The hidden years in Canada 12, the skip

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Saturday 14 March 21:02

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The skip

We drove to Place Concord where we would work until we fell over. Out of habit I clicked on CKXL, Plastic cheerfully Mashmakan was announced.’ Just arrived in the charts.’ It was the first successful Indian band. ‘The latest hit’, said the voice,’ note this is a climber’, ‘children of the sun.’ I had never heard of them, but this was really good, social criticism on the white way of life and with a hint to improve it. Children of the city began the high voice, surrounded by an oriental meter, awake before it is too late, mother's and father's working so hard all day long, get back to the where clause beauty..that's you wanna be ... ‘it had the feverish haunting rhythm which is so peculiar to Indian music. Only years later bands like Wishbone and Redbone would break through  and much later Creedence would hook on with songs about the environment, the indigenous peoples were already naturally concerned with respect for nature. Mashmakan, was cool, they explained with a few sentences where it hurt, with the finger on the sore spot. It was the beginning of the real good music that drained out of the cosmos,and  was strewn all over the Western world. You understood it immediately, because you realized the truth when you heard it. We were tuned in, as the presenter of CKXL would say. Tune in and drop out at the top of your dial at 114 CKXL!

We drove on to the site and the Pontiac was parked next to a construction cabin, we would go straight from our work home. The company-owned trucks were loaded behind us, and the old car of Louis lip parked beside me and out of it rolled at least seven workers when the doors opened. We walked to the skip which was an openwork cage. With sliding doors on the street side, just mesh doors of lattice work, and on the other hand, lattice doors towards the building again. You got 6 or 7 men in and you shut the doors manually, there were three large buttons on a panel. A red one that stopped the skip and a green one that put it in slow motion. Crawling up along a rail. The yellow button in the middle was to descend. You stepped inside and shut the doors by pulling them toward each other, there was no lock on, you pressed the green button and the elevator began along a rail working his way up. If you came to the floor where you had to be, then you pressed the red button and then on the building side got you out. Sometimes it stopped slightly higher or lower and then you had the other buttons to adjust the lift or you just jumped out. As long as you pressed the button, the skip responded.

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If you had to work on the 15th floor, then you moved up along the emergency rail at the side of the building, to the 14th floor. From the Monday we were to work on the 16th floor and the ‘skip’ team would have extended the rails up to the 15th floor. The first time I had gone up my stomach had turned over  from fear and exaggerated jokes were made by the men only meant to over shout their own fear. We were still far away from health and safety laws then. We had seen an Indian fall out of the cage  between the first and second floor, he had  leaned against the door while rolling a cigarette. Observing is the best form of education, so if you see something like that , from then on you’d only stand in the middle of the cage. In itself, this was also unpleasant, although the floor was an inch thick, it was but a metal plate which started sagging a bit toward the bottom. It was perhaps that inch thick, but you felt uncomfortable with it. Under that skip was a lot of air, dozens of floors, until you splashed into the ground if it would go wrong.

Louis had a standard joke of stopping the car between floors and then he did a heights test with a novice, he would open the door to the street side. ‘Come with me on the threshold,’ he would say and you’d look over the traffic and see them like ants crawling down in the depth, and if you were afraid or scared, then you went back down with the next cage. It was macho behavior. I had kept myself well when it happened to me and with contempt for death I had looked down, at least I had pointed my head face down, but I forced myself to look in front of me. The depth lures and draws you, if you look into it. I even stepped out with one foot and stood frozen as floating in a giant step. ‘No,’ the lip had screamed as he pulled me in. ‘Do you have Indian blood,’ he barked at me? ‘I thought you wanted to see if I was chicken, I replied. ‘You can go up’, he had said, but I saw the sweat beads on his forehead.

George the pigsty and neat Howie, Mama Fuzz and Rico and I got together with Freddy McGee in the cage. George pulled the doors half shut, but nobody said anything. It would  have been easy, You just had to say, ‘hey pig pull those doors shut, but your pride kept you from doing so, misplaced pride. Howie looked a bit pale and I personally would feel more comfortable having reached the top of a floor. ‘Come and stand beside me,’ George said to Howie who now trembled a little. The cage was working slowly up and between the 13th and 14th floor and pig stopped the cage. He rolled his muscles a bit, 'oh mechanical failure,' he said,’ let’s see what's wrong. ‘ The size of matchboxes, the traffic moved  13 floors down, he pushed the doors open. With one hand he held on to a profile, and with the other gorilla arm he grabbed Howie firmly in the neck. ‘Mistuh Kurt,’ he said, ‘mistuh Kurt. ‘ How posh we speak neat Howie, can you scream posh as well. ‘ Slowly he pulled Howie, who was now frozen with wide open eyes, to the doorway. ‘That's a big step, Howie', he laughed, as if he made us partakers of a dangerous secret in a kind of demonic fraternity. Howie was balancing on the edge, and his whole body had gone rigid.

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I tapped Freddy McGee on his hand and pointed with my right hand to his knife. I made with my right index finger a little beckoning gesture and Freddy put the knife in my hand and I took a step forward. 'Do not move pig, ‘I said and I pressed the sharp point of the knife against his neck. ‘ Pull Howie slowly back,’ I heard myself say with a steely voice, not a word too much, the ice dripped off it. I pushed the point into his skin. ‘Howie come stand behind me,’ I commanded him, when he was free. ‘So pig, let me see if you can scream when you take that big step.’ That step of three seconds. It was dead quiet in the cage, as if I was alone with the pig. ‘You are so terribly buggered, pig,’ I said, 'you thought you were going to come home today? ‘ Whatever, said the pig and you could smell his sweat fill the space. ‘Whatever you want, I'll give you everything but do not push me.’ It sounded funny from pig’s lips, whining piteously. ‘pig, are we tough today,’ I asked, ‘let me hear you call out loud mistuh Kurt.’ I exerted a little more pressure on the knife. ‘Mistuh Kurt,’ cried pig in the wind, the wind which is always present at heights immediately blew his words away. ‘No,’ I said 'sorry, that was not good enough, I could not hear you, and I want to hear it with feeling a little longer and louder. ‘ 'Mistuuuuh Kurt, ‘it sounded whimpering. ‘So that was not bad,’ I said, 'pull the door shut before you fall out. ‘

George looked green of misery, 'No hard feelings George, ‘I said. ‘No,’ George said. ‘Good then we can go to work.’ ‘You're all crazy,’ said Howie. ‘ Yes, ‘I admitted,’ that's right ‘. ‘Can I have my knife back big mother’ asked Freddy? ‘When we get off, that seems more comfortable,’ I replied. ‘I resign,’ said Howie, ‘I am not stepping out, I’ll go down and I hope never to see any of you again. ‘ ‘You do well,’ I laughed, ‘and say to the lip why you are quitting, I'd like that.’ When I got out, I gave the knife with the handle backwards to Freddy, 'give me back cover today McGee, ‘I said,’ I feel that I need that today.

San Daniel March 2015

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