Monday, June 3, 2013

Shocking Days


          Why do the ends/beginnings of months so often herald radical changes in weather?
            Eastern Massachusetts' shocker days held off this year until the last two days of May. These visitations of shock and awe, for which nothing can truly prepare mind of body, usually come in May or April; sometimes March. They're the day or days when, all of a sudden, the temperature shoots up, the superego collapses, the body wants to do nothing but lie around and hope for a breeze, iced coffee and ice cream sales shoot up, and everybody says, "Oh, so that's the way it is, huh? So much for spring! Now we go straight into summer!"
            Yes, it's what everybody (almost) has been asking for. Then comes the creeping realization that there's a downside to getting what you wished for, and that includes even summer.
            A neighbor who insists on using only power tools to maintain his modest bit of landscaping chooses the middle of the day, when you absolutely have to have the windows open, to manicure his lawn and trim the edges. First, the loud and persistent whine of the power mower -- directly provoking nostalgia for the old rotary blades whose rapid metallic clacking was one of the leitmotifs of the nostalgic neighborhood summer, the lifestyle choice of another day. Then comes the high up-and-down whirr of the weed whacker.
            Common enough annoyances, but mere whispers in the dark compared to the full day's diet of re-shingling the house the one of us who works here has been treated to for three weeks. (Subtitle: 'Canceling May.') 
            I persevered with a minimum of griping (for me) so long as the work crew was separated from me by a few thin layers of window glass. This sonic fig leaf was maintained for the first two weeks when the temperatures did not require opening the windows.
            The protracted vernal cool meant I could keep the windows closed while the carpenters ripped off the old cedar shingles from three sides of the hose, removed storms and frame wood, Tyveked the whole place, disappeared (sometimes for whole days) in order to paint the stain on the shingles, one by one if I understand correctly, before returning to mount a scaffolding, place ladders everywhere like an an invading army determined to reach the top of the battlements, and fired their guns... into, presumably, the new cedar shingles.
            These were "air guns" I am told, and whether they drove the staples in, or the nails in, or both I never quite discovered, but there was some old-fashioned free-swinging hammer-slamming going on as well, as my ears can testify. Even with the windows shut as tight I could get them, noise was a daily companion.
           Steadier and even more punishing than the hammering was the heavy electric buzz of the capacitor, the machine that was necessary to -- I have no idea how to say this -- blow the air into the air guns? 
           That machine, I ask one morning,  what does--?
           "You mean the capacitor?" 
           "Is it a generator?" 
           "It's a capacitor." 
           "What does it do?" 
           "It's for the air guns."
            My hidden agenda is, of course, a way to turn this uber dentist drill buzz off. I am about to offer our carpenter-guys the opportunity to plug directly into the grid through my conveniently located outdoor outlet -- freely absorbing the expense of all the electricity they end up using -- when I happen to notice that the "capacitor" (OK, clearly not a generator) is already plugged into my conveniently located outdoor outlet.
            Guess what? The juice is on me!
            The thing about the buzz is it steadily grates away whether I hear any other noises of productive labor or not -- in which case it's capacitating what, exactly? -- and then, at regular intervals, the thing leaves behind that steady nervous grating to shift into its triple-volume ear-splitting electronic pneumatic drill impression. These moments sound like the guys are working off that extra energy by digging up the streets.
            Days are lost to rain. Hours are lost to failure to capacitate. Then there's painting those shingles, until ol' Tommy, the crew's head. decides to paint them on one side, and then spray paint the other once they're up on the house. 
         So the job has already lasted a week longer than promised when the sudden days of shocking and awful heat/humidity for which we are never really prepared arrive, and human life (mine at least) cannot survive without ceiling fans and open windows.
          It is at this point that the work has at last arrived on the wall section directly beside my study window. Which is open when a sweaty face appears in the foot and a half of open window across the desk from my own. Phantom faces in the window! Other body parts appear in this window of opportunity at regular intervals as the work ascends. The shoulder shot. The belly shot. The thigh shot. Inevitably, the butt shot.
            Of course I remain hard at work, and undistracted throughout. A big ha-ha to that one! LOL!, as we like to self-report these days. After all, no one can doubt that summer fun is suddenly here.   Shocking days!