By the side of the road

By the side of the road

Human Construction

If you’d get up very early in the morning in the Hungary of the late ‘90s and early 2000s and drive on one of the main roads towards Budapest, you’d notice people standing by the side of the road.

Hundreds of them.

Wearing ramshackled working clothes, holding their supermarket nylon bag containing their lunch, they would wait to be picked up by a van with a top speed of 50 km/h exhausting poisonous black smoke and to spend the day labouring on one of Budapest’s many construction sites.

Today in 2013, the construction industry is dead and as a consequence there are no more people standing by the side of the road waiting to be picked up by such vans.

I keep wondering: what happened to them? Did they find new jobs or did they end up unemployed or homeless?

I sure don’t know.

But there are a lucky few, who still get to wait by the side of the road at dawn and are picked up by a van. They feel lucky to get to spend their whole day working at one of the very few construction sites of Budapest for pretty much the same wages as they did 10 years ago.

They don’t seem to mind.

They don’t seem to mind the cold, the discomfort, the plain and always same food, the tough physical job, the 12 hour workdays, being forced to work illegally and the fact that inflation has eaten up half of their buying power in the last decade.

They might complain, but they don’t actually mind.

They show up every morning and do the work they are told to do.

And when you look into their eyes you can’t tell whether what you see is the reflection of a very simple mind or that of one which is wise enough to accept and be content with whatever happens. And you start wondering whether these two things are not the same?

The only thing I know for sure is that the people who stand by the side of the road early in the morning waiting to be picked up by a van don’t ask questions.

If they do, they ask who, what, where, how, when.

But they NEVER ask why.

Is that good or bad? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

The only reason I know all this of course is I used to be one of them.

I’d stand by the side of the road early in the morning waiting to be picked up by a van.

Only, I kept asking why and was declared unfit for the job.


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