Stack of Applications

Professional people were leaving Lucerne because there weren’t adequate facilities for their children. The schools were reasonable and parents also played their part in educating their children. They ensured they practised speaking, reading and writing at home, and also taught them manners.

They were busy people, tired from work, but knew that the prime duty for raising children rested on their shoulders, not on those of teachers, who could shape, but not make, healthy, happy beings. However the lack of a swimming pool or hockey rink was the killer. The wound continued to seep.

Every situation has a cutting edge through. Fewer professional people meant more jobs for unprofessional people. There was for example no Building Control Officer in Lucerne. Nobody knew what had happened to him. There was plenty of construction occurring in the valley – new facilities to attract new professional people – but no one to manage it.

Shama had been at a loose end since moving here from the city. He’d come to the village to enquire about a manual job, but had instead been offered the role of Building Control Officer, for twice the salary he’d expected.

He’d said to the interviewer, “I don’t have any qualifications. Sure I’ve worked on constructions sites, performing traffic duty and casual labour, but I’m not any sort of official.”

“You seem like a smart guy,” said the interviewer. “Give it a week. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

Shama went to his new office on Monday. There was a huge pile of building forms and assorted documents balanced on his desk. Some were typed, some handwritten in pen, some completed with coloured markers, and some scrawled in pencil.

Who completes forms in marker? Were children submitting applications? What about pencil – had these adults not graduated from graphite to ink? At his own school, he had done so when eleven. The crazy, barely legible writing made the papers a modern tower of Babel. How would he get through them?

The bookshelves covering one wall were filled with building code manuals. There were at least a hundred, covering all aspects of national, provincial, and municipal building codes, supplemented by bylaws and case studies. These massed ranks of grey, green and brown books looked like the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, which he’d visited as a child.

There was a pile of lego bricks on the corner table. They were mainly yellow, blue and red, with some transparent ones, built into a series of half-finished structures. Is that how building departments evaluated projects? Out of toy blocks to check?

The desk held many executive toys, no doubt there to illustrate engineering principles.

Shama chatted to the receptionist. She asked what he’d been doing before this. He began to lie, but then corrected himself. “I’ve been performing casual labour – unloading trucks and carrying lumber, and mudding and taping drywall. I’ve done some brick building too, and nailing on siding. Plus plenty of painting and decorating…” He was about to say he was totally unqualified for the job, but the receptionist interrupted.

“Thank God they’ve got a proper person at last. Someone who works with his hands and knows what he’s doing, not another person with a Building Services degree who knows only how to push pencils. We may finally have a service that works.”

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