For the past week, they’ve been digging up the road outside my house. The council note in the letterbox said this’ll go on for the next three months. It’s inconvenient and it’s fascinating.
Every morning a team of workmen arrive and stand in a circle smoking cigarettes and drinking black coffee, while a guy in a neon vest places orange cones at either end of the block to stop traffic. He then gets in his air-conditioned, parked car and naps for the rest of the day.
When they are down to the Turkish coffee sludge at the bottom of their glasses, the rest of the crew flick away their butts and one man climbs into the dump truck, another into the excavator (both life-size versions of our Matchbox Digger collection) and they dig a serious, grave-like trench down the centre of road.
Moist orange dirt is piled into mounds and broken grey asphalt is stacked to the side so three more guys can move in with shovels and instruments to do their part. The foreman is calm and in control, diligently showing residents around the debris to their driveways, and guiding pedestrians along pathways so they don’t trip on the mess or slip in the mud. This continues through the heat of the day until late afternoon when the mini bulldozer springs into action, zigzagging and beeping incessantly until 5 p.m. sharp — when all goes quiet.
That’s when I venture outside to see the damage and it’s as if nothing has ever happened. The hole is filled in, the men are gone, and the construction vehicles stand like statues. Only a neatly swept, black scar runs down the centre of the street….…until the following morning when the whole process starts over again.
Given the time of year, I can’t help but wonder about the meaning of all this?
Am I in a Kafka novel? Is this Israeli Groundhog Day?
I decide it is a metaphor. A metaphor for life.
Every day we dig and dig and make a mess and a fuss and a whole lot of noise about the things we care about in the hope of improving them. And at the end of the day, we pack it all up and put it away neatly, ready to go at it again the following day.
On the surface, things look almost the same. But underneath, there may be a change. At least we hope there’s a change, and we hope that deep down, the change is for the better.
I wonder what the foreman thinks. I see he cares for his team and the passersby so I assume he enjoys the process and he must be mindful of the outcome.
But then again, maybe he just likes digging in the dirt.