On Asphalt Work

by TW Lim

Hours of preparation, like a movie shoot. So much is moved into place like a stakeout. Dump trucks, backhoes, equipment trucks (is there a term?). Parked around corners so you have no idea if they’re actually related to the worksite. Safety signs that literally depict what the workers are doing, amazing redundancy, a safety sign of a worker directing traffic in front of a worker directing traffic. If what’s happening is “cutting asphalt” then there’s only one person actually cutting asphalt, working a saw the size of a workbench. Everyone else is accessory, the signaller, the hoser, the folks moving the barriers around, like they’re doing rotational grazing in the street. The saw is canted upwards to cut shallower, but they’re not repeating the scoring so this is just a shallow cut. There were already steel plates in the road, the backhoe’s first (only?) job is to hoist them clear. Two squat guys were maneuvering wheelbarrows of asphalt out of a dump truck a block away, then the dump truck moved up to join this crew. Masses of pneumatic hose disappear into the pit, along with a jackhammer, and now saws and a sort of giant white ikea tote? The operation seems massive but its kernel is also surprisingly small, fluorescent clad figures – some in vests, some in puffer coveralls, seem nimble around the ponderous trucks. Smaller saws following on from the massive one. The totes prove to be for debris, they’re digging with shovels while the backhoe sits idle. Archaeologist style, getting finer and finer as you get to the objective. Now the guy directing traffic is doing it with a foil-wrapped package in one hand - is it a burrito or an egg and cheese?

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