Three men and a sledgehammer – 05/20/2023 – Antonio Prata

That sounds like, I don’t know, a silly title given by ChatGPT 4 for an Afternoon Session comedy. (The more improved ChatGPT 5 would probably christen it “Three Men and a Very Crazy Sledgehammer”). It has nothing to do, however, with Afternoon Session or AI: that’s what I saw through the window shortly after waking up from peaceful dreams and finding the neighboring buffet metamorphosed into a monstrous demolition.

I’ll leave the lamentations about a mastodon being raised ten feet from my nose for another column, about the disgrace it is to live in a city that, etc. The subject here is different.

For months now, I’ve spent long minutes snooping around at work seven floors below. The first week it was just a sledgehammer. In a few days, three guys in blue overalls and yellow helmets knocked down the roof and all the walls of the house. (When they got close to the jambs and frames, they would come with a smaller sledgehammer and chisel, they would cut around, with care, until they got the windows and doors intact).

When only the reinforced concrete structure remained —pillars, beams, slabs—, the game became more interesting. With hammers (mini jackhammers —or, should I say, mega drills?) they dug into the reinforced concrete, until only the rebar networks were left, which were cut with a blowtorch.

Last Wednesday, they began to cut a slab of about 12 square meters, with a hammer. I don’t understand the slightest bit of civil (de)construction, but I intuited that at some point that rhinoceros was going to collapse and crash to the ground, three meters below. Day after day, I watched the cutting of the slab as if it were a soap opera, until I felt that yesterday was the final chapter of the plot. When the hammer was done, the other man torched the metals, and the slab came crashing down like a five-ton Odete Roitman, leaving not a trail of blood on the wall but an atomic mushroom of dust.

In the early days of demolition, I thought my interest stemmed from some ogre instinct, a Homer Simpson corner of my cortex. Gradually, however, I came to understand that it was quite the opposite. What I envied in the breakers was Apollonian, not Dionysian. I envied the certainty of that work, the opposite of mine. They arrive at a finished work and dismantle it. I stop in front of the blank page and build. They know, from the beginning, where they are going to get to and every step they will take towards it. I spend weeks in front of two pillars with seven windows. I knock it down. I erect three doors and a roof. I delete everything and start over just for the water tank, a giant water tank, 500,000 liters, which I have no idea what it will be used for.

There are times, not infrequently, that after days, weeks, months or years I discover that there was no work to be built on that land. Weeds are already growing among the abandoned phrases, mobbed subjects kick direct and indirect objects in search of predicates. It’s not very pleasant.

I know, I know that this gentleman on the seventh floor is privileged, who works with what he likes and enjoys a comfortable life, while the three workers earn barely enough to sweat from sunrise to sunset, dreaming of being football players, astronauts, doctors, tiktokers or shahs of Persia. That’s not what I’m talking about. (Is there still room for the chronicle or has it already been canceled in the name of the culture wars?).

What I meant was that sometimes I didn’t mean anything. I wanted to take a sledgehammer or a hammer and break everything until there was only 2,000 square meters of bond paper. Another who decides what to erect there.

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#men #sledgehammer #Antonio #Prata

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