Proud of My Wife

2012-08-25 – It’s dark in the morning now when I leave the house to go to work and that’s the time the skunks are out in the park. I nearly tripped over one yesterday, but saw it at the last minute so that I could turn away and avoid being sprayed.

At the northwest corner of our park stands an elementary school. These days, in the early morning hours, workmen arrive to finish a massive renovation project before school starts in September. In the school the work focused on asbestos abatement. Outside the brickwork is being repaired, new windows are being installed, a ramp is being built for disabled, and presumable, the landscaping will be restored. We’ve heard a price tag of $10 million.

When school ended in June, workmen began grinding the mortar to prepare for repairs to the brickwork. I was always at work, but my wife began noticing clouds of dust spewing from their grinder, which was blowing into the playground and across the street to our house.

This is illegal.

In fact, significant fines are routinely levied against contractors who do not abate the dust with shrouding and vacuums. My wife went to the workers and the supervisors to ask them to take the required measures.

They laughed at her.

So she called in the authorities and ultimately got them to do the work the right way. But it required significant vigilance on her part and significant backbone to stand up to the folks who were working on the grinding.

I didn’t really get it.

But that’s not the end of it. The work is now almost at an end. A couple of days ago, my wife got a call from the owner of the contracting firm, a woman who offered her a gift card to Whole Foods as an apology for what had happened. My wife felt that the gesture was sincere. The contractor knew that my wife was concerned about toxic silica dust settling on her organic garden, and the gift was to a store that sells organic food. Some thought was obviously put into the offer.

But my wife told the woman to keep it. The woman said that she sincerely regretted what had happened and that some of the workers would lose their job over it.

“Are you kidding?” my wife said. “Sure the guys are goofs [actually, she didn’t say “goofs”], but I could see that they are really hard workers.” My wife said she thought that the problem was in the supervision. It would be unfair to blame the workers.

The woman pressed my wife to take the gift card. My wife told the woman it wasn’t necessary, but what was really necessary was a commitment to keep the silica out of the air. The woman made a commitment to make sure the next job is done the way it should be done. And my wife took the gift card to give it to someone who needs it.

* * * * *

When I discover a skunk in the park, I turn and walk the other way. Most people do. My wife does. But only if the skunk is four-legged with a white stripe down its tail.

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