Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA
Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Big Steel, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

I had parked the car at Post Office Square in the Financial District of Boston and was walking toward the Boston Common when I came upon this construction site. I was immediately captivated by the soaring steel framework already erected and the ongoing work still underway.

I stopped for just a few minutes to watch. Five minutes became fifteen which became thirty which became forty-five which became a full hour. I couldn't tear myself away from the drama as beam by beam, these steelworkers gave form to this structure.

It is a fascinating choreography with big steel as the creative medium. Upon reflection I decided it is analogous to a theatrical production. A cast of 15-20 people, each working hard, efficiently, as a team, each one trained and skilled - all humming along together like a well-oiled machine, each doing his/her part in the performance.

Their main props included three cranes and three lifts that allowed the men to position their baskets anywhere in three-dimensional space to align the steel beams and then bolt them together. 

As a kid in the 1950's, I used to enjoy playing with an erector set - a toy with small metal pieces and tiny nuts and bolts. The steelworkers are using the original erector set.

Using a language of hand signals and shouts, they precisely maneuver the heavy steel pieces into place. With danger ever-present, these steelworkers are building big things, piece by piece, with their hands, brains, and heavy steel dancing high off the ground.

The only thing missing was a musical soundtrack.

We've come a long way in design and manufacture but, ultimately, it all comes down to humans to assemble the heavy steel beams with hammers, wrenches, nuts, and bolts.

I wanted to applaud but, somehow it didn't seem appropriate at the moment. I'm sure they were wondering what the odd old man in the hat was doing standing on the sidewalk watching for so long anyway - had I applauded, they would have thought me crazy rather than appreciative for their skill.

What a great show - and I didn't have to buy a ticket!

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