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The Laborer from Ipanema

October 27, 2010

Ipanema Beach

This morning I took a bike ride. I had other plans but after I ducked outside and noted the seasonal beauty combined with perfect weather, and the fact that I was alone, I ran back in to grab my bike. Lest you ignored the title and are now expecting a story about a bikeride, here is a quick synopsis:

Hills are hard; I think I need more air in my tires. It’s really nice out.

On the way back home, I dismounted to go through a little walkway that goes under the subway. You could potentially plow into someone so you aren’t allowed to ride your bike through it. In addition, these days the subway station is under construction, so the little tunnel is even smaller. Furthermore, every now and again you have to wait to go through because they are doing something blasty on the other side.

Just as I was dismounting, an MTA construction worker (no, not Steel Toe) told me that I’d have to wait for a few minutes; they were on the verge of doing the blasty thing.

“Sounds good,” I yelled.

Then a period of time ensued where the guy guarding the tunnel and I were going to be together for the next few minutes. We weren’t too close together, so I didn’t worry about it. He, however, seemed to think it was an awkward silence, judging by the fact that he decided to fill it: he started whistling a familiar tune in a rudimentary way, and banging along on the blue-painted plywood that defines subway construction projects.

Then he paused and yawned loudly enough that everyone in the borough could hear him. “I’m tired,” he announced, for my benefit.

I countered with, “Just keep whistling and you’ll probably stay awake.”

The blasty thing was still happening.

“Hey,” the MTA guy asked. “Do you happen to know that song I was singing?”

And I most certainly did, so I nodded, and because I was in such a good mood, and because there was no one else around, I sang for him:

She’s tall and tan and young and lovely
The girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes, each one she passes goes

He was pretty stoked.

“Hey, you know it, you know it! Do you know what’s it’s called?”

“The Girl from Ipanema.”

“The Girl from Ipakeepa?”




Do you have a pen, he wanted to know. He’d heard the song in a movie. “I loved it so much,” this guy in a hard hat and with goggles atop his head explained, “and sometimes, you just want to have a nice glass of wine and listen to great music, you know?”

Oh yes, I know.

I didn’t have a pen, but I told him I was going to get ready for work and would be back in half an hour. I could write it down and bring it to him on my way into the train.

“Thanks sweetheart! Looks like you can pass now.”

The blasty thing had finished.

When I came back, I brought a slip of paper. However, I didn’t see him. There had been a whole lot of guys in construction hats and glowing vests swarming around earlier, but it seemed that most of them were at lunch. I saw a few, but didn’t recognize him. Since I was nosing around a construction project at a subway station, attempting to look nonchalant, the MTA station attendant stuck in the booth turned on the cackling microphone and asked me what I was looking for. You know, “If you see something say something” style.

I couldn’t bring myself to say “I’m looking for a construction worker I wrote down the name of a samba jazz classic for.” But I caught the eye of one of the other guys and asked him to pass along the slip of paper to his coworker who wanted the name of a song. Then I quickly tried to retract that, because I realized that I couldn’t describe the guy very well bad because they were all just looking at me, with slight smiles. But the ringleader (Steel Toe?) was definitely delighted for an opportunity to be some sort of romantic enabler — a real Cyrano. You could tell that’s what he was thinking. “Your note is for a laborer? I will get this note to the laborer.” He was adamant.

I hope that this doesn’t make walking by the site uncomfortable but so far, this so far is a great group of construction workers. Chivalrous, cultured, et cetera.

If the job site just had one of those fun electric rats, everything would be perfect!

Typical NYC Construction Site

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Dad permalink
    October 27, 2010 6:48 am

    Not at all like life in the “burbs” where classic Brazilian tunes are only known by a few of us and inflatable rats are no where to be seen.

  2. October 27, 2010 7:47 am

    OMG. Between the samba jazz classic and the electric rat and you carrying notes to construction workers I am basically vibrating with ecstatic speechlessness. Who wouldn’t want to live in New York?

  3. Jorie permalink
    October 29, 2010 8:04 pm

    You had me giggling for 5 minutes. I also shared your Steel Toe story with my husband, who now wants very badly to move us all to Brooklyn.

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