Monday, February 25, 2013

Crawl Space by F. Poj ©

"Crawl Space, Architectural Definition: a shallow, unfinished space with a dirt floor beneath the lowest level of a building.  Created especially for access to plumbing and wiring. This space is accessible by crawling, its clearance being less than human height."

It was just a job like many others; an old, abandoned public school near downtown Buffalo. Even only a couple of blocks away from City Hall, Buffalo could be a pretty desolate place in winter, almost a ghost town. The City was going to turn this old school into an office building and they needed updated floor plans.

'Everything,' said Laura on the e-mail. 'Plans of every floor, roofs, basements, attics, and crawl spaces.'

Frankie had been freelancing for Laura as a building surveyor for years now. After 9/11 many Architecture firms went down and Frankie had been laid off like thousands of young architects. He was fast and accurate with CAD though; so he scored this opportunity to do free lance building surveys for Laura. She charged handsome fees for these jobs, and paid her surveyors good money, and on time. Frankie enjoyed the freedom, the traveling, and the pay check. Flight to a city for three or four days, sketch and measure, flight back home to draw the whole thing on CAD, e-mail it, get paid.

As he got off the car, the frozen wind cut through his face. 'Nice fucking weather for a roof survey today,' he thought. He was getting older now and would often think that surveying was not the glamorous Architecture career he dreamed about during his senior year in college; but, the money was too good to reject in times like these. A job which could be done in two or three weeks provided comfortable income for a month and a half.

It was the fourth and, hopefully, last day on site. Frankie had to finish the roofs and then one last area at the basement. As he walked the long main corridor, to get to the back staircase, he had the feeling that there was someone else in this building, that he wasn't alone. But, this 250,000 sq. ft. abandoned public school had broken windows; the wind howled through the openings and, old hanging maps and charts fluttered with the draft. Not to mention cats, rats and birds. He eventually got used to all these noises and stopped paying attention to them. Besides, if there was someone else there, it wouldn't be the first time he found a homeless person living in a place like this. They would always stay away from him, hiding, out of fear of being "evicted".

To access the section of roof he needed to survey that morning, he had to walk out a window on the top floor. He then took two steps on the ledge and climbed an old exterior ladder. Once on top, he had to climb over a section of sloped copper roofing which was covered with ice. When he was about to grab the ridge, one of his pens fell off his jacket pocket and he slid down back to the ladder as he tried to catch it. His body was stopped by the old ladder, but he could see the pen falling into the abyss and finally hitting the ground four floors below in the inner courtyard. The whole thing lasted a few seconds, but he felt the sweat pour out throughout his body even in the cold.

He finally made it to the flat section up on top. The wind was strong, and ice was all over the roofing membrane, very tricky. After a few minutes, sketching became painful and difficult. He couldn't work well with the gloves on, so he took them off and the cold penetrated his fingers. Long dimensions were difficult to measure. It was becoming hard for him to see the laser mark across the distance with all the glare on the ice. 'You better get me a big fucking job down in Florida next month, Laura, or I'll kick that irresistible cute little ass of yours,' thought Frankie.

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