Just like always, we arrived at work before any of the others. We walked through the gate as usual. We waved, “Hello” to the gate guard. He waved back, and we kept on walking. We went to the plans table where the plans for our work were kept. We memorized how the weights were arranged that held the plans down against a stray wind. Without rolling up our trouser legs we each wrapped a sheet of construction plan around our shins to see how high up it would come on our shins. On all of us except Hans, who was shorter than the rest of us. The paper came just above his knee cap. If he walked normally, the paper would make a crinkling sound. If he walked stiff legged, the paper wouldn’t make any sound, but he would look odd. We suggested that he not have to sneak pages off the work site, but from the look on his face, we could see that hurt his feelings so badly that it looked like he was going to cry.
I suggested that maybe he could walk one leg stiff and walk normally with the other leg. He claimed, “If the guard asks what’s wrong, I can tell him I pulled a muscle.” Since none of the rest of us had been injured at the job site, we thought it sounded like a reasonable thing to do, so we agreed with him. We assembled the plan pages, and we carefully put them back on the plans table. We remembered where the weights that held it down were placed, and we placed them exactly where they had been!
We were standing at the plans table when the foreman arrived. He greeted us in his usual way. He was Russian, but he had been learning German. He told us “Morning, everyone,” in a casual way. He stepped up to us and said, “Morgan jeder!” We respected him for that. We answered and stood waiting for him to give us any special instructions. He started rolling up the plans. Two of us took an involuntary step forward, unconsciously not wanting him to move the plans. I was one of them. Erwin put a restraining on my shoulder!
He turned, looked at us, and asked, “Well, what are you waiting for?”
Erwin countered, “Any special instructions?”
I was nervous. I asked, “But where are you going with the plans?”
“Oh, the architects have found something they want to alter. All of us foremen have to bring our plans to the center for collation. Besides, you men don’t need a set of plans to do your excellent work,” he waved a free hand at us and said, “so, shoo! Go to work!”
Erwin pulled me back, and we turned and went back to work. He said, “Come on, Manny. We’ve got work to do. We had already completed the outside brick work, and we were close to completing the interior bricking. At the end of the day, our foreman had not returned with the updated plans. I was starting to worry.
Erwin told me “Just be calm. Don’t be anxious. Everything should work out alright!”
I objected, “Yeah? Well what if it doesn’t?
“Manfred, don’t obsess over this!”
“Well, somebody has to!” Then he said something that stopped me completely.
“Manfred, you’re destroying my confidence in you!”
I had always held the belief that perception is 90 percent of reality. Whatever way someone perceives something, that is reality to them. If they perceive that you are jerk, then to them you are a jerk, and only life changing circumstances will alter that perception. So, I looked at Erwin, cleared my throat, and muttered, “Thank you, Erwin!” He smiled, and we went back to work.
We went that evening to Zum Kellar looking for Bill! When we arrived, he was not there. It was a struggle for me to act normally. I didn’t want to destroy whatever perception the brigade had of me, but darn it I was seeing freedom slipping away. Then later he did arrive. It was kind of like we swarmed him. We circled him and escorted him to our table all of us babbling. He was looking at us as if we were crazy.
He asked, “Are you men nuts? Don’t you realize that with that kind of abrupt display of attention, others in here will have noticed. Then, if ever an investigation occurs, this event will be remembered, and you will be investigated? You don’t want that”
All of a sudden, we were no longer exuberant. We were fearful. Each of us turned from him to face into the large room of the Kellar. We didn’t see any one looking at us, so, we turned to tell him no one was watching.