For the past few weeks, there has been a construction crew at the house adjacent to our building, close enough so that when we have the windows open, you can hear what is going on over there. And basically, all that is going on is whistling and hollering at women.
Let me say that I certainly don’t condone this type of behavior. But I understand it. I worked in construction for some formative teenage years. For years I thought that the way you asked a girl out on a date was by yelling, “Dinner for two . . . on my face!” at her. (I don’t even know who the second person would be in that scenario.) And while at first I was disgusted by the workers’ behavior (e.g. ordering a pastrami hero for lunch and then telling the girl behind that counter that if she wanted he’d “return the favor”), eventually I got sucked in.
In many ways, construction life is like prison life. There are a different set of rules. Maybe in your normal life, you only like brunettes. But spend nine torturous hours a day doing hard labor, surrounded by nothing but brutish guys, and your standards are taken down a notch or two. It’s a subtle change at first: You notice yourself finding the girl who works at the deli more and more attractive. Then is escalates. You wake up in the morning excited to go to the deli. Suddenly, guys are fighting to take the lunch order. The sexual tension infiltrates the crew. Men are irrationally upset over the use of mayonnaise instead of mustard on their sandwiches. Things reach a head when one day, at the height of the summer, everyone stops working – literally stop in their tracks whether hauling lumber or hammering roofing shingles – to stare at a woman who walks past the house in a tank top. She is middle-aged and not that pretty, but as she turns the corner out of sight, you feel a pit in your stomach as you honestly believe that your life’s one true love has just left you forever. For weeks afterwards, you refer to her lovingly as “tank top girl,” in pathetic sentences like, “I wonder if tank-top girl will walk by today.” It’s official: Your life has been reduced to the route a moderately unattractive girl takes home from the store.
Just thinking about it makes me sad.
So like I said, I understand. But in the same way that you can’t understand two otherwise heterosexual marines getting their names tattooed on each other’s asses if you’ve never spent six months at sea on the S.S. Lonesome Dove, so too does it become difficult to understand construction workers’ cat-calling logic when you have a hot girl sitting one desk over who, with a modicum of persuasion and the promise of taking the trash out, will let you touch her boob.
Not that it isn’t still fascinating. Puppy and I have made several walks over to the construction site and done extensive research (for Puppy, substitute “research” with “pooping”), and below are our conclusions. So in case you ever want to woo a girl from the safe distance of a half-renovated apartment building, here are the rules:
1) Bright colors are an apt substitute for beauty. For men whose job requires precision measurements and the operation of dangerous cutting tools, when it comes to women their eyesight gets pretty imprecise: bright colors = hot. Simple as that.
2) Noise begets noise. If one worker hears another worker whistle, he will whistle in response even if he can’t see who he is whistling at.
3) The levels of intensity of catcalls are as follows (in increasing order of hotness):
– Short, affirmative proclamation, such as “Whoa!” or “Yeah!”
– Dog barking (This is ironic. I would have thought that barking at a woman would be indicative of her looking like a dog. Maybe they mean it more like she looks like a cute puppy? Although they would be arrested if they ever did to a puppy what they want to do to a woman they bark at. So yeah, it remains a mystery.)
– Full sentence. I only once heard this happen, and I realized why it is so rare: because all the other guys will hear what you say. For example, I heard a guy scream at a rather attractive girl, “Hey, you should marry me!” And everyone looked at him like, “Really? I didn’t know you wanted to get married. That’s a big responsibility, bro. What if she wants kids right away? Do you even have a 401k? That’s just whack if you’re gonna get married without a retirement plan.”
4) Short shorts are an apt substitute for being a woman. I once saw a worker jump the gun and whistle at an effeminate man walking down the street in short shorts. As soon as he whistled, rule number two came into play, and three men ended up whistling at some dude in jogging shorts. Embarrassing.
5) The only thing more important than women is going home. Puppy and I happened to be walking by one day around 5:30 while they guys were loading up the truck to head home for the day. A genuinely attractive woman (in a short skirt, no less) walked right past on the other side of the street. I slowed down, waiting for the atomic explosion of harassment that was sure to ensue. But no – these guys were so intent on the fact that they were going home in ten minutes, that they couldn’t even take five seconds to bark at this woman. It was amazing. I looked over at her, and even she was amazed. Sadly, she probably went home and became bulimic. Again.