There is a debate raging on this side of the Atlantic over soccer players’ increasing use of gloves and snoods (a bizarre scarf/hood hybrid) to protect their expensive yet delicate physiques from the vagaries of the British weather.
Now the past few months has seen some seriously unpleasant and unseasonably cold weather. And many of the players that have added the snood to their sporting wardrobe do originate from warmer climes. But their decision to wear everything apart from thermal underwear and an overcoat has been met with derision from old school sports fans like myself who grew up watching the game being played by men hewn from granite and for whom a broken leg was a minor inconvenience.
Yet a similar creeping erosion of manliness has been present in the construction and demolition equipment industry for years and, strangely, no one seems to have noticed.
When I first started writing about construction equipment, the operator’s cab was still regarded as an option on probably 90 percent of machines. The standard kit was equipped with something that looked like a park bench to sit on and a set of levers guaranteed to give the driver forearms like Popeye within a fortnight.
Now OK, no one wants lumps of concrete falling on their head or in their sandwiches; so the addition of an enclosed cab was probably not a sign of operators going soft. And sure, construction and demolition sites can be pretty dusty so air-conditioning was, perhaps, a useful addition.
But, for me, the rot set in the day that some bright spark decided to add a CD player to the operator environment, presumably so the driver could listen to show tunes whilst carrying out a spot of light landscaping and mechanized flower arranging.
But the addition of tea and coffee-making facilities within the cab of (and, as a Brit, it pains me to say this) a JCB machine really is the straw the broke the camel’s finely manicured nail.
I realise that equipment manufacturers need to differentiate their products, particularly at a time when everyone is forced to sell at rock bottom prices. But, unless I missed a meeting, a backhoe loader that doubles as a mobile Starbucks is a USP too far.
Call me old-fashioned, but I want my machine operator to be roughly the size of Wales, to have hands like a pitcher’s mitt, and so much dirt under his fingernails that he could grow potatoes on the move. I certainly don’t want him dispensing bran muffins and double decaf lattes.
Come on guys – Man Up!