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This Is So Stupid

Hmmm … Something Is Not Right Here.

11:10 AM EST on December 14, 2023

black and white photo of a building under construction
Kelsey McKinney/Defector

One of my favorite words in the Italian language is umarell. Literally, it means "little man," but in practice, it is used to describe old men who stand around construction sites with their hands clasped behind their backs, watching and offering free advice. Despite being young, a woman, and not Italian, I am an umarell. I know only what I have gleaned from a few home projects and being married to a structural engineer, but that won't stop me from commenting on the construction sites!

Because my spouse knows much more about construction than me, sometimes we play a game, where he points to a construction site and asks me what is wrong with it. This is a fun game! I get to be an umarell, and I get to gain knowledge. But in one particular case, the game has been going on for almost six months, and the problem is only getting worse. I had hoped to wait for a resolution to this story before telling it, but sometimes the world does not operate at our pace, and we must cede our hopes to the trickling sands of time.

Anyway, this particular case concerns the construction of a new apartment building. The new building happens to be on the loop where we walk our dog some days, so we see it often. We watched for a year as they bulldozed the strip mall that was there before, took 500 years to pour a foundation, and then another 500 to begin progress on the walls. Finally, this summer, it was starting to look like a real building.

Here is a picture my spouse sent me in July while I was on tour, which was accompanied by the question, "What is wrong here?"

a building under construction

You may be thinking that the problem here is that the fence is too close to the building. That's probably true. Fences around active construction sites certainly shouldn't have gaps large enough that a child could slip through them, but that is not the issue at hand.

I guessed that the problem was some of the cross bars on the third floor that seemed a little janky to me, but this apparently was fine.

Do you see the issue? Do you have a guess?

I could not guess correctly, so I received this answer, which I now show you:

same image as above with a highlighted wire shown going through the building.

As you can see, helpfully highlighted above, a wire is running through the second story of this apartment complex! On the side closest to us, it runs from the pole on the street through the inside of the building, and out the window opening on the left side, where it continues across the street.

There are a lot of reasons why this is not good but the main one is ... uh ... fire. Wires should not be going through buildings and out the other side!

This was funny. I laughed at it. Surely, I thought, they will send a guy out to move the wire. What a funny thing for me to see! I loved it.

But this tale is not over.

The next week, the workers continued to build the outside of the building. The wire remained.

Then the windows began to be installed. Surely, we thought, they will move the wire now! Nope! They cut a little slot for the wire by the side of the window.

a hole cut out of plywood so the wire can fit through

Hmmmm. This doesn't seem right, does it?

But this was not our problem, so we remained observers. Next, the workers put water-proofing around the wire. This is especially bad since the point of water-proofing is to keep water out of the building and here there is just a hole in the building so the wire (and subsequently water) can go through.

the wire going through the blue waterproofing on the building

The wire! What can't it do?

Around this time, we made up a song that we sing when we visit the wire, as one does when one is very normal and cool. The song goes, "Every day we check on ... the wire! / What is happening with ... the wire!"

And so every day we began checking on the wire to find out what was happening with it. A full life is made up of such small things!

One day, we were very excited to see a PECO truck by the wire. And another big PECO truck by the pole. They were dealing with the wire! This was so exciting! What was happening with the wire? They were touching the wire!

a electric truck stationed next to the wire

When we went back the next day, we were prepared to say goodbye to our wire. But the PECO men, who now definitely know that there is a wire running through this damn building, had not moved the wire. You may notice something in this above photo: the long poles on the ground. You shouldn't need those to fix the wire! But the PECO men were not there to fix the wire. They only installed a different, newer pole for the wire to be attached to.

A couple of months passed. The wire remained. This was great news for us because they were beginning to put bricks on the other side of the building. Surely, they would not put bricks around the wire.

Wrong! They did!

brick building with wire going through the wall

You can also see the new pole in this photo. Beautiful new pole. Beautiful bricks. Except for THE DAMN WIRE GOING THROUGH THE BUILDING.

Here's a close-up I took:

close up of missing brick with wire through it.

Incredible! I love performance art!

A few weeks after this, I walked by the building, and there was a giant inflatable Scabby rat out front. As a union gal and a nosy person, I went up to the men handing out pieces of paper, and asked them what was going on.

The contractor, they told me, was scabbing! He was hiring non-union electricians to do work on the building! Villainous!

"Is this about the wire?" I asked.

The men nodded, and pointed. But they pointed to the other side of the building, where another wire was going through the edge of a totally different window. The men told me that they were stealing electricity with that wire! Escandalo!

But I wanted to know about the other wire! Did they know anything about that?They did not. We all laughed and laughed at the two wires: one for stealing energy, and one for our entertainment.

Every day since, we check on the wire. The wire remains.

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