Wednesday, May 30, 2012
When the workmen arrived this morning, I had just started my final edit. It was 9:30 and new hurricane proof windows and doors were being installed on both adjacent apartments. For the next seven hours, I heard the scream of grinders, the pounding of jackhammers and hammer drills, chiseling away whole walls in the front and back of both neighbors' apartments.
At the same time, the Blue Angels, who are in town for a show over the weekend, decided to practice their runs, not down the street, but directly over Essex Gardens, my building, dive bombing from above as performance art. All this in some demonic way to advise me I'd better not become a writer. The timpany and jets didn't stop for seven hours.
So I didn't either. I felt compelled to prove something, though I couldn't be sure what or to whom. I was driven to edit all 15,000 words, not once, but twice. And each time I did a drive by to check for mistakes, I'd find typos, subjects not matching verbs, and better ways to tell the story. Somehow, the noise grew softer, the scream of drilling quieter. Only my body understood - and I finally got - that I was in the zone.
I went outside to ask one of the workmen about the noise. Was he opening and closing the door hard on purpose? I was frowning. He was smiling.
"No, that's the noise it makes. When you get your windows, you won't hear it. The doors are very heavy. It'll go away when you get your new windows on Tuesday."
Another workman came up. I asked them both if they liked their jobs. Their faces lit up.
"Oh, we love our jobs."
"Really, because I noticed you're always laughing and singing."
"Wouldn't do nothin' else."
Just then the third worker started grinding and chiseling and I couldn't hear anything else.
Later, by the pool, one of the workmen asked me if I'd heard any other noise earlier.
I laughed. "Of course, that was the Blue Angels flying overhead. Didn't you hear them?"
"I was wondering what it was, I could barely hear it."
I find it odd, that they love their work, and odd they can't hear a noise that could break the sound barrier. But they love the high pitched whine of drills. They love the pounding of the jackhammer blasting through their ears, the sound of shattering glass.
I decided to write about them and see if I could come to any conclusion about why they loved doing what they do.
The next day, they came to tear out the windows and front door of my apartment, leaving me to seek the peace and quiet of a nearby park. When I came back in the afternoon, they were finishing my apartment, jovial, laughing and cutting up with one another. There seemed to be no answer as to why they were so happy, why they loved their jobs.
Years ago, working at 35,000 feet, I put up with angry passengers, being away from home for long periods of time, never getting much sleep and never having a holiday off. But I loved my job. How do construction crews manage to work at such dangerous heights while building skyscrapers? And how do lawyers, doctors and CEO's manage to make risky decisions putting their positions and corporations in jeopardy? It's what they and I and the workmen installing hurricane proof windows love doing.
That was it. They were in love with their profession. They loved living on the edge, some of them literally. The workmen loved the sounds of their profession, I loved the smell of JT9 fuel on my clothes when I got home from a long trip and the CEOs, doctors and lawyers loved the adrenaline kick they got from living at the cliff's edge.
Yes, that was it. And maybe that's why I write. For me, it's the leading edge, the whine of my own heart pounding out iambic pentameters, lazy syllables failing or triumphing to get my heart's soul on twenty pound bond. It isn't the money. No, not even close. It isn't the stretching of my talents crystallizing my thoughts and it surely isn't about fame. I do it because something inside me wants to do it, wants me to acknowledge my own prowess, my wit, my appreciation for the gifts I do have and to share those.
So it boils down to one common denominator. We do what we do for the love of it. Nothing else. Nothing more.