If we were having a beer, I might tell you about the project I did last weekend when I straightened out a couple of racks of firewood that were leaning very badly. The pressure-treated board they were standing on had rotted away and collapsed under the pressure of the racks’ legs. I would tell you that I had to lift two racks up about four inches, pull out the rotted wood and replace it.
You would look impressed. You would say that that sounds like serious work and you would ask how I managed to lift fully loaded racks of firewood. I’d tell you that I used a porta-power.
You would look at me curiously:
“One of those hydraulic pumps with the various cylinders and gizzmos?”
“I saw one of those in a TV show. They use them to break into houses.”
You would explain. The show you watched was about the problems they had in various states with high volumes of foreclosed houses during the recession. They followed a guy who worked for a bank, cleaning up the abandoned homes. Sometimes, the owners didn’t bother to give the bank a key so the guy used a porta-power unit to spread the door jamb apart and pop the door open. You’d look at me and ask:
“How powerful is that thing anyway?”
“10-tons? That’s sounds pretty powerful. Do you really need a 10-ton unit? Couldn’t you have gotten a smaller unit and saved some money?”
I would explain that they had a 4-ton unit for $69 but the 10-ton unit was on sale for $99 and it seemed like a pretty good deal, $30 for 12,000 more pounds of applied pressure. I would add that, at the time, I had no idea when I might actually use the unit. Still, it’s come in handy.
You would be nodding in agreement. Why settle for four tons when you can have ten. Ten makes four sound like nothing. Then you would get that curious look again.
“Wait, did you use that thing when you pushed the end of one of those firewood racks back in place?”
“Of course, that required moving over 10 feet of stacked fire wood. How else would I move that?”
“OK, so when you yanked that fence out of the ground last year, did you use this thing? – ‘cuz, you know, when you told me that story, I was impressed.“
“You should have been impressed, that fence was buried twelve inches in the ground.”
“Yeah but did you use this 10-ton magic lift thingie to get it out?”
“No. I used a 2-ton electric winch.”
“So, do you do any real work, or do you just hook up tools and press buttons?”
Sensing where this conversation was heading, I would order us another round. You would sit there making button-pressing movements with your thumb.
I would try to convince you that this wasn’t as simple as you were trying to make it. First, you have to know what tools can be used in what situations, i.e. when to use a winch instead of a hydraulic ram. You also have to know how to use these tools. I mean, I still was raising a cord of firewood four or five inches into the air. That’s not for the faint of heart. The whole thing could have come crashing down if it wasn’t properly balanced. I had to make a temporary support that would hold the racks up while I removed the hydraulics, the old boards and fitted the new boards. I would complain that, in its entirety, the job was far from easy.
You would acknowledge that it was probably more complicated than you were making it seem. You would ask for some of the details. I’d show you a short video of when I first raised the end of the rack. You would be impressed, but not with me. You’d be impressed because a little wedge like device was lifting half the weight of a cord of wood.
“It’s impressive alright, but you have to admit, it’s doesn’t look like you were working very hard.”
I’d try to explain that that’s why we make tools. The alternative to using this porta-power unit would have been to unload the firewood from the rack, replace the board and then reload the firewood. We make tools so that we don’t have to do that kind of work.
“Yeah, but think about it. You lift with a porta power. You pull with a winch. You prune with a freakin chainsaw. You clear snow with a machine that looks like the Mars lander and yet you sit here drinking beer like you spend every day doing manual labor.”
“Well the porta power unit weighs over 100 pounds.”
“Did you carry it to the log pile?”
“I used a hand truck.”
You would raise your glass and make that button-pushing motion with your thumb again.