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Work season

BY Sonny Orr Nov 24, 2021

Early every morning, the sound of heavy equipment isn’t open for debate. Like clockwork, the earth shudders and my eyes open, the same for all my neighbours, I imagine. It’s the modern-day version of the rooster – its shrill crow replaced by low rumblings and the screeching of cold metal. 

The contractors are running full tilt, taking advantage of the abnormally warm weather during this so-called winter season. My coffee gets an extra drop as the compactor rolls by slowly, shaking that precious liquid into my waiting cup. As the noise dies down, another neighbourhood is rudely awakened as the crew starts afresh in our town under construction.

Thankfully, the weather holds up long enough to get a lot of work done as planeloads of supplies are flown in. Usually brought in by ship, this being a pandemic year, the need to grow continues, and we forge on. Soon the little snowflakes will annoy many outdoor workers. But hey, it’s the course of the season that dictates the outcome of an extra roofing job or a shutdown until the warm weather returns next spring. The rest of the work is indoors, so the interiors get the final treatment. That’s just to keep a few families safely under a roof and hopefully, overcrowding and other problems will be solved.

Aside from that, I’m pleased as heck to use the new faucets in my washroom. The mysterious maintenance guys in dark coveralls showed up again and left me to discover that the drip-drip-drip of Chinese water torture was mercifully over. Wow! Nice job! 

Even a light switch got repaired and I’m thankful for not having to stretch skywards to turn a bulb on and off while balancing on a kitchen chair. I check to see if anything else has changed in my slightly renovated home, but no, I should be happy for a while now.

On another note, a cautious one at that, our Inuit brethren to the north have been hit drastically by the latest Covid variant, an extremely contagious one. Nunavik now has the highest rate of contagion per capita – changing from a territory relatively untouched to one whose spread has affected many and within a short time frame. 

Perhaps it will be contained and decrease as soon as all the regular safety measures are followed. Again, hope is near as children are now being vaccinated and schools will soon be safer too. Let us not let politics or other opinions sway from the fact that this little bug doesn’t care or know any better, but we do.

As far as the south is concerned, the area is gradually allowing social gatherings and fans at hockey games. Bars get their dance floors and higher limits. Libraries, well, unknown yet as distance is measured in decibels, and you can get thrown out on an ordinary day for talking out loud. Maybe another passport is needed besides the library card to enter the stacks of knowledge, forever encased in paper and made to last for decades. 

For those who don’t know, a decade feels like a century for today’s youth and can often lead to incredible changes or none at all during that time. Next thing you know, you’re 26 and wishing that you were sweet 16 forever. That’s what a decade feels like in real time.

On a further note, I’ve been working with some cool dudes who just happen to be a few months apart in age as me and I discovered that they could understand some old jokes. Ribald and raucous, those jokes set us apart from the ponytailed, hair-bunned men. We jostled our faded jeans constantly and in between jokes, hardcore work got done. 

Sometimes you just gotta enjoy life even while swearing over an unbudging four-inch-wide bolt, that we somehow managed to snap off with pure aged brute strength. Naw, no problem, life goes on. So, I salute those hard-working men with the unbreakable safety hats and solid steel toes and wish them good weather for another month.

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Sonny Orr is Cree from Chisasibi, and has been a columnist for the Nation for over 20 years. He regularly pens Rez Notes from the cozy social club in Whapmagoostui where he resides.