The Lives of Crane Operators

Tower cranes. They protrude from our cities like candles from birthday cakes.

I like cranes. I can see two from my window right now. They go about their heavy lifting as I go about mine. (What? I’m a humour writer. I lift people’s moods).

In idle moments, I watch the cranes and wonder what it’s like to be a crane operator.

The job is blue-collar, but their offices have the best views in town. White-collar psychopaths schmooze their way to what they think is the top, but the humble crane operator watches silently from an even higher top. Wanking.

It’s possible. Who knows what goes on up there? When I train binoculars on the cabin of a crane, all I see within is a tiny swiveling head.

Maybe that’s all there is. Tiny swiveling heads, all using their surrogate metal appendages to drop the imprisoning lids on new office blocks.

Unlikely I suppose. But the whole idea is unlikely to begin with: that there are humans in the sky, yanking on joysticks, under orders to plant sewer pipes. It’s a world gone mad.

The lives of crane operators are different to ours. They surely do not, for example, take elevators to their offices. They take ladders. A hundred rungs? A thousand? Just one big leap? Nobody knows.

They have special privileges. In most offices, workers are reprimanded if they so much as stand on a chair to unscrew a bulb. These people climb the sky.

Do crane operators bring their own lunches to work? Only two alternatives occur to me: food bundles delivered by owls; cheese rolls and oranges honked neatly into the cabin by the fancy air cannons used to distribute t-shirts at hockey games.

What do they most enjoy for lunch? If altitude numbs the senses, maybe crane operators like it salty. Does this mean they’re always thirsty? And if they’re always thirsty, do they quench their thirst or suppress it lest they have to climb all the way back downstairs for a wee?

I hope it’s not too big a slur on their character to suggest crane operators wee over the side. It must be better organised than that. Perhaps they take advantage of surface tension and wee down a 250-foot cable into an awaiting toilet. If so, the wees of crane operators must be among the world’s longest wees.

I once looked after my mum’s cat. She’d sit in the bay window, making eyes at next door’s cat who in turn was sitting in her own bay window, staring back at ours. Two blister-packed cats, locked in eternal speculation. I wonder if crane operators do that. Do they look out from their cabins into the cabins of other cranes? Or is that a faux-pas and crane operators all have to pretend they can’t see each other?

On the other hand, maybe they’re all good friends. Between cranes would be a exquisite way to play tin can telephone.

Do they ever get to work and realise they’ve forgotten their keys and have to go all the way back down to get them? Do they ever refuse bribes from government agents who want them to be their eyes in the skies? Do they drink from novelty mugs that say “crane operators do it while high”? Are crane operators successful with those mechanical claw games in amusement arcades or are the controls so different there can be no comparison? We will never know. They are out of our reach.


If you enjoyed this story, (a) shame on you, and (b) please consider buying my books A Loose Egg and Stern Plastic Owl for countless other flights of fancy.

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