I don’t know how it always seems to happen to me. I find myself in a living condition where, out of nowhere, the building will suddenly “require” (as if) some massive overhaul on its exterior. The kind of overhaul where the coterie of workers is staring you directly in the face right outside the window, liable to make lewd gestures if you look back for too long. So you close the window. Darkness. The additional detraction of ambience from your work environment compounded by an onslaught of noise pollution. An ear rape so profound, you can’t believe you ever thought being among the public was that bad—now that your “private” residence has been infiltrated.
I’m sometimes convinced construction workers specifically target those homes that they know will have someone in it during the day. A sadistic little perk of the job. Ha! You think you can enjoy being all cushy in there while working-class people like us have to suffer? Think again, bitch! Well, I’ve thought. Many, many times. And I don’t fucking abide arbitrary construction without any forewarning. Mind you, this has only happened to me in France. I highly doubt it would be allowed in the U.S., lest a homeowner should come out wielding a shotgun and screaming, “Get the fuck off my property!” The kind of luxury I sort of wish I had right now (in addition to actually owning property). And, because I am already meek and introverted in English, I’m not about to talk to someone in French about how much they’re annoying the shit out of me and how much fucking longer is this going to take, you goddamn asshole ruining my life, siphoning my livelihood as you get yours?
It is in moments like these when I am reminded how little regard there truly is for the writer. How lacking the understanding is of their need for quiet sanctuary in order to think, to let their mind wander. Perhaps because the profession is deemed decadent and luxurious, nothing more than a smokescreen for being a layabout, few non-writers can have much empathy for the horror of impromptu and persistent construction. But rest assured, there is nothing more torturous to the writer than having their thoughts constantly interrupted by some piercing, reverberating, headache-inducing noise—whether drilling, hammering, tossing roof tiles off the side of the abode, what have you.
And, again, since writing is seldom respected as it is, and people who actually “work” (a.k.a. “physically” and “with their hands”—as though writing doesn’t require that, too) have more clout, I laugh at the idea of trying to reason with one of these construction types. At the imagined dialogue that would ensue as a result of pleading with them that the work they’re doing is superfluous, and the building is in no need of any upkeep at this time. At least, not until I move out and someone with a “real” job who isn’t home all day moves in.
Coming back to the aforementioned roof tiles reference, in a structure where there’s absolutely nothing to work on, they have managed to ascend the roof (side note: I live right underneath the roof) and start fiddling away. Ripping up the tiles as though they weren’t perfectly functional. Nobody said a word about this to me. There was no sign posted in the building. How is this even legal? I’ll tell you how. Because no one, especially now that the work-from-home days of the pandemic are over, has any consideration for the fact that there might be a writer in the building. Or that, as a writer living in the middle of nowhere, there are few places to retreat to in order to continue one’s work. By the same token, even if I were a “big city girl,” I probably wouldn’t have the miraculous budget like Carrie Bradshaw to go around the corner to some hotel and write there. This being precisely what she does in the season three episode of Sex and the City, “Easy Come, Easy Go,” after Aidan offers to strip her floors (naturally, a sexual innuendo is intended). Plus, in that scenario, she voluntarily signed on for the pain.
In every instance of my experience with construction infiltration, it was never from a bougie enough place for me to “request improvements” to be made (in which case, one would probably have alternative lodging to rely on). If it ain’t broke, don’t fuckin’ fix it. There are some writers who might be able to tell themselves that it serves as a “fun” mental challenge to attempt working through such conditions, to “overpower” and harness them into a new form of intense concentration that can tune out all external variables. And shouldn’t broke-ass writers subject to low-budget accommodations get used to such a practice if they ever want to keep writing? We surprise ourselves with what we can endure when we have to, and all that rot. Well, I’ve never been that kind of bird.
Madonna once said she missed songwriting in shitty conditions, “the struggle” of those early days that pushed her. But songwriting isn’t quite as involved (don’t tell Taylor) as prose and it’s easy to romanticize “shitty conditions” when one presently lives in lavish ones. And yet, I can almost guarantee that even if I lived in a lavish apartment, there would—somehow, some way—end up being a Bat-Signal on it to construction workers saying, “I think we should fuck with that building for the next month or six.”