In the morning, I take Luis to daycare and then continue on my way to the office. But sometimes, Luis doesn’t want to go and I’m not in the mood either: it’s always the same commute…
Then I say to Luis: “But don’t you want to look at the huge excavator at the construction site?” Presto, now all he wants to do is see the excavator. And I say to myself: “What about the huge excavator?” That does the trick, I get excited about the same old commute.
And we set off.
There is no lack of excavators here. Our neighborhood is a hub for the German construction industry. Whenever it is bored elsewhere, when it has nothing left to excavate and dig, to crane and bury, to mortar and wall up, to drill and pump, it thinks: “Oh, let’s drive to little Luis’ street and tear down a house or build a few condominiums.” That’s how the construction industry is, it simply loves us.
So Luis and I make our way to the nearest construction site in the morning and watch the excavator, how it dashes through the excavation pit, shoveling dirt here and there, knocking over a little wall, or moving a mountain of sand. Luis watches and watches.
What goes through his mind? If only my father were an excavator driver, I could be the son of an excavator driver, the scion of a powerful line of excavator drivers who will someday command an excavator himself, operating the little levers, wheels and buttons…
And me? What do I think? I think that the excavator looks a bit like a beetle, a bug nervously crawling about with long arms groping around in search of food. The longer I stand there with Luis the more I feel like a coleopterist on his wily hunts, and the more the construction workers look like subordinate beetles subjugated to the master beetle, forced to serve him in carrying out his beetle work.
The truck used to cart away the dirt – doesn’t it look like a caterpillar working laboriously from the excavation pit? And the strange yellow track vehicle slowly drilling long rods into the yellow-brown foundation at the construction site – that could be a female beetle laying her amber-colored eggs, right? The humming Atlas aggregate used to power pneumatic hammers – clearly a pulsating May bug.
At some point, we have to be on our way, otherwise we’ll arrive too late. But the impression remains. All of a sudden, everything around me seems like an insect world: the small orange-colored street sweeper from the municipal services looks like a buzzing hornet rustling in the leaves; the drain pump with its black hose like a bee sinking its proboscis into a flower; the cars streaming down the street into the city to offices and shopping centers like unconscious ants wandering to work.
And Luis? And me? We wish the German construction industry the very best and plenty of contracts in our neighborhood.
Born in 1956 in Braunschweig, living in Munich as an author and journalist. Many of his books are bestsellers, recently “Über den Anstand in schwierigen Zeiten und die Frage, wie wir miteinander umgehen” in 2017 (English: “Good Manners in Troubling Times and How to Treat One Another”). He publishes a weekly column for the magazine “Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin” titled “Das Beste aus aller Welt” (English: “The Best from around the World”).