Two Men Could Build A Bridge

Some obscure cosmic logic dictates that similar jobs come in waves.  Three chimneys, four stone retaining walls, five tuckpointing projects.  This is good for the crew, as they increase their familiarity with one technique or process and repeat it with confidence (and speed, OK?).  At the intersection of Main St. Canandaigua and Gibson St., just north of the center of town, turn of the century churches occupy three of the four corners.  We have worked on all of them.

One year we get a call to reset some loose stone and repoint deteriorated mortar joints on First United Methodist Church, a six story tall mass of sandstone from 1903.  Repointing historic masonry should be done about every twenty years, as some joints deteriorate from weathering and begin to allow water to penetrate the façade.  Left untouched, water may freeze behind the brick or stone and start to dislodge these pieces, to the consternation of pedestrians below.  Of course most institutions don't adhere to this schedule, and we call that job security (which cannot be taken away by an engineer in Bangalore).  This kind of job is typically done from a man lift, a large purpose-built machine with a two man basket which can extend up to any height desired, up to around twelve stories.  They are expensive to rent (or own, if kept in good condition), but still cheaper than erecting scaffolding.

Stretched thin for labor, I decide to send one of my guys to execute this job in Canandaigua and hire some local talent to assist.  An ad in the local paper yields several masons with experience interested in the work, whom I start to interview one by one at a local coffee shop within eyeshot of the church.  As I describe the scope of the project, which I estimate will take all summer, some concern is expressed about the size of the crew.  How many masons?  How many helpers?  How much scaffolding?  Skepticism abounds.  Finally I meet John, whose hair is more gray than mine, who describes his itinerant career laying brick and stone all over the country.  'First thing I do when I come into a new town,' he says, 'is look for the cranes'.  When I explain my proposed method and crew size, he smiles:  'Sure, that'll work.  Two guys could build a bridge'.  And by the end of the summer, they had.