actually think that they were ingenious. Instead, they just seemed cruel.

I was awoken from my reverie when I glanced at the light. The green arrow had come and gone and all I had was the tail end of an amber arrow. I took it, as did the car behind me, and we rushed through the intersection. I’m surprised that the car behind me didn’t beep at me. Maybe they were hypnotized by the human billboards, too.

UPDATE: 09-22-04 Check out Michael Main’s take on the Human Billboard concept…


Cactus and Tropicals

Filed under: People Watching — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Transcribed from Moleskine notebook dated 5-29-04:

I’m at Cactus and Tropicals. Mike is looking at plants, periodically bringing me interesting specimens. I am sitting in the Bonsai Area, listening to the water of the fountains and the classical music on the overhead speakers.

The place is packed. I hear voices coming from the Topiary Area, the employees are talking at the Service Table and many feet are crunching the gravel. The vents turn on and off at seemingly random times, surprising me every time they turn on and relieving me every time they turn off.

A pack of four male employees were grouped by the pots and baskets. I thought they might have been moving heavy objects, but after watching them for a few moments, I realized that wasn’t the case. The furtive smiles and embarrassed eyes told me that they were looking at a girl. I was so far away from them, I assumed it wasn’t me, even though they looked in my direction. A female employee was sweeping the walkway, but the embarrassment in their faces couldn’t belong to a fellow employee. No, it had to be a customer.

She was looking at the bonsai plants at the front of the Bonsai Area. She had a black scarf with white polka dots glamorously wrapped around her head, through her hair, and trailing down her back. Her maroon shirt wasn’t quite long enough to meet the top edge of her size 2 jeans, so a thin strip of skin showed all around her waist. Her belly button was modestly hidden and she was completely oblivious to the attention of the male employees.

She tired of the bonsai and moved toward the Topiary Area, out of my line of sight. Slowly, and one at a time, the male troupe followed her path, keeping a distance. Now, there is only one male employee remaining. He is looking in the direction that his coworkers headed and he appears to be contemplating the idea of following.

Mike just brought a Peperomi Asperula over for me to watch. The succulent now sits at my right with his jacket and my purse. He always worries that I will be bored and I always feel like I never get enough time here. Just like Barnes and Noble, he shoves me out the door before I’m finished.

It’s not literature that I read while I’m at Cactus and Tropicals, it’s people. I never get enough people watching time when I’m here. Mike bores of the botany far before I bore of the sociology.

A noisy family crunches the gravel in the Bonsai Area. The ten-year-old son points to the small bamboo chair, nestled between the plants and says, “That’s the time out chair.” The father calmly replies, “Yes, that’s the time out chair.” I can’t stop myself from laughing out loud.

Rule number one of people watching is to not draw attention to yourself, especially by laughing at them. The father looks at me, “Yeah, he’s a smart aleck.” I laugh some more, trying to hide the Moleskine. Maybe he won’t think I’m strange if he doesn’t notice the notebook.

The perfect family walks into the Bonsai Area. “Look at the bonsais,” the father says. The mother holds an alert and silent baby. The oldest child is a faultless girl with immaculately coifed hair and impeccably clean clothes. She leads her brother in a hushed game of Follow The Leader. The father and mother compare various bonsai. The baby remains a noiseless bundle in the mother’s arms. The other two children hover around them. The five of them are a rarity in Utah: a perfect, quiet family that no one notices because they are not the squeaky wheels of society. I wonder if the children ever need a time out chair or even know what one is.

Mike comes by again. He has no specimens for me to see or acquisitions for me to guard. He is just worried that I’m bored. “Did you find anything else that you want?” He kisses me, “I want so many things, but there’s not room.” I assure him that there is always room for more plants in our house. He kisses me again and looks for more acquisitions.

