America has become a nation of wimps. From Mark Oshinskie at markoshinskie8de.substack.com:
In the late 1980s-early 1990s, I spent many Saturdays rehabbing an apartment building above an old, fire-gutted bank at 292-98 South Orange Avenue, Newark, New Jersey with Habitat for Humanity. The red brick structure was three stories tall and a half-block wide, with boarded-up windows. Working on the upper floors, we walked across tattered sheets of plywood lightly fastened to the remaining floor joists that spanned the inner shell of the building. Watch your step.
The project manager was a sturdy, brusque, coarse-blonde-haired, construction-experienced recovering alcoholic named Dave who, on cold mornings, wore a khaki-shelled Carhartt work suit. Dave had replaced a slim urban fellow named Johnny, who was a recovering heroin addict suspected of stealing power tools from the site and selling these to buy drugs. We kept the tools in the basement vault that withstood the fire and only Johnny had the keys. So they fired him. And changed the locks.
Dave was a blue-collar philosopher. The Twelve-Step process seems to make those who go through it reflect deeply on their own, and others,’ lives. Or maybe Twelve-Step just makes them more likely to share with others their impressions of the human condition. As we worked alongside each other, Dave would sometimes tell a short story about something that had happened and then add, with conviction, a larger life lesson like “Everybody’s suffering is real to them.”
We often made batches of concrete for footings. Because we lacked a cement mixer, we mixed the concrete on top of old plywood, using shovels. On the first day we did this, Dave began the process by declaring, “You’ve got to have some hate in you to mix concrete by hand.”
I’ve done harder work—for example, I’ve been a garbageman and roofed during the summer—but mixing concrete by hand is kind of unpleasant. You have to haul multiple bags of sand and cement mix and five-gallon buckets of cold water, which splashes on your pants in chilly weather. When you tear open and pour out the bags, cement dust gets in your eyes and hair and on your clothes. The dust would wreck your lungs if you mixed concrete often. I tied a bandanna over my mouth and nose; it seemed more effective than a Covid mask later seemed.