16 August 2015

The Story Of How I Did Not Lose My Arms

In the spirit of a kinder, gentler, happier time (back when this blog had a name very obviously thought up by a fourteen-year-old), I shall now relate a probably-mundane story from my day.

Friday we were hanging trusses (that's 'roof parts' for you big-city pencil pushers). So I'm on the absolute top of a rickety scaffolding (on wheels -- blocked wheels, but wheels nonetheless) some two, two and a half storeys high. Below this rig is six inches of concrete. My dad is on the top of the wall to my right, and my uncle is on the wall to my left. On the ground in front of me is the telehandler ('crane,' pencil pushers). Attached to one of the forks of the telehandler is a chain -- wrapped around the carriage and hooked back on itself so the other end dangles free.

The process is as follows: a truss is carried over the ground to the telehandler and positioned so that the centre, the peak, is under the chain. The free end of the chain is looped around the centre post and hooked back on itself so the telehandler can raise it up to us.

These trusses are forty feet wide, and since they're made of 2x6s, they're kind of floppy. Hence three of us up at roof height -- to control the thing. Because I'm in the centre, I'm responsible for the tallest and heaviest point of the truss (a really smart place to put the 5'3" 150-pound college kid -- the centre of the truss is twice my height). The chain and I are the only things holding it upright until my dad and my uncle get some nails in (and even the chain has to be a bit slack so my dad and my uncle can make sure it's seated properly).

We developed a pretty good rhythm over the first ten trusses. So on the last one, the eleventh one, the telehandler brought the truss up to us, my dad got his end set in place but not yet nailed down, I grabbed one of the 2x6 'webs' near the centre to steady it, my uncle stretched out to grab his end. Something happened -- I'm not sure what, but my dad said later that the telehandler dropped the truss on the walls a bit abruptly, enough to bump it -- but I saw the chain on the top post of the truss come undone. The hook just jumped right off the chain. I saw blue sky where the grey chain link should have been.

Suddenly I'm the only thing preventing a 250-pound truss from falling several storeys to crush the telehandler and the operator as well as destroying the truss itself -- oh, and we're already two and a half weeks behind on this job. Every muscle begins to tighten, begins to brace for that terrifying few seconds when the truss will be pulling against me, trying to fall, before my dad or my uncle will be able to wrench it back -- if they even can, being twenty feet away from the balance point.

All this flew through my head in a split second as I watched the hook drop back into place on the same link of the chain that it had just left.

Those muscles that had begun to tense had not yet finished tightening as commanded. It all happened that fast.

The telehandler operator's response when we told him what happened? "Oh yeah, I totally planned that."

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