I can barely hear the water in the fountains when the vents are moving air. There is a meditation technique in which you isolate one sound. If you are listening to music, for example, you try to concentrate on just the violins, ignoring the rest of the orchestra. I am at Cactus and Tropicals, I am concentrating on just the water, ignoring the voices, vents and gravel. It is very difficult to do, but if I concentrate, I can hear the water despite it all.

Mike is hovering in the Bonsai Area. I think he has finally bored of the botany and it is time for me to reluctantly leave.


Bike Riders and the Silver Chain

Filed under: People Watching — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I noticed her because she looked a little like Dawni’s mom. She was riding a similar bike with a basket on the front: electric blue. She was too old, though, to be Dawni’s mom. Then her mate pulled up on his electric blue bike. His back fender was fluorescent orange and green.

She took her package into the Post Office while he arranged the bikes on the rack. He pulled out a short and almost delicate chain from his small canvas tote and twirled the combination until it opened. He locked their two wheels together and followed her into the building. It was as if he locked the bikes up with a necklace.

I realized that it was enough. I could have probably broken the chain with my bare hands and baring that, I’m sure a stick and some twisting would have broken it easily. The lock was merely a token. It was just enough to prevent a stupid kid from walking away with their beat up bikes.

When they returned, he reversed the process, unlocking the bikes and handing hers to her. She got off the bike to bump down the curb, but he just rode right over it. They rode right past my car and I could see that they were even older than I thought. Maybe she was Dawni’s grandma.


Fourth of July Neighbor Watching

Filed under: People Watching — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

The neighbor with the incredibly huge front lawn is mowing it right now. He is wearing what looks like a flat brimmed fedora, jeans and a gray t-shirt. He is walking up and down the incredibly huge front lawn and his tiny house hides at the back of the lot. When Mike and I moved here, Stacey and Dan came to visit us. We had parked the Beetle in front of this neighbor’s house because the previous residents were still moving out when we got there. By the time Stacey and Dan arrived, all they saw was our car in front of that house and lamented our poor choice. It wasn’t until they checked the address that they realized that we were in the adorable brick home across the street. I look at this neighbor mowing his huge lawn and I wonder how he can enjoy living there. I would hate it if I were him. Back and forth he pushes the mower. If it were me, I’d knock down the tiny house at the back of the lot and build a real house alongside everyone else’s. I guess that’s why I don’t live in the house across the street.

Rick is out of town for the Fourth. He is taking <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Tracy to meet his sister in California. We are looking out for the cats, but there is a house sitter. His black cat, Pedro, won’t go near me since I held him down and brushed the lumps off his back end. Rick had given him a bath, which caused a shedding like I haven’t seen on this animal. Maybe he’ll forgive me in a week or two. His brain’s the size of a tennis ball. How long can he remember?    My cowboy-hippie motorcycle neighbor is dressed in his leathers and boots for a ride on his motorcycle. His girlfriend is all suited up and they are getting ready for a drive on the fourth of July. I’m watching them out of my window getting the motorcycle ready and putting on their helmets. I can almost smell the leather from here. His braided hair falls halfway down his back and her short blond hair fits nicely under the helmet. I know my dog is going to whine and whimper when he starts up the bike, but it’s fun to watch the process. They both climb onto the bike and arrange themselves carefully. The motor fires up and he pulls away from the curb. The funniest thing is that they have strapped a stuffed monkey onto the back of the bike. Have fun, neighbors!


The Commute is Different on a Bike

Filed under: People Watching — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I speed past him every morning. He’s waiting for the Eastbound 30 bus at the corner of Redwood and 17th South. He’s usually smoking. He’s always slouching. The curve of his back is a sharp 60° angle right below his shoulder blades.

He was wearing a black t-shirt this morning and he glanced at me as I whizzed by. His thin frame leaned over his thighs. He was taking a drag of his cigarette and I could smell smoke as far as the train tracks.

I’ve never seen him smile.


