What's the sitch with cranes?
It may surprise you to learn that, at the university I recently graduated from, I had some close friends. Not many, mind you, but a few. And they were the good kind of friends, the kind who would make fun of my mom because they felt comfortable.
Early on in our group’s friendship we studied together in a particularly sunny spot on the 5th floor of a quiet building, away from the riffraff. The oxygen was somewhat thinner up there, on the 5th floor, but we liked how it made us feel. Contemplative, a little bit loopy, often times nauseous, shifting our angle on the study material just enough to find even the dull stuff worthy of committing to memory.
The view over campus from our spot was worth the elevator ride, and that is not even to mention the ample table space, the well-stocked paper towel dispensers, and the sense of ownership we felt as a collective. Ever vigilant in our watchtower, keeping the University safe with our disjointed studying and piercing gaze.
At some point, we noticed the cranes. They seemed to rise up overnight, stretching into our urban panorama. I think I can speak for all of us when I say, they were mystifying. Where did they come from? By what mechanism did they grow? How did they reproduce? What were their intentions here in our peaceful corner of the world?
While looking down at my textbook, diligently taking notes, I could feel their gaze. At first this was unsettling. But after some time I could sense they meant no harm. It was a feeling, not anything communicated specifically. I think they were as curious about us as we were about them. Staring back in their direction, I would project warmth, hoping to make them feel comfortable at our university. I know how difficult it is to be the new kid at school, and I’m sure it is even more challenging when you are a new kid made out of metal, forced to stand outside at all hours, rain or shine, lifting really heavy objects.
Sometimes they would be still for hours at a time. Their patience was incredible, waiting without complaint until again they were called upon. Then I would catch movement out of the corner of my eye, a sweeping flash of geometric red steel, but by the time I looked up, the behemoth was still. Was it ever in motion? Maybe I’d been studying too long.
I never worked up the courage to walk over and actually talk to one of them, though we talked about them plenty. About how they moved their bodies. About how hot they must be out in the sun, all greased up and stiff. We didn’t always talk about how greasy they were, but it definitely came up. I should have introduced myself instead of just leering at them from afar. I hate how cliquey school can be sometimes, our group studying in the lounge, the cranes all hanging together out on the quad. We should have had a mixer at our place or something.
Not that I didn’t try to communicate with them from our outpost. At first it was just simple advice. I would mouth, “Lift with your legs! Picking up that much weight with a straight back is a recipe for disaster!” I don’t have a great understanding of crane eyesight or language processing, but I do know they didn’t seem to be able to read my lips. Next I tried taping notes to the windows. “My. Name. Is. NJ.” “Nice. Weather. We’re. Having.” I’m not sure how I expected them to respond.
It’s too bad, because I know I had so much to learn from their peaceful, yeoman’s existence. They build our cities one large beam at a time, and they do it without iPhone screens or bumper to bumper commutes, without relationship drama or Whole Foods checkout lines. They are intentionally living a life of standing where they work where they sleep where they raise their kin where, eventually, they return to the stardust from whence we all came… But I suppose, in this case, with the cranes, the barriers to communication were just too large to overcome.
Cranes are giant helpful aliens, right? Am I right about that?