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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ironworkers: Thank You

Today started out normal – hit snooze, hit snooze, hit snooze, wake up, get ready, take the dog out, and drive to work – but then things went audibly awry. What has been the occasional muffled vibratory noise descended on me like a spider monkey. There are “improvements” being made to my office building that presently include a team of men hanging off the side of it and drilling it in various places with tools that look like sci-fi torture devices, and this morning they made it to the 5th floor (my floor), drilling and sawing directly outside my window.

It’s a loud process that sounds kind of like dental work, except louder. My boss walked by earlier and stood outside my office, about 15 feet away from where I sat, and I had to scream in order for him to just barely be able to hear me. Then, after about an hour and a half it all stopped. I could see in the reflection of my computer monitor that they were still behind me, just outside my office, so curious, I turned around to see why the work had stopped. It was then that I noticed the workers, clad in their overalls, Carharts, hardhats, and safety harnesses, sitting all in a row on the 2-foot wide platform that was suspending them in the air – it was coffee break.

My husband’s a Union Ironworker, and for the 10+ years that we’ve been together I’ve heard him refer to “coffee break”. I’ve always had an image in my head what coffee break was like, but it wasn’t until today that I was really struck with reality of what his daily work life is actually like. I felt like a fool, having mentioned earlier in my workday that “maybe I’ll see if I can work from home because of the noise”. The truth of the matter is that there’s a whole segment of our population that hold jobs like my husband – exposed to the elements year round, doing things like sawing the side of a building without the proper sized respirator or any respirator at all, and they do this in part so that people like me can sit at a desk all day and, in my case, ensure the publication of books and products that help children at-risk for or with disabilities. Okay, fine, that’s pretty noble, but they also build and work on buildings that other workers sit in all day doing things that are less than noble.

My boss occasionally says to me, “Go out in the woods for a week – go camping, get back to nature – and then come back and see with fresh eyes just how absurd daily life is.” I don’t need to go camping; I feel like I see these absurdities more regularly than most people. If you look close enough at anything – if you look plainly at anything – you too will see the absurdity of modern life. This, to me, is one aspect of being mindful.

I occasionally find it extremely odd to spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week sitting in the same spot in front of a computer. It’s not natural – my body wasn’t intended to be under these conditions in this manner. It was, however, intended to be under conditions more similar to my husband’s line of work – doing physical things, moving. Regardless, these are the cards I was dealt, and they’re the cards I continually agree to hold – still, I find them absurd.

Being an Ironworker continually falls within the top 10 most dangerous jobs in America. Next time you see some men hanging off the side of a building or walking on steel, don’t for a second think that what they do doesn’t matter or count. If they didn’t do what they do, then we wouldn’t have the bridges we drive over to get to work or the buildings in which we park our asses for 8+ hours a day. Indeed, Ironworkers build the structure that allows us to enjoy “modern life” every day – something many of us never think about, something almost all of us take for granted. To them I say “thank you”.  


  1. Well damn this made me cry.
    My man's the proud son of an Iron Worker.

  2. Son of a union ironworker says thanks for this -- and I will share it with my Dad