Today’s Bike Ride

Filed under: People Watching — Laura Moncur @ 6:00 pm

My ride into work started out poorly today. At the corner of 7th East and 21st South, the chain on my bike came off its gears. I stood in front of Blockbuster Video fussing with the chain while cars passed me. My light came and went until I was finally able to get it situated correctly. I think it would have taken half the time if I had just resigned myself to black fingers from the start. I really need to clean my chain.

Aside from that minor mishap, I had a wonderful ride this morning. The weather has been cooler these last couple of days and I’ve enjoyed it greatly. While I rode on the overpass that rises above the railroad tracks, I scared a pigeon. He flew off to my right in a fluff of white. It’s a good sign when birds fly off to the right.

There was a huge daddy-long-leg spider on the sidewalk between 7th West and 9th West. I dodged him and didn’t squish him. He was heading from my left to the right also: another good sign. It was amazing I was able to see him at all.

At 17th South and Redwood, the Eastbound number 30 bus was a little early this morning. I saw the man with the 60°-angled back straighten up and board, tossing his cigarette aside. He was wearing a baseball cap today. His curly black hair was straining to escape from it. He’s there almost every morning.

Lynn Wilson smelled like garbage again this morning. That factory makes the best frozen bean burritos in the valley, but since the heat of the summer has hit us, the building smells like garbage. The dumpster must be near the front entrance. I wish they would trim their bushes out front. They scratch my arm as I ride by.

The commute to work is so different on a bike. The things I notice are smaller and more intimate than what I notice in my car. My neighbor across the street said, “You can cover an amazing amount of ground on a bike.” She’s right, but the ground that I cover is actually noticed and appreciated. I’m so glad that I finally work and live close enough that riding my bike is feasible. That early morning bike ride is something I look forward to every day.


24 Hour Soft Core Fitness

Filed under: People Watching — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Yesterday morning I went to the gym to exercise. I don’t like watching the televisions at the gym. I don’t have control over what flashes at me on the screen and the most vivid example of that lack of control was my experience yesterday morning. I endured two infomercials without sound. Unfortunately, my eyes kept flitting back to the television. The first infomercial featured several male porn stars. I think it might have been a commercial for male enhancement. That one didn’t bother me much because I couldn’t hear a word they said. Aging porn stars ain’t pretty folk.

The second infomercial was for Girls Gone Wild. The same scenes flashed over and over again: young girls flashing their censored bits at the camera. There were so many thin bodies willing to expose themselves. The nudity and girl-on-girl action didn’t really bother me, but I couldn’t stop looking at it. Unlike the ugly porn stars, these beautiful girls were happily smiling at the camera.

I tried looking at my reflection at the far side of the gym. I concentrated on my running form and corrected my stride. I watched my fellow gym members, but in between each glace at the mirror or others, there were glances of naked crazy girls willing to perform calisthenics in the buff for the camera. Here I was, barely willing to perform them fully dressed.

After my workout, I headed out. I mentioned casually to the two trainers at the front, “You’ve got soft core porn on TV#9.” The male behind the counter, looked surprised and confused, so I added, “I think it’s Girls Gone Wild or something.” His look of concerned surprise transformed to jaded boredom. He shrugged and turned back to his coworker.

The thing that bothered me the most was the guy planted right in front of that TV. He never took his eyes off it once.


The Water Ceremony

Filed under: People Watching — Laura Moncur @ 6:00 pm

He wore silver rings on every finger and his fingernails were longer than they needed to be for a harpist. He wore black jeans and a black pirate shirt. His clothes made him look like a Victorian vampire trying to fit into these modern times. His hair was trying to grow long, but it was fluffy soft down flying around his head instead of hanging. The music he and Maureen played was beautiful.

Sometimes I feel so lucky that I found South Valley. I took a test on Belief.net and it told me that the only religion that I could possibly feel comfortable with would be Unitarian Universalist. I found the closest UU church on the Internet, emailed Sean, the reverend, and decided that I could be happy there.

Two weeks ago, we had our Water Ceremony, which marks the beginning of the church year for us. We start our year in Fall, just like the schools. We are supposed to collect water from wherever we visit over the course of the year and bring it to the Water Ceremony. It represents how we separate in our lives and how we come back to the church to share our journeys.

