It’s Called Umarell in Italy

Jan. 1, 2024
American jobsites need visitors, too

This is embarrassing to admit, but I have to start here: I am extremely online.

I read news from mulitple news sources, I scan the headlines of several others, and I am addicted to social media.

My social media addiction has evolved over the years: from Myspace to Facebook, to Snapchat (in grad school, for a now ex-girlfriend who photographed her entire day, every day), then it was Twitter, and now I’m obsessed with Instagram.

I post pictures and videos of my dog, and I scroll through Reels, which is week-old TikTok for middle-aged men.

All this is to explain how I found an Instagram post that was a screenshot of a tweet (or whatever Elon Musk calls posts this week), and the post explained what the Italians call “umarell.”

Umarell literally means “little man,” but it is used in a playful way to describe retired men in Italy who watch construction sites.

These men often watch road projects, and they follow a stereotype that includes clasping their hands behind their back as they watch. They also give unwanted advice to workers.

I love this! Especially the unwanted advice part — hilarious!

This is right in my wheelhouse because, like many of you, I can’t wait to be retired. Imagine it: no work! It sounds glorious. Oh, I was born to be retired. I’m going to be an umarell of some kind.

After he reitired, my dad hung out at an auto body shop, so being an umarell is in my blood.

The umarell phenomenon raises an interesting topic, one that is mentioned in one of this issue’s articles. “The Long Game” is about fixing the labor crisis by rebuilding the pipeline of workers for the industry. Carrie Gardenhire, who wrote the essay, argues that having construction site tours would be one way to do this.

Site tours, especially for children, teenagers, and college students, would attract more workers.

It also might attract American umarells, like my dad, which would be cool.

I can hear the lawyers shifting in their seats and clicking their pens.

Yes, this would be a huge risk.

Jobsite safety is important. Precaution measures would have to be taken, and waivers must be signed. And even then, most organizations probably would not take the risk.

But think of the upside if it was possible.

Most students only see construction as they pass by in a car, and their parent, who doesn’t know anything about our industry, probably curses the project: “What are they doing? It’s taking forever! Look at this traffic!”

However, put hard hats on their heads and give them a tour, you change the heart and mind of the taxpaying parent and capture the imagination of a future employee.

Also, I’d like to visit jobsites. I’m media, so I’m allowed. Please invite me! I need to logoff social media and see the action. Email me and let’s make it happen.

Happy New Year! RB

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