I began my shift at 5:00 this morning, and like most days, I started with a cup of coffee, a long stretch, which followed with a loud yawn, and then I changed out of my clothes and into my uniform. I grabbed my tools and did the best I could to wipe the sleep from my face. I was stationed on the 11th floor and waiting for the water to drain from the building’s sprinkler system.
After running through different stairwells and shutting different valves, it was time to drain, and wait for the repairs.
One of the interesting facts of my location is the building was completed in 1927. It was the tallest building in the world . . . for six months. And sometimes after demolition, I find things tucked in the building’s structural columns, or hidden, like old bottles of whiskey and brandy.
This morning I found a few pages of the financial section from The Times. The date was in August of 1926. The paper was yellowed and very brittle, so I carefully removed the crumpled up pieces, and then I unfolded them to the best of my ability. The pages were stuffed beneath a support beam where construction will be building an internal staircase between the 12th and 11th floors. It was crunched and shoved just below the ceiling and stuck against the cement.
I was able to read the help wanted section and the salaries began at $25.00 and reached an astounding $40.00 per week.
A luxurious two bedroom apartment on Madison Avenue rented between $80 -$90 per month.
I saw an advertisement for an apartment on Park Avenue that was set at a negotiable price of $1,850.
As I tried to read and unfold more of the weathered pages, I began to wonder if a man, just like me, read this paper while working his shift and wondered what else is out there.
I suppose, like me, whomever read this paper wished they were someplace else doing something else. I started to think about different places I would rather be and things I would rather do. However, freedoms like this seem to dwindle with age.
In the resilience of my youth, it was easy to pick up and change. It was easy to switch jobs, or careers, but now my time is counted. Now I have bills and a mortgage. I have car payments and insurance plans. I have monthly credit card bills, phone, cable, and utility bills. I have to feed my home and warm it in the winter. I have to feed my dogs, and maintain what I own.
But I still dream . . . and like the person that crumpled the newspaper and stuffed it in between the crack of a steel beam and cement, there are times when I stash my dreams away.
I’m not sure what the utility bills were like in August of 1926. I just now the game has not changed since then. The interest rates may have, and the cost of living has definitely gone up, but the game is still the same.
I put the old newspaper to the side, and then I went back to the job at hand. I finished draining the sprinkler system, but before the repairs were made, I noticed something in the corner of my eye. It was a butterfly with long black wings and colorful speckles. It must have flew in through one of the open windows and it was trying as hard as it could to find its way out. And each time I tried to get close to it, the butterfly moved to a different window, and fluttered its beautiful wings against the glass.
After several tries, I was able to approach the butterfly. I opened the window, but the butterfly continued to fly into the glass, which I assume was like an invisible wall. Then I placed my hand over it to encourage the butterfly to move down where the glass was open. And finally, it was free.
I watched that butterfly take off from the 11th floor window above the busy streets of Manhattan.
It was nice to let that butterfly go.
I guess I related to it.
I related to the way it must have felt once in flew in through the window and couldn’t get out.
Sometimes I feel the same way
Sometimes I bang my head into an invisible wall.
Sometimes I spend too much time thinking about the things I don’t have and the things I want.
Sometimes . . . I fold my dreams and put them away someplace