Thursday, November 29, 2012

Brawn Over Brain

Being retired means lots of free time. Where one once spent 40 or more hours at work, now that time is free. In my case, it was more like 32 hours at work since I sort of partially retired the last four years, only working four days a week, and only three days a week the last year. But now I work zero days a week … at least for money.

I use the free time many ways: lots of traveling, lots of reading, some writing (this included), plus other fun projects with camera, microphone, or guitar. But I do still have a couple of jobs. One is driving a truck for Habitat for Humanity every Thursday picking up donations for the Habitat ReStore Store. Part of that is the fun of teamstering a big truck around the neighborhoods, backing into tight spots (beep … beep … beep) and just riding up above all that automobile trafic. I love driving, and this is really fun for me to be behind the wheel of, maybe not an eighteen wheeler, but at least a six wheeler.

Of course, the job isn’t just driving. I have to get out and load (as well as unload) the truck. There are two of us, and the truck has a nice electric lift on the back to help, but it is a job of, basically, furniture moving. The people donating the items must put them on the driveway or the garage and we don’t go into houses, up or down stairs, or other extra effort things (except for now and then when people ask us real nice). A lot of times things are in the back yard, and it can be a long haul to the driveway, but most often the items are easy access and on a hard surface. I have a partner so the work gets split between us.

Today was a pretty typical day. The first stop was a refrigerator and an electric range. These are easy items and we use a handcart or — rarely — our appliance cart to move them to the truck. The second stop was a garage full of plumbing supplies: dozens and dozens of small boxes full of plumbing stuff from plastic pipes to tape and faucets that we hauled in trip after trip. None of the loads were big, but lots and lots of walking. There was also a medium size chest freezer and … get ready … a full size, cast iron, bath tub. My guess is that it weighed about 200 pounds. We lifted one end up (two guys: partner and home owner), and I slid a furniture dolly under it. It was relatively easy then to drag/roll the tub to the lift. Once inside the truck we drug it over to the side. There were about 100 loose ceramic tiles … they're never in the original boxes … and that was about three dozen more trips from the garage to the truck. "Can you take these plastic gasoline containers?" "Are they empty?" "Yes." "Sure" now that's more like it. I'll carry two at a time!

The next stop was a love seat and couch, two mirrors, a headboard, a toilet, some cabinets, and a couple of end tables with glass tops. These couches were pretty light weight. That isn’t always the case. Some couches must be made out of steel or rock because they take two men and a small boy to lift … then we use the dollies.

Next stop was a 96” Armoire. It weighted about as much as a small pickup truck, but the hand cart got it to the edge of our truck and we laid it down on blankets inside. Finally, two CRT televisions … one 25” and one 27”. Those big TVs can be tough because one person typically carries it. Then a plate glass mirror. Plenty heavy and I kept imagining it breaking into shards in my arms and stabbing me in the heart.

Next stop was a bunch of outdoor furniture, one of those full height pet doors for a sliding door, a bunch of lamps and lights, children’s toys, a vacuum cleaner, and 10 sheets of dry wall … the green board that is water proof. A dog house … sized for an Irish Wolf Hound … no problemo. All par for the course.

Then came the next stop. There were a bunch of bathroom cabinets, medicine cabinets, small folding doors, two bathroom sinks, and some tools. A couple of book cases, some small tables and chairs, a big bag of clothing, all very typical. Then the lady said, “Can you take the bags of cement?” I look and see ten big bags. On the side it says 42. Forty-two pounds … not bad. Wait … it is 42 Kg … about 90 pounds. I took off my gloves … too slippery, and grabbed a bag. Unfortunately we forgot our hand truck at the store when we unloaded earlier, so across the 20 feet of yard I went with almost 100 pounds hanging off the end of my arms. My partner is younger than me … he’s only 62. I’m 65 and 90 pounds was a real workout. After loading all that cement, I was ready for the chiropractor.

At least the day didn’t include my nemesis … those cheap computer desks made out of glue board. That’s wood made from little chips glued together. It has the approximate density of a black hole and weighs more than solid lead. “What was that pop when you lifted the desk?” asks my partner. Not sure … maybe my pants … maybe my back. I’ll let you know when the numbness goes away.

After that the big glass sliding door and other three windows at the last stop seemed rather light. So ended another typical … back breaking … sweat making … arm stretching … tired making day. Typical, except maybe for the bags of cement. We get help unloading back at the store, but my partner and I are there for that too. Very rewarding as the donations provide income for our house building program, and we help people get rid of things they don’t need anymore and keep them out of the landfill. Of course, all that would happen too if people would just bring their own items by the store! Just kidding. We’re one of the services that Habitat is happy to provide.

So why do I do this? Several friends warned me I would likely end up with a back injury and in the hospital. Others asked why I don’t tutor kids in math or write text books with my spare time rather than lifting and moving things. Well, it is sort of a reaction to a life spent sitting in a chair typing code or documents into a computer. A very sedentary lifestyle. I've got to recover from forty years of that office chair lifestyle.

I kind of enjoy the physical side of it … out in the weather … enjoying the mountain views … the fresh air … meeting people at every stop. When I was in my twenties and early thirties I used to run a lot. I typically ran five miles a day about five days a week and competed in long runs like the Bolder Boulder or the Longmont Turkey Trot. That was fun, but I kind of dropped that athletic lifestyle when family and kids and wife and job got me pretty busy.

I’ve been pretty regular at the club for the last ten years, lifting and pulling and running on the treadmill (plus lots of swimming, sauna, steam room, and hot tub to treat the sore muscles.) Just me and the dumbbells … “What you talkin’ about, Willis?” No, dumbbells are weights that you lift.

This physical stuff is good fun, good for the brain, good for the body, good for your health, and good for my attitude. Can’t say that sitting at a computer does that so well. So, if it’s Thursday, and you have a donation for Habitat to be picked up, look for me and my truck. We’ll be right over. Not a lot of thinkin’, just stoopin’ and liftin’. Strong back, weak mind … yes ma’am. We’ll take that. It doesn’t look too heavy. Ouch!

No comments:

Post a Comment