Chick Wit: Outside looking in, from scaffolding

Posted: September 01, 2014

I'm currently sitting in front of my computer not wearing a bra. This is pretty standard for me, not usually an issue, except I just made eye contact with a construction worker standing one foot outside my window.

I've got scaffolding problems.

Construction is a fact of life in New York City. Real estate is to New York as oil is to Texas, it's where all the money is, and for real estate barons, maintaining and improving their most valuable asset takes precedence over any resident's needs.

Capital capital trumps human capital every time.

Excuse me, Trumps®.

I'm used to construction noise, the jackhammering, the beeping as trucks reverse, the once-concerning booms and bangs. I walk through a neighborhood in perpetual semi-demolition without a second thought. It's debatable whether or not I need a hard hat to walk the dog.

The sounds still alarm my mother, even when she hears them over the telephone.

"Are you OK?" she'll cry. "What was that?"

"Hmm? Oh, they're destroying a preschool to build another Marc Jacobs."

Alarming, but in a different way.

I didn't fully appreciate how awful construction could be until it hit close to home.

About four inches from my home, to be exact.

Without warning, the management started some surface renovations to the façade of my building in the spring. I live in a small duplex on the ground floor, my bedroom is on the lower level, and the first thing the crew did was rip out the wrought-iron fence outside my bedroom windows.

At first, I was delighted. Food deliverymen serving my neighbors' late-night cravings often chained their bikes on that fence, and the sound of jangling chains would wake me up.

It was like the ghost of Jacob Marley was coming to bring me vegetable lo mein harbingers of regret.

So, I was pro-construction! Until the next morning, when I awoke to steel scaffolding being hammered into the exterior wall.

The noise made a bike chain sound like wind chimes.

The following morning, I thought my clock was wrong - quarter to eight and completely dark outside? Then I realized my apartment had been mummified.

They had wrapped the outside of my apartment with a thick mesh netting to protect it from whatever Smash Bros. "improvements" they were doing to the exterior.

I was living inside a gypsy-moth nest.

Upstairs, things really got awkward. The scaffolding is level with my second floor, so the workmen look like they're in my living room.

Sitting at my desk beside my window, they're so close I feel like I should offer them a soda.

What's the social etiquette here? If I don't acknowledge them, I feel like a snob. If I do acknowledge them, it's like I'm on an all-day blind date.

With six men. For the next eight weeks.

Even closing my windows feels personal, like I'm closing it in their face. For the first two weeks, I said, "Sorry" every time.

How about the etiquette on their end? Getting checked out by construction workers is a hazard for any woman, but I'm not used to it when I'm sitting on my couch.

To be fair, the crew has been respectful. They don't smile or interact with me when I'm inside the apartment.

However, as soon as I walk outside, all bets are off.

When I heard one mutter something behind me on the sidewalk, I wanted to turn around and say, "We'll talk about this when we get home."

So I feel a low level of self-consciousness all day. When I'm eating at my table, I use my restaurant manners instead of my lives-alone manners.

Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about.

And when I'm writing at my desk, I try to look busy and not surf the Internet.

So maybe it's not such a bad thing.

The main inconvenience is I've had to dress better - or, more - during my workday.

People who go to an office every day may not understand, but I work at home - dressing like a homeless person who may have a gym membership is not just my choice, it's my right.

Believe me, if I wanted to wear pants to work, I'd have a job that offered health insurance.

I should have a needlepoint pillow that says, "Home Is Where the Bra Comes Off."

So, I decided, forget it. Deal with it, boys. I'm working here.

And as if by magic, my super told me the scaffolding comes down tomorrow.

Because nobody wants to see that.

Home improved.


Look for Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella's columns in their new collection, "Have a Nice Guilt Trip." Also, look for Lisa's new novel, "Keep Quiet," in stores now.

Francesca@francescaserritella.com.

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