It was a sweltering afternoon. The heat was so intense, it was downright dizzying.
We were in the maintenance truck, driving to our next job.
“We got something a little different today,” said Crew Leader Carl, turning to look at us as he drove. “A one-off. There’s a vacant parcel where they’re going to put in a post office, so they’re hiring us to clear out all the weeds.”
“Well, that’s kind of cool,” I said. “We’re going to be part of the noble tradition of delivering the mail.”
“No,” Carl said, “you’re going to be pulling weeds. Listen to me when I’m talking to you!”
We pulled to a stop in front of a large, vacant field. Weeds and brush were scattered everywhere. There was not a building or tree in sight.
An older, heavyset man stepped forward as we climbed out of the truck. “You the weed-pullers?”
“We’re the landscaping specialists, yes,” Carl said.
The man narrowed his eyes. “Right. Well, I’m Henry, the project superintendent. This way, landscaping specialists.”
He stepped toward the field and motioned with his arm. “Here it is. Five acres of undeveloped land. Your job is clear out all the weeds and brush.”
“Yes, sir,” Carl said. “You called the right crew for the job. We’re proud to be part of the noble tradition of delivering the mail.”
I shot him a look, frowning.
“I hope so,” Henry said. “You were the most highly recommended weed-pullers around. But met me tell you something: because this is a federal job, you’ll be expected to abide by all federal safety regulations. And that means hardhats.”
He walked around, passing a hardhat to each of us. “Put these on. You’ll be expected to wear these the entire time you’re on government property.”
The heavy hardhat sagged on my head like a weight. I instantly felt twenty degrees hotter.
“Oh, man,” Carl said, frowning as he tightened his hardhat’s strap. “This is miserable. What in the world do we need these for, anyway? There’s not a building in sight. It’s not like a beam or anything is going to fall on us!”
Henry put his hands on his hips. “Quit complaining! It’s for your own protection.”
“Damn government and their stupid regulations!” Carl said, yanking at his hat’s chin strap. “Whoever heard of wearing a hardhat to pull weeds?”
“If a bird craps on your head, you can thank Uncle Sam,” Henry said, climbing into his truck. “Good day, gentlemen.”
He tore off, disappearing into the horizon.
“Yeah, right,” Carl said, glowering. “The crap falling around here isn’t coming from the birds. Noble tradition, my ass.”