Working on a construction site, you would find most things are as you’d expect them to be. The site is just as noisy and dirty, the contractors are just as frustratingly difficult to pin down and wrangle, and the workers are just as toothless and scraggily as anything you would imagine. What you would be surprised about is the soundtrack. If, before I started this job, I had been asked to guess what kind of music I’d be hearing as I walked through the subdivision, I wouldn’t have spared a moment’s thought before guessing country and salsa. To me, this is a no brainer – the local yokels will be listening to crusty old men drone on about their wives taking their dogs, loading up their trailers, hitching the trailers to their pickups, and leaving them behind for the dusty road, on the other hand the Hispanic imports will be listening to either the only Spanish speaking station in town or they would bring in their own peppy, heavy on the horn, light on the English music to work to.
It turned out that I couldn’t have been more wrong. While on the rare occasion I will catch the straining, heavily accented voice of Billy Bob Redneck yodeling something depressing about the American way, or pick up on the strong beat of a salsa rhythm setting the mood for a long day of drywall plastering, ninety-five percent of the time what I actually hear is light rock. Tony Braxton, Celine Dion, Sarah MacLachlan; these are the voices that bombard me at work. Today the office manager came barreling out of his office to complain that the block crew had had a Journey album on repeat right across the street the entire time they’d been there – TWO DAYS. Even the carpet kid, by far one of the youngest and least likely to enjoy the mellow of easy listening has been known to blast Sarah MacLachlan’s I Will Remember You while laying tack strips.
Though many of the crews on site provide me endless hours of entertainment with their oddly effeminate music choices, there is one mismatched music man in particular that holds a special place in my heart. The garage door man is a cross between Humpty Dumpty and Mister Magoo. He’s older, probably in his fifties and shaped just like an egg with appendages. He wears ratty t-shirts and too-tight sweat pants with suspenders and has thick glasses that magnify his eyes and make him look like a cartoon character. I have never once laid eyes on him without thinking he needed a bath…badly. To make the picture even better, his counterpart is a large, surly looking African American man. He’s not excessively tall, but he’s not short. He’s built wide and square and he’s well muscled. He’s a nice man, but when he looks at you, he looks angry and he vaguely reminds me of an evil genie. From seeing them together, I get the feeling that the genie doesn’t like working with Humpty Dumpty. Humpty Dumpty likes to listen to the easy listening station just like everyone else on the site, and, like everyone else, he listens to it at volumes that would make the average squirrel explode. Unlike everyone else, however, he sings along…loudly.
One day, as I was approaching a house the garage door guys were working in, I began to pick up on the familiar strains of Celine Dion’s It’s All Coming Back to Me Now blasting from within, but this time there was something more – the distinctive sound of Humpty Dumpty singing along with all his heart and soul. As I rounded the corner and entered the garage, I saw him up a ladder, hanging panels and belting out his tune. My eyes drifted down the ladder and settled on the grumpy genie sitting on a bucket in a dark corner. He looked at me with a face that left no doubt of his feelings toward the eggman – who was still doing his best impression of the French Canadian singer at her prime – and shook his head before dropping his chin to his chest in despair. I watched them for a moment, one as happy as a clam, singing his heart out, the other a perfect picture of resignation, before turning to leave. Walking back to my car, I couldn’t help but wonder if, at the end of the day, I wouldn’t find one of them introducing the other to the business end of a power drill. Perhaps, when the deed was done, all of the framers and all of the masons could put Humpty Dumpty together again.