The Night Pavers
“The Night Pavers.” Is it a rock ‘n’ roll band, a baseball team or a flock of birds? None. The night pavers, a hardy crew by any standards, are professional road workers who work during the dead of night. They are trained to work at night to minimize inconvenience to drivers.
The night pavers have recently come to Sanibel. We have many roads that have taken a toll from the heavy traffic last winter and the torrents of rain this summer. There are potholes, sinkholes, bumps, erosion and wear and tear. When presented with this situation at a recent Sanibel City Council meeting, the majority declared, “this is a job for the night pavers.”
They come with their equipment miners’ lamps, asphalt trucks, cement mixers, rollers and lunch boxes. Their lunch is usually consumed at 3 in the morning when the rest of us are having pleasant dreams about smooth roads. Their assignment is to do a total makeover of our roads by dawn. It is a task these hardy souls don’t take lightly. The shock absorbers of Sanibel automobiles depend on them.
I interviewed a night paver recently and found in him total commitment to the people of Sanibel and our roads. His business card said “Bob Sweeney, Night Paver.” We sat for coffee at Rosie’s.
“So, Bob. You and your buddies work under the stealth of darkness and are gone by dawn. How did you get into night paving in the first place?”
Bob: When I was a kid I loved the darkness. I preferred to play in the dark rather than in the light. I’d pretend I was a Navy Seal leading daring raids on the enemy under the cover of night. I preferred sleeping during the day especially when it meant going to school.
A.S.: But why road paving? You could have actually been a Navy Seal. Or a night watchman. Or a rewrite man on the night desk of a newspaper.
Bob: It was around 2 a.m. one morning and I had just emptied a bar in Sanibel. I was on vacation and was driving back to my hotel room. I was between jobs and didn’t know where I was heading career wise. And that’s when I saw them.
Bob: The night pavers. One lane of a road was blocked off and I saw the helmets, smelled the cement and saw the men at work. They seemed to love what they were doing. They were singing folk songs of the working class. There was so much energy and it was so hypnotic that I stopped my car on the side of the road and wandered into the mix. The men stopped for a moment and stared at me. They instantly knew that I was one of them. They gave me a helmet and a rake. The next thing I knew I was raking cement onto the road as though I had done it all my life.
I never looked back. I joined them immediately and even knew the words to the folk song they were singing. I’ve been a night paver ever since.
A.S.: So you found your calling. It all seemed to come together.
Bob: Yes, it did. Working at night. Performing vital public service. Becoming one of the best pavers in the annals of star pavers. It was everything I ever dreamed of. But, I finally got the recognition I craved for when the road construction industry named me ‘Paver of the Year.’ That’s the Academy Award of this profession. I’ve never been more proud of myself nor had a better job.
A.S.: Bob, when we drive these roads during daylight hours and find that the going is smooth, the bumps are gone and the topping spanking clean we’ll think of you and your buddies doing your work at night. We thank you for your daring do while the rest of us are asleep wondering if those roads will ever get better. And then morning comes and they did. Tell me, Bob, what do you do to pass the time when you’re not working?
Bob: I enjoy mixing cement, sweeping roads, and painting white lines. That’s all I care about. I’m a night paver through and through.
-Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.