Workers are repairing the facade of the building where we rent our winter apartment. They started on the 17th floor on January 2 and today they've finally made it to the fourth floor, and right now they're drilling and chiseling and scraping away the old finish right outside the window next to my desk.
We've gotten to know them over the days we've been here and they're funny and polite and happy and at least two of them have pretty good voices when they sing. I don't want to think like this but I'm way south of the Mason-Dixon line, so here goes: Even though they're white, I'm reminded of the old plantation slaves. Not because they're funny and polite and happy and can sing -- no, that would be stereotyping -- but because my husband just came in, spitting with rage, to tell me that they're working out there in the cold (and in the heat when it's hot), on a swaying scaffold, working a 79 1/2-hour work week, and they're getting no overtime.
It started like this: My husband went out to kibitz and said, joking, "Don't you guys ever have a day off?" (Because this has been going on non-stop every day since we got here, including Saturdays and Sundays) And one of the guys said, "Ha! You got it! I worked 79 1/2 hours last week." And my husband, joking, said, "Wow, you better be getting some good overtime."
And the guy looks at him like he's from Michigan or something (the old Michigan, not this new one), and says, "There's no overtime."
And my husband says, not joking now, "They can't do that. It's against the law. You're entitled to overtime if you work more than 40 hours, and they could get in big trouble if they don't give it to you."
And one of them says, "Yeah, we know. But if we complain we could lose our jobs."
So that's that. They're out there singing. And I'm writing this on the dining room table because I can't think in there with all the noise. And it turns out I can't think out here, either, because, try as I might, I don't know what I'm supposed to say now.