Saturday, November 12, 2005

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

Drama! Intrigue! Mud!
Port Orchard, WA

We are tossing muddy bits of scrap lumber into the back of a truck at the job site for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. As 2x4s and big chunks of wood with nails sticking out sail over my head, two things occur to me. (1) WHY OH WHY did I decide to wear my cute jacket from Anthropologie today? (2) A hard hat would be an excellent accessory right about now.

My burst of activity comes after three hours of parking lot purgatory. Due to a mishap involving the accidental RECYCLING OF DIRECTIONS, I arrived at the staging/parking area just as the last shuttle pulled away. At that point (8:30 am), the job site was officially "full" and only contractors and other people with tangible skills were allowed to travel there. Since I am skill-less, I ended up directing cars and absorbing as much gossip as possible from other volunteers.

This place has all the right ingredients for an instant community. There is DRAMA in that the crew is 14 hours behind schedule due to the not-drying of the concrete foundation. Contractors bicker, multiple people bark orders into walkie-talkies, giant trucks make giant noise. Because of the delays, drywallers, tapers, and carpenters are beckoned and then sent away and then re-beckoned. But this also means they all have something to bitch about and bond over, which happens quickly.

There is INTRIGUE in that shirtless hottie Ty is hopping between this job site and one in Iowa (Idaho? A state starting with I). Eager volunteers keep tabs on his flight schedule and try to arrange themselves to be there when he returns. Stories are relayed wherein camera crews nudge actual carpenters aside so Ty can explain what "he" is building. The mere threat of celebrity presence and TV cameras keeps energy high and faces cheery.

And finally, there is MUD. A safety inspector tours the site and sees pneumatic staplers and other injury-producing tools wedged in a foot of muck. Shoes are destroyed. A truck down the hill gets stuck. 100,000 cubic yards of dirt and gravel must be distributed so the new house has something to sit on. The mud makes people who are barely working (such as myself), look like they're working really hard.

Two of my friends who have skills manage to add value all morning. They are dirty and sweaty and have the right boots and work gloves. They learn the system quickly and develop strategies to align themselves with certain crew bosses to get the good assignments. By Tuesday this place will boast one highly complex and evolved social structure as enemies are made, alliances are formed, and credit is doled. For now, the notion that on Thursday a finished house will be revealed to a deserving family in the midst of this absolute cluster is stunning and inspiring.

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