An Overheard Conversation

A: How did you get here?

B: On Earth?

A: Yes.

B: My mother gave birth to me.

A: How did that happen?

B:  My father got her pregnant.

A: Are you sure?

B: It might have been a sperm bank donation and artificial insemination. Or did she use a surrogate mother? I don’t remember. Come to think of it, she never told me. Dad hasn’t been around, you know, since I was born.

A: I knew. How did you get here?

B: You already asked me that question.

A: I meant to this room where we are talking.

B: I took the elevator.

A  Who installed it?

B: I never knew them.

A: They were all men. How did you get here?

B: Same question? You mean, how did I get to this building?

A: Yes.

B: I came by subway, the A Train, after the ferry.

A: Who dug out the tunnels the train traveled through? Who laid the track? Who built the ferry?

B: Didn’t machines do the tunneling?

A: It was mostly manpower as they say.

B: I walked here from the Penn Station stop.

A: Who built the sidewalks and laid the asphalt on 34th Street? Who built the building? Five men died building the Empire State Building. The view is spectacular, isn’t it?

B: Where can I find their names?

A: I’m not sure. But it took 7,000,000 man hours to complete. How did you friend get here?

B: She came by car from Staten Island.

A: Who built the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge?

B: Men?

A: Yes. And three of them died working on it. Who built the expressways on Staten Island and Brooklyn? Who maintains them?

B: I think I know. My friend’s grandfather works for the City. During the winter, he uses the garbage truck he operates to remove snow from the streets. The rest of the time, he collects garbage. He lifts the bags of trash from the sidewalks and throws them into the truck.

A: How’s his back? By the way, who built the subway cars and the trucks? Who mined the ore used to make the metal for beams in the subway stations and the frames of the cars and trucks? Who forged the pieces? Who drilled for the oil that the gasoline used in the trucks was refined from? Who made the glass for the windshields and subway cars? Who pilots the tankers that get the crude here? Or the windows we’re looking through? Look! You can see the Chrysler Building. Who cut down the trees and milled the beams used in constructing this room? Who quarried the stone that was crushed to make concrete and cement? Who made the bricks?

B: I’m hungry.

A: Let’s order food from the deli down on the street. I’ll have a salad. You?

B: Corned beef on rye.

A: Who brought the food to the deli?

B: Men in trucks. They hauled it in, too, didn’t they?

A: Now you’re catching on. Who raised the cattle and butchered the steer for your corned beef? Who farmed the lettuce and carrots for my salad? Do you want milk?

B: Sounds good. I’ve given up coffee.

A: Who raised the dairy cattle for the milk? Who grew and harvested the coffee beans? (I love really good espresso.) I have a bottle of wine in my drawer. I feel like a sip. Who grew the grapes and harvested them? Who made the wine? Who hauled cases of wine from a truck to the liquor store?

B: All men?

A: All men.

B: Let me write some of this down.

A: Where did the paper come from?

B: Staples.

A: The pulp? Originally, loggers cut down trees. Who carried the carton of paper into your office over on Staten Island?

B: I’ll use my computer instead.

A: Who invented that thing? Who designed the programs that run it? And the internet. Your wifi gets signals from towers and satellites and a lot of it sent through cables. Who built those towers and got those satellites up there into orbit? Who laid the cable? Who installed your cable at home?

B: How did you get here?

A: I flew into JFK yesterday from Pittsburgh.

B: Who piloted the plane? Who got it ready for take off? Who serviced it on the ground?

A: Good questions. Who monitored the flights in air traffic control towers?

B: All men, I’m guessing.

A: Where’s your brother?

B:  Ah. He’s in Iraq. I really love him.

A: (Phone rings. A takes out his cell phone.) Ah. I can take this later. Who invented the cell phone?

B: I think I’ll pass on the sandwich. (B’s phone rings. She answers.) Great! See you in few minutes.

A: Really? I’ll give it to your friend when she gets back. I take it she’s on her way. Yes. She’s coming down from the observation deck.

B: We’re going to leave as soon as she gets here.

A: So where are you going? Back to the Island?

B: No. We have dates. Great guys, both of them. They’re looking for jobs. But they’re really great guys.

A: Have you told them that recently?

Miles Groth, PhD, Wagner College

718 390-3482

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