This year, Mike and I forgot to collect water from any of the many places we visited. We could have brought representational water and shared the stories of our travels, but I decided that I didn’t want to share this year. I remembered what Hugh Elliott said, “All people want is someone to listen.” I decided that I was going to listen this year. It felt good to just hear the stories and not worry about formulating our own.

The vampire/harpist isn’t a member of our church, as far as I know. He was asked to play by Maureen and they played beautifully together. I had no idea that I could enjoy harp music as much as I did that day. When we sang our hymns, he came back to the front row and sang along, but the rest of the service, he sat at his harp, ready to play, when he wasn’t playing. I kept thinking, “Isn’t our church wonderful? Doesn’t this service make you want to come every week?” I didn’t see him last week, so I guess he doesn’t feel the same way as I do. Damn…


Not Summer, But Not Quite Fall

Filed under: People Watching — Laura Moncur @ 6:00 pm

The weather has been beautiful here in Salt Lake City. The heat of the summer flew away and now it’s crisp without being cold. It’s sunny without being unpleasant. Everyone has come out of their air-conditioned houses to eat on the patios at the local restaurants. We drove past the new bakery/café on 2100 South the other day and every outside table had a hippie at it. They were eating and reading and looking at each other, furtively. The light changed and we drove past them, destined for another destination.



Filed under: People Watching — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Her fingers are wrapped with the blue yarn and she holds her crochet needle like a pencil. My grandma taught me to hold the crochet needle differently, so I am amazed that she is able to make any stitches at all. Her hands shake and the process seems like a struggle to me. I can envision my fingers making the same stitches: single crochet, triple crochet, single crochet. It would take me half the time to make as many stitches as she is making, but it doesn’t feel like a struggle to her. She is talking amiably to her friend, both of them completely unaware of my discomfort.

It would probably be rude to take a picture of her hands right now, huh? I’ll just have to remember this when I am old and my hands shake. I can only hope that it won’t feel like a struggle to me by then.


Working Hard

Filed under: People Watching — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

As I exercised on the elliptical trainer in the hotel gym, I could see the construction workers laying bricks on the new addition. There were three of them, but the only one who was working was the guy in the mustard colored jacket. I could tell he was talking to the other two guys as he aligned some of the bricks. He stopped for a moment to make a point, gesturing with his hands. His chopping hand movements made him look a little angry. He went back to tending the alignment of the bricks while the other two brought up a steaming bucket of mortar.

They were working on the last two rows on the top of the building. The scaffolding stayed on the other side of the property while the man in the mustard jacket reached down from the roof. One of the other guys hoisted the heavy bucket of mortar up and dumped it into the tray. The guy in the mustard jacket slowly moved the tray and a stack of bricks to the area that needed work.

He lowered trowels of mortar onto the line of bricks. Every once and a while, a bit of it would fall, making the long trek down to the ground. He brought out a corner brick and mounted it on the edge of the building. When he pushed the brick down, even more mortar fell down the long length of the building. I watched as he placed brick after brick along the line, ignoring the discomfort of my workout. I could feel the sweat threatening to inch into my eyes and I wiped it away with my fingers. I had been working out for about forty minutes and the man in the mustard jacket had completed a row.

I smelled the pungent odor of my own sweat and I hoped no one else could smell me. A noisy group of men had arrived to sit in the sauna. None of them noticed the work going on right outside the huge plate glass window. I saw the other two construction workers approach the bricklayer, and I realized that they had been gone for a long time. They were carrying paper coffee cups with plastic lids. One of them had brought an extra coffee for the guy in the mustard jacket. The three of them took a break, huddled over the cups for warmth.

By the time my workout was done, the other two guys were busy bringing up another steaming bucket of mortar while the guy in the mustard jacket set the alignment of the bricks he had placed. I hope they got time and a half for working on a Saturday.

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