As it turned out, the work being done in front of the casino was not nearly as nonsensical as it had appeared from afar. The men breaking up the asphalt of the sidewalk were doing this manually, but apart from that, the work made perfect sense once it was clearly explained.
appeared to be an armed guard overseeing the work, wearing a modern
looking gun belt with a hand gun, stood idly at the far end of the
stretch of side walk being broken up, and Geir in his self confidence,
shamelessly asked for this man's attention, demanding an explanation as
to what was going on. Seeing that the man looked foreign, possibly from southern Europe somewhere, Geir chose to speak English, loudly and confidently in his thick Norwegian accent.
To Bjorn's surprise and relief,
the guard did not mind at all telling Geir what the plan was, and quite
happily explained that Jan, the casino owner, had ordered the sidewalk
replaced with a heated one, decorated with black and white cobbled
stones, in the style typically found in Portugal. The guard's English was even worse than Geir's, and with an accent Bjorn could not readily place.
"To do this," the guard explained, choosing his words deliberately, at times struggling almost painfully to complete the sentences, "the old asphalt has to be removed... sand has to be raked out to form a flat surface... on top of which specially designed electric heating blankets can be rolled out... and then... to top it all off... another layer of sand must be spread out before the black and white cobbled stones are put in place to form the patterns."
"And the old asphalt is used to fill pot holes up the road?" Geir suggested, to complete the guard's explanation.
"That is correct."
"And how long will this take before it is finished?" Bjorn asked out of pure curiosity.
"We hope to be done by Friday night. We want this place to look its best for the weekend guests."
"That's quick!" Bjorn exclaimed, impressed.
"We have many workers, you know," the guard explained. "With so many hands, we will get everything in place in record time."
"And what are you paying these people?" Bjorn asked, hoping he wasn't pushing the guard too much by this question that he could not resist asking.
"I don't know," the guard replied, not upset at all by the question. "These are Jan's workers. I assume they get the usual hundred MG per day."
"And you? You are getting more than that I assume," Bjorn ventured, still unable to keep his curiosity under wraps.
The guard looked at Bjorn for a moment, before deciding to tell him the truth. "Once this job is done, I get to take a hundred gram gold wafer with me back to Portugal," the man replied.
"Hey! That's pretty good," Bjorn exclaimed, honestly impressed. "Not bad for a few days work!"
"Not bad at all!" the guard agreed. "I came here on Sunday, and this coming Sunday, I'll be back in Porto with my gold."
"Just for looking after these guys?" Bjorn enquired, finding the pay excessive. The man was after all making almost as much money in a week as Bjorn was making in a month.
"Well, I'm the master coble stone layer in charge of this project. That's pretty much what I charge. Only problem is that there are few projects these days, with the economy as it is. I don't always have work. But when I do, it pays pretty well."
"So you are not guarding these people?" Bjorn asked, suddenly realizing that the man was not a guard, but a craftsman.
"Guarding?" the man asked puzzled. "No, I'm supervising the work and making sure everything is done correctly."
"But the gun?" Bjorn asked.
"The gun? That's for protection. There are no police here, so we have to do the policing ourselves."