" … my good work took them there."

What, I wondered to myself while scraping clean yet another reclaimed twelve foot long tongue and groove floor board, makes this particular task seem like good work to me? Scraping's more tedious than difficult if the scraping tool's sharp. It requires little technique, though the technique it does demand seems satisfyingly subtle, a light-handed sort of understanding that emerges after frustrating myself with the first few. Scraping stands solidly in the center of the scut work spectrum, one of those tasks the skilled hands mindfully avoid and the unskilled hands never quite manage to notice that needs doing. I saw that the floor laying utterly depended upon the supply of properly prepped boards, so I made a little pact with myself to see that the board supply queue never fell into stalling our critical path. I discovered a bit of identity in this task.

What made it good work?
It presented itself in small stages. Each board, a somewhat unique challenge. Some encased in nearly solid rubber mastic, others in flaking paint, still others already nearly pristine, just needing a bit of snow brushed out of their groove. This variety seemed to help make board scraping into a good kind of work.

The work came in a countable form, so I could monitor my progress. The raw boards came in six packs, each needing breaking open and prying apart, for the boards were frozen together. Some seemed hardly worth scraping due to obvious defect. A shattered tongue. A splintered middle. A disfiguring hole gnawed through one end. These, I segregated to one side but also counted as progress, though I expended little effort to transform them into done. One takes encouragement wherever one might find it when engaging in mid-scut spectrum work.

Most satisfying, though, was the view looking backwards along a board as I and my scraper approached the end of a board. I'd glance back along the so recently unscraped surface to see an almost sandpapered smoothness. My grand nephew was in charge of belt sanding the boards I finished and I admit to feeling smugly powerful when I could scrape a few faster than he could finish sanding them.

I set my own quota then set myself to work, taking frequent breaks out of the biting wind. Snow would fall before the end of the day and stay for the next week, so this day provided the only decent opportunity to scrape all the boards we'd need to finish the floor without further schedule disruption, so I had a clear mission. A clear mission and a fading enthusiasm as the afternoon progressed. I reminded myself that I'm not as young as I used to be but found no reassurance there. I returned from my respites inside ready to rip a couple more, and so I did.

It was good work. I got to tell myself when I was done and nobody could reasonably disagree with me. I could see my progress and count the piling up finished boards. My judgement determined what was good enough, though I warmed appreciatively when The Boss commented that those boards were cleaning up nicely. Yes, I thought, they were and it was my good work that took them there.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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