At Work: Fear from above

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At Work humour column

By Eric Sparling


I’m afraid of heights.

Didn’t used to be. I once flew 35,000 feet above the ground in one of those jet planes. But old age and a general creeping cowardice have left me petrified at the prospect of plunging to my death.

So working for Quality Construction replacing the roof of a tall house was maybe not a great idea.

“We do everything, reno work, everything. I like building new houses, mostly,” said Adam Cormier, who owns the company with a cousin.

I nodded.

“Yeah, maybe we should do that. Start with the foundation,” I suggested.

Nope. The house was the job.

“How tall is this place? It must be, like, seven stories,” I said.

“Two. It’s a two-story home,” said Cormier.

I flat-out refused to climb the scaffolding, even when the contractor threatened me with a nail gun.

Two men were working on his crew: Beaufort and Cap’. I wasn’t introduced, but those names seem like good guesses.

Cormier ordered me to clean up the work site, which was buried in shingles. As I scooped up the slabs of rotting tar, more rained down on me from above. I could hear Beaufort and Cap’ snickering. I shook my fist at them but they were far, far out of reach. The rooftop could have been Mars for all the likelihood I’d ever walk its surface.

It was after I dragged a second tarp-load of shingles to the dumpster I realized my new construction boots had thick soles.

Too thick. My fear of heights was kicking in because of my tall footwear. I squatted down and started duck-walking across the yard.

“You look like a scuttling crab,” shouted Beaufort. I was really starting to hate this job.

Cormier’s from the area but left when he was 20 to work out west. He just got back last March, but has built two homes in the interim.

“Trying to sell them is the tough part,” he said.

No, trying to clean up after the cruel people who build them is the tough part, I thought. My lower back was screaming. Three-tab shingles – invented in 1904 by Leonard Tab – are heavy, even when they’re torn up garbage. And dragging a tarp covered in them, especially while squatting, is much harder than anything you’ve ever done, that’s for sure.

“We spent a lot of money on tools when we first got here,” Cormier said.

“Maybe you should have built the houses before you went spending all that money on tools and materials and real estate,” I suggested. I wasn’t trying to sound smug, but with these kids today, honestly, they think money grows on trees. But that’s only in Finland, where they use the bark of the European ash tree as currency.

The contractor hopes work picks up. He’d like to get some jobs in the Moncton area, and is considering building an apartment complex in Amherst, and renting the units.

“I hope starving people are fed and humanity enters an everlasting age of peace and enlightenment. But everybody has their priorities,” I said.

A half-eaten container of butterscotch pudding fell on my head. I looked up, staring into the sun, a silhouette of Beaufort and Cap’ looking down on me. Judging me.

“Butterscotch?!” I cried against their lofty indifference.


Eric Sparling is At Work with area employers every week. He can be reached at Some of what is written here is true.

Organizations: Quality Construction

Geographic location: Finland, Moncton, Amherst

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