It is Tuesday, barely after 5 in the morning. I am at my table, facing the window. These are teaching weeks for me and I need the concentrated quiet of the night and morning to move my lecture notes along.
I have before me a familiar sight. Across the railroad tracks there is a dirt lot. The nearby construction projects have the men leave their cars here for the day and so each morning, before six, you start to hear the quiet rumble of one truck or SUV after another as they pull into empty spaces.
I am surprised this morning because it is barely 5:30. I know they start work at 6. Why so early? The sky is still a musty shade of dark.
A small group gathers at the head of a truck. They have their lunches – mountains of food in coolers big enough to feed my whole family for a great many days. One or two are smoking, a handful are drinking what must be coffee from travel mugs.
They’re not in a hurry. Words drift up to my window. One man leans on the car, another paces a little.
They come here this early to begin the day exactly like this, standing around, talking, much in the way that Parisian men will leave for work a little earlier just so they can stop first at the local café bar for a shot of espresso.
Just on this one day, I wouldn’t be surprised if both were talking about the same thing – the victory of the American at the Tour de France.