Writer's Life

Slow Dancing with the Asphalt

I recently got my driveway repaved. It had been over twenty years since it had first been laid and the freeze/thaw cycle of Pennsylvania winters had taken its toll despite regular maintenance. It started to crumble in spots and if I didn’t get it done now when the base could still be salvaged, it would cost a lot more to remove the old asphalt, lay a new base, and then let it settle over the winter before adding a new layer.

The crew began showing up at eight in the morning on what promised to be an absolutely gorgeous day. Sunny, temperature in the low seventies, light winds and low humidity. One couldn’t ask for better conditions to work outside. Five young men, two mature veterans, and the bossman got to work preparing the surface, cutting out areas that needed replacing, and dealing with falling acorns. Only one young man got bopped in the head, and I considered that hard hats might not be a bad idea.

Bossman lured me out when he noticed me looking apprehensive from inside as they trimmed the witch hazel trees lining a corner of the driveway. Asking if it was okay after the fact made me laugh. Especially since cutting them back had been on my to-do list for quite a while. Too beautiful to remain inside, I stayed on the front porch and watched and listened. They worked hard. Hauling hot asphalt in wheelbarrows, spreading it, tamping it down, digging out falling acorns that buried themselves in the fresh hot material, and refilling the holes. And all the time carrying on a lively banter.

So where does the dancing come in?

Well, after the asphalt is first spread out by a contraption that leaves an appropriate thickness of goo, one of the younger guys straps a pair of low wooden blocks under his work boots. He shuffles across the hot surface gently packing it down before the big roller completes the job. The narrow block isn’t much larger than the sole of his boot, and my driveway isn’t all that narrow.

Small step to the right, feet together. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat…. Over and over until you reach the end of the row. Small step to the left, feet together. Repeat…. You get the idea. The repetitive nature of the task must have been boring, so I asked him if he enjoyed slow-dancing with the asphalt.

“I could do this all day,” he replied. “Not thinking about anything.”

After the guys heard this, they decided, much to my delight that they could include me in their banter. For our dancer, I guess it beat dumping wheelbarrows of hot asphalt for a while.

My new acorn encrused driveway

The new driveway looks great. Bossman will come back sometime in early December to seal it before winter snows cover it for the first time. As for now, the acorns kept dropping. They cover my driveway again. And the dust from cutting out an old portion of cement covers every surface of my garage door and interior.

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