Article: It’s Funny When I Biff, Real Work, and Other Inane Observations

Posted: April 30, 2011 in Articles, Strength Stunts

I now know something I didn’t know last week. It seems that, without any aftereffects, I can hold a 150 lb sand bag on my head for several seconds. Well, my glasses got bent a little, but nothing worse than that. You may remember me crowing about being able to put the Blue Meanie sandbag above my head in recent posts. Well, it seems that I’m still hit and miss with that ability. Yesterday, it happened to be a “miss” day. That’s how I ended up with a sandbag balanced on my noggin. More below the fold–

So, I was by myself the time I got the Blue Meanie overhead, and I wanted to legitimize the effort by having my friend Craig witness the deed. He was, probably much to his chagrin, being shown the Big Meanie–my new 200 lb bag. I hoisted it for him, though I had just eaten tacos, and thought that it was an inopportune time to try any squats with said monster bag.

Instead, I did a few hoists with the 150, and thought I’d try getting a good overhead press with it. Now, I’m getting pretty adroit at getting the Blue Meanie up into “clean” position, with my hands under the bag as it is balanced at shoulder level. In terms of strength, there’s no question that I have sufficient thrust to get the bag moving upward. That’s not the issue. The difficulty, as is fairly common for those as oafish as myself, is controlling the bag once I get near elbow lock-out. Yeah. It’s squirmy. And prone to rolling. Imagine trying to push a 150 pound sleeping cat overhead and holding it there.

On one of my attempts, the bag somehow ended up draped over my head. Fool that I am, I thought there may have been a way to salvage the attempt, so I was standing there with the bag squishing down around my ears and pushing my glasses all around, trying to get my hands in position to try another push. At one point the weight was pushing straight down on my head with no real help from my hands. And I was okay. So…lesson learned. There may be a video of this goofiness in my future.

I also managed to have the bag roll backward and land on my back/shoulder area during freefall, which makes one emit the “hoooof” sound, I observed. Good times.


At work today, I got all the odd-object lifting my little heart could desire. We have, for some time, been overrun with old, obsolete computer and phone equipment. It accumulates like…a great big accumulating thing. You see, “e-waste”, as it’s called, is not very easy to get rid of. For the sake of the environment, one must go through proper channels, recycling if possible. Electronic gizmos have all sorts of yucky chemicals in them, like mercury, lead, and, er, mulgorium. Perhaps a little bit of turbonium, which is only used in the top-of-the-line components. In all seriousness, though, it’s tough to get rid of this stuff the right way. In many cases, it’s expensive, costing some amount of money per pound. An individual might only end up with a small recycling tab, but a big non-profit with literally thousands of pounds of this junk…well, you can only imagine the possibly fiscal injury.

The University of Utah, through its engineering department, I believe, put on a free e-waste recycling drive, even opening it up to organizations like my employer. We jumped at the chance, and believe me, it takes an extraordinary event to get the staff of my department to try leaping. Anyhow, I spent the bulk of the day hoisting big laser printers, fax machines, old CRT monitors, tower computers, and every sort of odd thing that an IT department might keep around. Think seven big cargo vans full of this stuff. I bled from two separate injuries. I was filthy to the elbows. It was a real day’s work. I loved it.

I remarked to one of my coworkers that I would have no need to engage in any cavemannery tonight. Anyone who has ever picked up and physically thrown an industrial laser printer knows what I’m talking about. Then there’s the old “box full of hard drives”. Yeah. Heavy. I was in my element.

In the days before our current batch of cushy jobs, people had to actually work, at least sometimes. Their jobs were actual, rather than the often ephemeral tasks we have now. They were stacking stones to make a wall, or cutting down trees with axes, or planting crops. They created tangible differences in their environments with their work days. Work product was more than just a catch phrase. It can easily be romanticized too much, this old-fashioned labor, but I know that I speak true when I say that, for a lot of us, our most satisfying days are those when we can look around and see the difference that our own efforts yielded. If, by sweat and toil, we have created something, or brought order out of chaos, or otherwise improved our surroundings, we are quickened with the feeling of our own worth. We are presented with evidence of our own capability. Being, at the basic level, still rooted to our ancient forebears, this puts our minds at ease. It makes us healthy, not just from the physical standpoint, but from the psychological.

If there is one intractable difficulty of the modern age, it is that our problems are theoretical, distant, and seemingly beyond our ability to address. What are we to make of fears based upon societal or natural mechanisms we can’t grasp? Can any of us comprehend what a trillion dollars is, and what it means that our country somehow owes many of these trillions to…someone? Is being worried about supervolcanoes or asteroids or changing weather patterns anything more than neurosis?

I can’t say.

In the end, I feel that it tends to all be free floating anxiety, just untargeted worrying. Worrying that we are too worried. The pointless trembling of very small dogs who urinate when anyone opens the screen door too quickly.

At least, when our hands are dirty and our backs are sore from actual, meaningful effort toward a purpose, we can, for a moment, live in a happier world in which we can influence our surroundings. Or so I like to believe.

Happy Lifting!

  1. Mike says:

    Hi Patrick,

    There is a lot to be said for a good hard days labor. Our grand parents were strong and lean and I expect that they slept well too. Although I’m sure there was some anxiety about the weather and what it would do to their crops, by and large they could depend on the strength of their bodies to provide what they needed. They were not as a rule subject to the bewildering vagaries of a corporation that suddenly decides to move their operations to asia.

    Still, it is easy to over romanticise the past. Our grand parents suffered a lot of diseases that have pretty much been eradicated. And by age 40, most were considered old; their bodies pretty much spent from a lifetime of hard labor.

    On ballance I guess I’m glad to be alive now, despite all the havoc humanity is inflicting on the planet: over population, polution, climate change, deforestation and habitat distruction. Independent of all of the evidence to the contrary, for some irrational reason, I still hold out some hope that humanity will develop the one thing that has escaped us so far: wisdom.

  2. Mike,

    Amen to all you said.

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