Men at Work

No, not the 80’s band from down under but the men who work in all kinds of weather on road-crews all across the DC region.

My first job as a lad was working on a road-crew in South Jersey in the summer. We policed downed trees, we filled pot-holes, we cleaned up illegal dump sites, and whatever other bizarre grunt-work the Township presented us. It was a tough job but a great one filled with misadventure, camaraderie, and fights. I worked with some of the toughest of the tough guys and they were plenty of fist-fights and heated shouting matches that combined with the work turned my scrawny 15 year-old butt into a hearty ass-kicker. I have fond memories of that summer spent in the wilds of South Jersey with the crew. Today on King Street I saw something that sparked a deluge of memories from those days.

King between 95 and Braddock is down to one lane today as a huge road-crew is scrambling to fill 5 gigantic holes left by the recent laying of underground powerlines. The work turned that section of King Street into a choke-hold of traffic and I was stuck sitting in it for about 10 minutes. I sat watching a group of three guys having trouble directing a dump-truck filled with sand over one of the holes. One of the guys was working, the other two seemed to be arguing. Their mouths flapping, their faces twisted in anger, shovels beng stabbed into the dirt for emphasis.

As my car inched closer I rolled down my window, and sure enough the two guys were screaming at each other. The third guy finally got between them and split it up. Watching this I was instantly reminded of a fight I got in that summer with a crew-member after he almost ran me over with a Bulldozer.

The three guys eventually got the truck positioned and as it started to drop its sand the traffic in front of me started moving. As my car passed the crew – one of the guys threw down his shovel and lunged at the guy he had been yelling at. I got to see two or three landed punches before the flow of traffic took me past the dump-truck.

As I drove home the memories started flooding in of that summer on the crew in NJ. I wondered what those guys were fighting over? Kind of odd to see that sort fo thing around here but back in South Jersey it wasn’t a normal week on the crew without two guys getting into some sort of fight in the yard or on the roadside.

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