Sunday, August 02, 2009

It pays to keep your camera with you, if you're brave enough to use it

Among the things that never cease to amaze me when I am out and about are the really dangerous work habits that would get someone arrested in the US. I like to get photographs, but you have to be very surreptitious – like everyone in the world no one here likes to get caught doing something that they know is wrong. And while we as westerners look at these activities and assume that the people doing them don’t know any better, I think it’s different. I think first of all they get the job done with the limited resources they have and second, they try to get it done fast. There is no doubt that doing things safely is more expensive and time consuming and those commodities in a white hot economy are in short supply. What bothers me the most though is that in addition to crossing the street, being a passenger in a car and riding my bicycle, this kind of stuff adds a fourth dimension to my personal jeopardy.

• A couple of days ago I was walking down Jinma Lu on the way to the grocery store passing by the luxury apartment tower that is being built two doors down. It was hot and really sunny and a man approached me going the other direction using a bright yellow umbrella to provide a little shade. For whatever reason I looked up and directly above his brightly colored brolly was a bundle of rebar being lifted by a crane and swaying in the breeze. No spotters, no containment in the construction site, just this bundle of steel rods slowly drifting upwards. I wondered how his umbrella would fare in that kind of shower. I gave him a wide berth and picked up the pace.

• Last Sunday when we stopped for our natural break, I watched a man unloading a backhoe from a flat bed truck. Instead of using ramps, the operator was lowering the thing off the truck by using the front and back implements. He lowered the backside scraper to the ground and supported the backhoe in the air. Then he used the bucket to lift the machine off the truck. By inching back and forth, he slowly got in on the ground much to the amusement of the ten or fifteen citizens that were standing precisely where it would topple if the operator miscalculated. This one merited a video but I didn’t want to risk being the victim of a mob.


• Yesterday while exploring a route I happened to pass a truck depot. I didn’t particularly like it because the trucks were parked half in my lane and half up on the curb forcing me out into the traffic which was gratefully light at the minute. And the end of a long line of them, a truck load of 8” iron sewer pipe was parked at a very rakish angle and bunch of guys were up on the load of pipe fastening wires from a crane to start the unloading. Of course the pipe was piled much higher than the stakes in the truck bed which meant if one pipe started rolling a dozen were going to go carrying the workers with them. Right down on top of me. I rode by really fast and didn’t look back.


• This morning I headed out and up the back way behind the Inn Fine Hotel, my quiet route to the park on the other side of the light rail tracks. Coming around the corner I was presented with two workers and a really big tank truck using a fire hose to spray insecticide on the trees along the street. They’d attached a smaller diameter pipe to the end in order to get a 20 or more foot geyser. The air was misty with atomized chemical and the street was pretty much flooded with it. I held my breath and rode by but I caught a nice patina as I passed including my glasses which were fogged with the spray. I had planned a lazy ride in the quiet streets of the industrial zone but every street was being sprayed so that plan went out the window. I got caught a second time coming around a corner and this bath was even worse.


• I had to pick a different route because of the spraying and in doing so I passed a building that was getting a face lift. On one corner scaffolding had been erected up to the top floor which was perhaps 8 stories above the ground. A long vertical line of men were standing on each level of the piping and they were each handing supplies up to the guy above them, moving pieces and parts from the ground to the roof. No one was wearing a safety harness and no one had a platform to stand on, just a pipe. I did stop here to take a photo because in addition to being nuts it was also a bit artistic. I prepared the camera and focused out of their sight and then moved forward to take the shot. As I was putting my camera in my backpack I noticed a blue shirted security guard hustling my way. I calmly took a look, mounted up and rode on looking back to see him standing there watching me.



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