Today I’m getting a short haircut. It’s been near or at 100 every day for a week, and working in that heat (with a Code Orange ozone alert every day) has been beating me down some. I’ll be 57 in November; and on the hot days I feel like I’m financially bunkered down in a 30-year-old’s job with pretty low pay.
Funny thing is, if this position doesn’t disappear in the coming storm, I’ll be counted one of the lucky ones. And as jobs go, this is a good job (aside from low pay, I can go to the dentist now and pay only 20%). It is not overly repetitious. It requires a certain amount of creative and collective thought; and my three co-workers are intelligent, interesting, and compaionable.
I work in a job that actually abates the waste of development: deconstruction. Last week, we rescued tons of hardwood lumber from the landfill.
I haul materials from the deconstruction sites in a deisel F-650 with a dumpable flatbed. Filling it up two days ago cost nearly $300. I don’t even leave the (resale) store with it unless I know I can haul a minimum of $1000 in materials (we all cram into one utility pickup when the big truck stays put). I figured out that I am spending $40 a week just to drive to and from work… so I work almost three hours a week just to get to work; and I drive five hours a week in commute-time… so that’s eight hours a week, when there are no auto repairs or maintenance, that gets burnt up as car-time… on a job that requires two vehicles and two trailers and one skid-steer machine just to happen.
This is called a “green” job. It is, in fact, a greener job than using a hydraulic excavator to crunch the whole house into pieces small enough to haul away to a landfill. But when I realize that the principalities and powers do not think about practical priorities — like reserving the remaining processed petroleum for specific uses that are directed at redesigning the built environment to ensure that future generations don’t suffer for the accumulated stupidities of those same principalities and powers — I realize that what makes sense and what makes sense to The Market only converge briefly before the iatrogeneic logics of “progress” take over.
“Anything that can’t go on forever, won’t.”
Bigger irony. The most common reason people hire us instead of the big excavator is that they have decided to replace a perfectly sound and often expensive home with a bigger, more expensive home. We work for a charitable organization, so the recovered materials can be claimed as tax deductions… offsetting our fee. We take longer, obviously, than the Big Machines, so there has to be some incentive… that, and a certain conscience balm.
We depend — market logic here — on development to abate the waste of development.
But if it’s going to be done anyway, better that we take it apart and rescue materials, right? Two contradictory things can be true at the same time. Ten contradictory things can be true at the same time. It’s exhausting to think about it.
Scary, too, if you pay attention to the arcane details of our period and you’ve lost confidence in the comfort-cooing of “experts” who are there to reassure us that we are in a cyclic, even small, downturn… like riding over a small swell in our boat. Don’t look up at the horizon though.
Under those dark clouds is a lot of water, and under all that water, there is a very unstable tectonic plate. Moreover, our boat is made of layers of newspaper and glue, tacked over a chicken-wire frame.
So what can I do. It’s been 100 degrees. I’m in debt.
I’m havng my hair cut short.