Friday, February 19, 2010

pumping the house

Wednesday afternoon I heard a chug chug chug behind my house on the other side of the laguna inlet.

I was curious.  But I had duties.  I needed to start packing for my trip north.Task #1 was to walk over to the laundress and pick up my laundry.  And I once again proved to myself that patience is not only a virtue, it is a time saver.

Blocking my walk was a large truck perpendicular with the road.

"Large truck" is enough to catch the attention of people in my small village by the sea.  We do not get large trucks in town.

But this was truck was extra special.  It was a concrete pumper.

Those of you who live in more cosmopolitan cities do not understand how exotic a concrete pumper is.

Concrete is a staple in home construction.  But the usual method is to mix it in the street, and then pack it -- a bucketful at a time -- on the backs of thoroughly-fueled workers.  The number of workers vary, but they look as numerous (and industrious) as a line of leaf-cutter ants.

If it is a high-tech operation, the crew will use a cement mixer with the motor from an old washing machine.

The presence of the concrete pumper means two things.  An expensive house is being built.  And it is being built by one of the areas premier contractors.

Once I saw the sign on the property, I knew both things were true.

Many people resent the presence of such machinery on the theory that it takes jobs away from workers -- the same lament traditionalists have voiced since the first puff of steam escaped James Watt's infernal machines.

In this case, no jobs were lost in the concrete pour.  The contractor had a large crew on site to work the concrete.

Because no one lost a job here, I will withhold my full analysis of that argument -- as if you cared.  Let's just say I disagree for the same reason that we no longer produce buggy whips.  And leave it at that -- for now.

I wish I could have stayed around to watch the full operation.  But I needed to head north.

And I have.


norm said...

Productivity is a hard thing to understand if your out of work but it is what keeps at least some people in work. I worked for three decades in a steel factory. When I stared we put out 5000 tons of special steel a month with about 900 total workers, when I retired there were 250 people working, half of them in the office and we were putting out 7000 to 8000 ton a month of much better steel than when I started. If the economy had been better the number would have been 10000 tons with that number of workers (overtime). Number one, the ironhouse was still running after all those years, it paid well and at least some folks had jobs. Why? Because of increased productivity on everyone's part. When I started there we rolled the steel around on the floor by hand, by the time I left, we had machines to do most of the gut work. In the 30 years I worked in that factory, the owners invested over a half billion dollars in their ironhouse. Productivity does not come cheap.

Anonymous said...

Spotted you on the streets of Salem this morning. 32 degrees and you were in a short-sleeve shirt. Maybe you forgot to pack after all.

Anonymous said...

You are your father's son. 32 degrees and short sleeves.


Steve Cotton said...

Norm -- A nice summary of how wealth is created.

Anonymous -- And it was a delightful walk -- even in the frost. Wonderfully bracing. I needed it after the heat of Mexico.

Mom -- DNA runs deep.