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Washington Goes to Work | In the Field

The Weathermen Who Aren't on TV

Washington has been a sea of construction cranes for the past few years. Take a look at the people behind the construction and the work that goes into a new building.
Monday, May 12, 2008

If you spend most of your day in front of a computer, you don't really worry about the weather. If you have a job that doesn't require much computer work, you might think about the weather a lot.

Weather-wise, working in Washington is more temperate than, say, working in Nome, Alaska, or in Death Valley. But few cities ruin as many dress shirts and jackets as Washington in August, and winter commutes are probably swifter in Minneapolis than in snow-panicked Washington.

There are rare times when the weather affects the Washington office worker, and it's more of a diversion than a hassle. The muffled thunderclap of a summer storm. The sudden word of a snowfall, spreading through the office and drawing workers out of their cubicles to cluster at windows to watch, arms crossed against the chill, their breath fogging the floor-to-ceiling panes of glass.

Outside in that thunderstorm, in that snowfall, construction workers are among the thousands of Washingtonians who wrestle with the weather eight hours a day. In Northeast Washington, high atop the wind-swept skeleton of another new building going up, Francisco Nunez and Efrain Marcus guide a thick river of concrete down a long steel sluice, muscling it over rebar and into a plywood frame. Today's a good day: It's cold, sure, but clear.

Others of their kind: The road-repair crews, the trash haulers and other heavy lifters, splashed with hot tar and fending off frostbite. The letter carriers, the couriers and the delivery people, hopping in and out of cars and trucks and vans all day, schlepping and lugging and off-loading. Migrating from one extreme climate to another, from boiling concrete sidewalk to freezing marble lobby and back out again.

You can see them from your window office.

--Frank Ahrens

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