“Wakey wakey, eggs and bakey”.
It’s dark in the bedroom. I mean dark as in still dark but I’m hearing the sound of shoveling – shoveling! – outside the guest bedroom window. I’m groggy, check my phone. 5:40 AM. I put some clothes on and stagger out the front door to see a pickup truck, headlights blazing, illuminating a solitary figure scraping out dirt in the driveway.
“They said you’d be here early, but I didn’t think this early!”, I said with a sleepy smile.
“Hope your neighbors don’t mind. I’m trying to be as quiet as possible.”
“Hard to keep the sound of shoveling dirt quiet. But don’t worry about it, I’ll cover for you. Believe me, the HOA knows my address by heart!”
“The crew will be here in fifteen minutes.”
He was wrong. The crew showed up less than ten minutes later. Two more guys. And then, shortly before 6 AM, the sound of a big truck. Like, cement mixer truck big:
It’s not quite 6 AM in the morning and I’ve got a crew already hard at work, shoveling dirt, smoothing it out, readying for the cement.
I put a pot of coffee on and offer a cup up to the guys. One, the youngest of the bunch named Juanito, accepts. The rest of the crew (including the cement mixer guy, with a beard worthy of a ZZ Top guitarist) laugh at him and politely decline. They know the game, know each other. They’ve done this so many times before, they came prepared. Juanito takes the cup I offer him with a big smile.
The dome of dawn has pushed the darkest of the night away. The cement mixer guy washes his apparatus down and with a happy wave is off to his next gig. Now the guys are hard at work, smoothing the cement out, tossing handfuls of the stuff in wherever needed to make it level.
“This is where you have to be careful”, says the guy playing supervisor. Once it’s poured you gotta get it smooth quickly. The longer it sits, the harder it is to get it back to where it needs to be. I’ll be here for the next three hours. Can’t have people putting their hands in it or driving their cars over it unintentionally.” Almost as if on cue, a car appears around the corner and one of the guys notices they’re tossing newspapers out onto everyone’s driveway. The car draws closer, and the guys are waving their hands frantically. The driver could care less – a newspaper comes flying out the passenger window, landing not a foot away from the freshly-poured cement.
“Asshole!”, the supervisor yells as the car goes round the cul-de-sac and zips away from us, tossing newspapers as if the rest of the world didn’t exist.
“Like I said.”
Twenty minutes later, they’re gone. Even the sup who said he’d be here for hours. Given our location on a cul-de-sac without families and kids there’s not a whole lot to worry about. But the work they did was awesone. Why, why it looks almost like… like driveway!
By the light of day it looks even better, but now I’ve got the latest in a series of piles of dirt on the lawn. For a moment I feel sad. I’m sick of piles of dirt. But the driveway is looking more awesome by the minute. And help is on the way.
It’s near 8 AM and I hear the sound of a truck pulling up front. The landscaping guys are here to put the front yard back in order. They’ve got a lot of work to do: digging a new trench around the perimeter of the yard to install the new watering system and cover all the non-lawn dirt areas with rock. The day is warming up big time, and there are even more piles of clay (I’ve been calling it dirt but our ground is really clay) all over the lawn. The laborers are doing the digging with a pick axe and shovel; Daniel the supervisor is doing all the brick and mortar.
“Don’t worry”, says Daniel, sensing my latest distress. “Everything always looks the darkest before the dawn.” Great. So now everyone’s a mystic. I’ll bet St. John of the Cross never had to deal with having his front lawn dug up what seems like a gazillion times. To simplify things, we’re cutting off a 8′ X 3′ section of lawn that bulged out towards the pistachio tree and returning that to rock cover.
Around 10 AM the supervisor and truck disappear, leaving the workers to shovel all the extra clay into a low area that will be covered with rock. The bigger clumps of clay – and there are a lot of them – get tossed into wheelbarrows and dumped on the street for safe-keeping. An hour later, Daniel and truck are back, this time with 4 1/2 tons of rock. It sounds like a lot, but the 4 1/2 tons only produces a fairly good-sized pile:
The watering system is laid and the latest piles of dirt disappear into the earth for a final time. It’s shortly past noon, and the cement that was poured just six hours earlier is already starting to look like it belongs where it is. I bring out a few ice-cold Diet Sprites and offer them around. “Break time!”, says Daniel, and we all congregate in the shade for a welcome break in the action. We chat for a while and then, rejuvenated, the guys get back to loading wheelbarrows of rock and cover all the dirt that’s not part of the lawn.
It takes only 90 minutes for three guys to move 4 1/2 tons of rock, and just like Daniel promised several weeks ago, with the exception of a wide dirt stripe running across the lawn, you’d never know anything had happened:
Another $3,200 on the credit card, but it’s only money, right?
The day after, me and Carmelo are walking the lawn. It takes all of one minute. Carmelo measures the big dirt stripe and rubs his chin. “I’m gonna have my guys remove all the clumps on top of the dirt. On Tuesdays there’s a guy at Home Depot I can talk to about getting some loam for you. He grabs my measuring tape and then his calculator, then runs the numbers in his head.
The world stands still for a moment as you can almost hear the gears turning in his head.
“I can do this. Give me two weeks and I’ll have it all laid out for you. Once the Bermuda seed is down you won’t even know anything ever happened here.”
And that’s the way it all ended. No fanfare, no parting of clouds and angelic choir. Just an extra-heavy Citi Card in the present and weeks of anxiety in the past. I truly believe come two months from now you’ll never even know anything big happened here. Oh, there might be a section of the driveway just a shade darker then the rest, and (as Carmelo pointed out) the landscapers could have done a better job matching up the new rock with the old rock that was previously there, but that’s pretty small potatoes in the grand scheme of things.
Our long national nightmare is over. Now it’s time to do whatever it takes to eliminate the new pile of debt we’ve accumulated in such a short period of time. God willing and the creek don’t rise we could still be debt free come Halloween. If that were to happen there could be one hell of a post-60th birthday celebration!