mercredi 6 mai 2009

Work, and anti-work

It all falls off

Bonjour Maçon

Bonjour maçon,
Aurais-tu du plâtre?
Oui m'sieur, oui m'sieur,
Trois sacs pleins.

Un pour le maître,
Un pour la dame.
Et un pour le p'tit garçon
Au bout du chemin.

Merci dit le maître.
Merci dit la dame.
Merci dit le p'tit garçon
Au bout du chemin.

(Sung to the tune of Baa-baa, Black Sheep, the modern version. Wonderful how the tune for the sung version comes from a French song published in 1761, Ah! Vous dirai-je Maman. That is how many bags of plaster and blue junk ended up out in the entry courtyard, waiting for the garbage collection day tomorrow.)

Well, I came out yesterday morning to get back to work, and the first thing I see is a large blister in the plaster I had applied to the "blue wall". I nearly fainted from shock and disappointment, but, wait! There were others. They were everywhere. I stood and looked at them, a deep sense of futility settling over my can-do, positive spirit. It was one of those moments when you think If I just stand here and look long enough, it will eventually go away, and everything will be just as I want it.

Okay, I'm ready. Change.


I'm wait-ing. [foot tapping]

No. It doesn't ever work that way. This was reality, like it or not. It was just like when you paint a surface you haven't cleaned well enough after sanding, or have failed to prime, hoping to get away with skipping a step -- as baleful in its consequences in painting as in math --, and you have to scrape it off until you can't and start anew. I picked up the spatula and pushed it into the center of the blister. It caved in.

I don't know what I was expecting to see, since it is virtually impossible, or just impossible, for the plaster stuff only to blister, but there below was a perfectly, satiny smooth surface. The blue stuff had come away in a crumbly mess with the plaster stuff I had applied, and there was Audouin's wall!

I dug the corner of the spatula under the edge and pushed it along the wall. A whole sheet of the blue stuff came away, leaving a still larger satiny smooth section of wall exposed. There I was, lamenting all my hours of work, all the plaster stuff wasted, blistered and now falling off the wall, and the truth was that it had done me a big favor. It wasn't really a waste. Wallpaper remover might have been cheaper and easier, but it never occurred to me that it could be possible to remove this stuff that way.

Whatever it had taken, the fact remained: Audouin had been beside himself when a certain person applied that gunk to the wall he had just taken such great pains to finish so smoothly -- and perhaps I have underestimated his reserves of patience? No [shaking head]. No, that's not possible. Now that I am here to do this stuff, he has none left for it --, and here, all these years later, was his work, restored to him, delivered to him, to enjoy every time he walks into this room, and I am the one to have done it, rather than criticize him.

For once.

There's a certain poetic justice there.

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