“Hey, R! You goin’ up to work on the kitchen this week?”
“Nah. Too frustrating. There’s no plan. No direction, ya know? I like to have a specific task assigned and the materials and a set of plans nearby and then I’ll just get on with it. But this project is too loosey goosey. I don’t know what I am supposed to be doing.”
“Yeah. I know. But that is the only way it works. No one will work if anyone is in charge. And all the plans are changed by the one doing whatever it is they choose to do. It’s all very organic. You just gotta go with the flow. The good thing is that it is working. It is coming along nicely.”
Every Wednesday is community work-day and people show up as their schedules, hormones and whims dictate. Once there, they decide to stay or leave as their mood determines. Sometimes the mood is affected by who else is there or who else isn’t. You never really know who the crew will be.
And then they do what they do depending on what tools someone else may have brought, if someone was kind enough to bring some lunch or whether the work is going according to their personal standards. It is hard to know what the crew will be at any given time and it is just as hard to determine what they will do next. It is all pretty fluid.
Plans change, too. Our community has a very dedicated designer who almost always strives to provide an overall plan on paper and it is usually deemed to be pretty good once presented. It is what the schedule, budget and decision to proceed is based on. But available materials might change the plans. And who is willing to take on a certain part (framing, drywalling, etc.) is a definite game/design changer as some guys only know how to do things a certain way or because they just think they know better and do it the new way because they can.
Materials and tools are also huge variables. Sometimes we ‘just have’ a spare five gallons of paint – and that might be the colour decider right there. Other times, we have someone choose it and buy it and that kind of commitment is sufficient to constitute the decision making process all by itself. This time a paint store donated some paint and so they decided the colour.
Other times we have a lumber supply of certain dimensions and that might influence things. The kitchen, this time, has dry wall in no small part due to a recent neighbour bringing in more than they needed and willing to part with the extra. And the stove is a generous contribution from another neighbour – style and size decided by the price!
Tools are a real bugaboo. Some people bring ’em. Some don’t. But everyone working usually needs a tool of some kind so that means we are usually in a tool shortage situation. Two weeks ago I was instructed to bring a hose and air-nailer. Along with the other tools I brought, I had a good schlep from the dock getting to the site. When I got there the requester of the tool was working along fine without it and so it wasn’t required. But another fellow working on cutting lumber was without a pencil and a tape measure. So, my trip was useful after all.
That week I was not required to actually work as all jobs were adequately staffed. So, I left my tools as my contribution.
And, so it goes.
When you see a school of fish, like herring or smolts, zipping in unison one way and then another, each movement a brilliant display of instant choreography, you might think they are pretty marvelous. I do. What coordination! What unity! What kind of communicative and cooperative genius!
We’re not like that.
We’re more like a hockey riot. ‘Cept we seem to get things built rather than destroyed.
It’s a miracle.