Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Construction worker stereotypes advanced in So. Portland

It’s not a bad beginning for the day this morning, but the weather folk tell us that “a chance” of showers and/or thundershowers from mid afternoon through the evening. That same weather will continue through the rest of the week. The weather should not ruin today's lunch, though. This is the last Wednesday of the month and a good group of us retirees will be having our monthly lunch session.

I’m about to make a really lousy comment based totally on seconds of observation and no substantiating facts. But impressions, especially the first and only, are important so I would think it would behoove those spending our money be cognizant of that.

What I witnessed as I passed a construction site yesterday was the absolute epitome of the stereotyped road construction worker being paid with taxpayer money. Gator Wife and I were on a shopping trip that took us past the Maine Mall where the Maine Mall Road, former Payne Road in that area, is being ripped up and rebuilt to make it a friend of the environment.

In that admittedly short time it took us to drive by, I didn’t have time to count all the workers on the job, but there were very many. The road is being completely removed and a new underlay of rocks and stuff is being installed. There were many different types of activity present, including truck driving, heavy equipment operating, and a small few doing related jobs.

For every one person actually working, there was a knot of workers doing absolutely nothing except standing in a circle. Those knots varied in persons from three to seven or eight. If there were 50 workers on that job in those few moments we drove past, 40 were just standing around. The ones actually doing something looked like they were very hard at work.

If I had to make a guess about all those workers, it would be that they had specific assignments to be accomplished, perhaps at different times. But that’s not my point here; the point is simply the perception of how public construction workers give the impression of taking four people to watch while one works. When the number of “watchers” was as big as I saw yesterday, it completely emphasizes all those jokes and perceptions of hard working public construction workers.

One of those perceptions was that an awful lot of money was being wasted on that road project.

As I said in the beginning, all this is based solely on a short drive-by of the construction project. We were among a long line of cars passing the work and I’d bet most of the people in those cars had a similar thought about the number of people appearing to be doing nothing. We may have simply caught them in the middle of a break, or in the middle of waiting for their part of the project to need them, or many other very logical, good reasons for their just standing around.

Since taxpayer money is involved, all those idle workers should be aware the people paying them are watching. A better impression might have been an interest in performing some work.

While I’m on a little rant, I have a commercial comment. The bank with which I do most of my business is TD Banknorth. It’s changing its name to simply TD Bank. Not a bad change. But I sure do hope they didn’t spend too much money on those commercials telling us. They aren’t cute or humorous. They’re not even interesting.


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