Some Monday morning cheer for ya — a.k.a. how things work in the real world of big money, big influence and big government:
How Fannie and Freddie — among the chief engineers of the mortgage wreckage have become even more “important” than ever.
On the smaller domestic scale — here at Last-Chance Gulch where there is little money, no influence, and only those bits of big government that come wandering randomly in now and then — house walls went up over the weekend, thanks to the generosity and teamwork of neighbors. A bare foundation became the framework of a house overnight. That’s a wonderful thing. I’ll have more (probably, per Dave’s request, in an upcoming print edition of BHM).
But given that it’s a Monday morning and I’m a bit grouchy (with much more house-work ahead this week), I’ve got a question for you: What is it with guys and women on construction projects? How come we females so often get treated like retarded children?
I’m the first to admit that in most (though certainly not all) cases, the guys are more capable of taking the lead on framing a house, and heavens bless ’em for that. My own participation this weekend was mere manual labor — hauling cut wood from chop saw to house and occasionally helping lift a completed wall into place. I make no claim to doing anything brilliant & I won’t really come into my own on this project until we get to the interior finishing. One of the other women cooked and hosted all the meals. Another, who is quite experienced with construction and even does most of the local small-backhoe work, did some of the sawing and hauling. Yet another — the actual owner of this miniature country palace and knows its specs extremely well — supervised, calculated, and was in the thick of the most important decisions all weekend long. At one key stage, she saved the guys from a very bad math error.
Yet when we were trying to lift one of the biggest walls into place, nobody would listen to her when she pointed out that it wasn’t going to work because one of the anchor bolts was was in the way. She had to say it three times and finally yell because everyone was ignoring her. All weekend long, she’d start to do something and one of the guys would push her out of the way so he could do it himself.
My own “retarded child” moment came when several of the guys were trying to make sure a couple of the walls were straight. I was the only one available to pick up a bubble-level at that moment. So I did.
“It’s a half inch off vertical,” I said.
“It’s a half inch off vertical,” one of the guys echoed, peering from his perch on a ladder.
I didn’t mind his duplication at all — you know, “Measure twice …” and all. That was okay. But then another guy had to take the level away from me and check for himself.
On to the next wall. Again, I took up the level.
“It’s leaning 3/16″ to the left,” I said.
The same guy who had taken the level from me a moment earlier looked over my shoulder and said, “It looks perfectly fine to me.”
“That’s because at this moment I’m holding the level exactly straight so I can see exactly how much the wall is off from square.” I nodded toward the 3/16″ gap between wall and the bottom of the level.
“Let me have that!” he barked, grabbing the level out of my hand.
I backed away. He measured.
“It’s leaning 3/16″ to the left,” he told the other guys.
Not, “Yep, she’s right. It’s leaning 3/16″ to the left.” Not, “Sorry, Claire, I just wanted to double check.” But, “It’s leaning 3/16″ to the left” — as though this was a discovery that only a person with sufficient levels of testosterone could possibly make, a discovery that he had newly made for himself. I simply didn’t exist.
“Uh … yeah, that’s just what I said,” I called after him as he retreated with level in hand. But of course, he wasn’t listening to me then, either.
So what is it, anyhow? As I say, I make no pretense of being a construction expert. I was happy simply to carry lumber and stay out of the way of more experienced people for the most part. And I’m far from being some rabid feminist, always looking for “inequality,” real or illusory. On the contrary, I celebrate the skills of my men friends — and my women friends, too.
But what leads otherwise wonderful guys to the conclusion that I’m too stupid to read a level? Why is the house owner herself ignored when she’s pointing out a problem only she can see? And why is this sort of treatment so common on construction sites where men and women are working together?