Thursday, February 09, 2006

Back up the ladder

Reason number two why this semester is so much better than all the previous semesters: I finally have time for one or two fun activities outside the usual twelve-hour days of teaching and grading and meetings and academic crap. One of these is my first-ever experience with a Habitat for Humanity build, something I've wanted to do for years. I have zero experience with building stuff, mind you, but I follow instructions well and I don't mind getting dirty, so I figured I'd make a reasonably good grunt worker.

Today was my third day at the site, and at one point I found myself at the top of an extension ladder, left arm wrapped around it for dear life, squinting into the sun, right arm hammering with all my strength at a fourteen-foot wooden brace that needed to be detached from the roof. There’s always a moment in situations like that where I think, oh hell, this isn’t working, I don’t have the strength to do this, and if I did have the strength I’d probably knock myself right off the stupid ladder (whoa is this thing shaking?), and now I’ll have to give up and ask someone else to do it and that will be embarrassing and a waste of time and why the hell did I think I could do construction work in the first place? But I keep on pounding, just. one. more., and when my arm is about to fall off I hear a little surrendering creak from a nail, and then I see a little slice of daylight between the brace and the roof support, and then the whole thing eases loose and I manage not only to not drop it on anyone’s head, but to gracefully maneuver myself back down the ladder and the brace back to its proper stack, after I’ve wrestled all those damn four-inch nails back out of it.

And then I breathe a sigh of relief and think, hey! I can climb ladders and pound stuff and I didn't lose a finger or kill anybody and that was fun! Can I do it again?

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