Friday, November 9, 2012

Balance, Muscles, Coordination

Barefoot, casually balanced on top of our eight-foot-high patio wall he slides the paint roller up to the top of the house, and back down again.  His roller handle is constructed out of three five-foot lengths Duct-taped together into one long, oversized handle. 

It’s hard, hot work in the tropical summer heat.  He makes it look so easy.  Up, down, up, down, dip the roller in the bucket and repeat.  Nothing to it. 

It’s all in the balance, muscles and coordination. 

We often marvel at the easy grace of the local construction workers, performing difficult jobs with little or no equipment.  Most worksites in Mexico would cause pulse-pounding night sweats for American OSHA or Canadian WCB safety inspectors. 
Scaffolding created out of lengths of wood, used and re-used for every job site. 
Ladders nailed together in varying lengths and sizes, the steps a combination of wide, narrow, skinny, and thick. 
My favourite ladder photo!
Bracing cobbled together from more bits and pieces of lumber, concrete blocks for leveling, and wire to tie the whole mess together. 
Our expressions of concern over their choices of equipment are met with good-natured grins, laughter.  “No problemo.”

Concrete work is tedious.  The sand, water and cement are mixed usually by hand or sometimes with a portable mixer.  Then tendon-popping, ligament-straining twenty-litre buckets are filled, handed up overhead and lifted again to the next set of hands, and re-lifted to the top of the structure. 

The expensive pumper-trucks are reserved for very large pours that can’t be accomplished in one day by the crew. 

Many workers are bare-footed, or wear ninety-nine cent plastic sandals or flip-flops. 

Work gloves?  Eye protection?  Dust masks?  Hard hats?  No, no, no, and definitely no.

 When our house and several of the houses along this road were built the contractor instructed the workers to dig down to the bed rock before pouring the foundation.  Some of the excavations went down eleven, twelve, thirteen, and for one house sixteen feet to find a firm base for the foundations.  Terrific!  It’s a pretty good bet these houses will withstand a direct hit by a hurricane, however, watching the guys dig the holes – I could hardly stand it.  There were no reinforcements of any kind.   The part of my brain that stores the little bits of useful or sometimes useless trivia to do with safety, first aid, and cave-ins was spinning at 70000 RPM, looking for info on what to do if the walls collapsed.  Thankfully the information was not needed – this time.

I know I have said it before, but Mexico reminds us so much of Canada in the 1950’s and 60’s before workplace safety regulations, before OSHA and WCB, when we too were casually indifferent to our safety. 
Now, we worry and fret about these guys, many who have become good friends. 
They are dads, and brothers, nephews, and sons.  Good guys, nice guys, hardworking guys. 
Hopefully their balance, muscles and coordination will keep them safe. 
Pets have good balance and coordination - Tony Poot Photo

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