Physics

  • Yesterday, Diana asked if I could come by during my lunch hour with our portable dolly and move a filing cabinet from one side of the bank into her office. As there is nothing I wouldn’t do for her, I readily agreed. I assumed I would arrive to find an aluminum filing cabinet emptied of files, which I could just pick up with my mighty arms and move without the use of the hand truck. I was wrong.“Where’s the filing cabinet you want me to move.”
    “It’s over against that wall.”

    I walked over and looked at the cabinet.

    “This isn’t going to work.”
    “Why not?”
    “This isn’t a filing cabinet.”
    “It’s not? What is it?”
    “It’s a Fireking 4-drawer nuclear shelter cleverly disguised to look like a filing cabinet and designed to withstand suicide bombers.”
    “What does that mean?”
    “It means that it’s filled with either concrete or gypsum and reinforced with galvanized steel. It means that it probably weighs over 500 lbs… assuming you took all the files out of it.”
    “Oh.”
    “Oh, what?”
    “I didn’t want to have to take all the files out then put them back in. I thought you could just move the whole thing with the files in it.”
    “Darling, do you know what is heavier than either concrete or gypsum?”
    “Paper?”
    “Paper.”
    “Well, can’t you just move it with the dolly?”
    “This is not a dolly, Darling. This is a glorified, collapsible luggage cart I got at Big Lots for moving cases of Coke at your banking events. If I try to tip that concrete bunker onto it, it will do just what it was designed to do – collapse, and I then I will die… painfully.”
    “Do we have another dolly?”
    “We did. A good one. But you left it in the garage in Kentucky when you packed up our stuff to move up to Nebraska.”
    “Sorry. Maybe Mary’s husband can get one from work.”

    Turns out Mary’s husband could indeed get one from work. She would bring it in the next day. I went back to work and mulled the problem over. First, I convinced myself that Diana really needed that cabinet moved that day. Next, I remembered my own cardinal rule: “Every new job requires a new tool.” After I got off work, I went straight to Lowes and bought a new hand truck. Now, I should have taken it home and made sure the tires were fully inflated to the correct PSI, but I wanted to get back to the bank and finish the job that day so I could justify my purchase. I kicked the tires, they seemed pretty full. I paid for the truck and returned to the bank.

    “Where did you get that?”
    “Lowes.”
    “Why did you do that? Mary’s bringing one in tomorrow.”
    “I didn’t want to wait. Besides, we need a good dolly, and YOU left mine in Kentucky.”
    “But when would you ever use it after today?”
    “The next time you need a 600 lb object moved.”
    “That might not be for a while.”
    “I’ll wait.”

    So I went over to the cabinet and started sliding it side to side until I got it out a few feet from the wall. I rocked it back and got the edge of the hand truck underneath the front of it, then let the cabinet down. Then I tried to rock the whole thing back. Even throwing my considerable weight into it, I couldn’t get it to rock back to its balancing point on the dolly. I finally got Diana to get behind it and push while I pulled. To give Diana her due, she’s a sturdy thing, and the person I normally want on the other end of a sleeper-sofa I’m trying to move.

    We got the cabinet tipped back, and I turned it around and began pushing toward her office. It was at that point that I noticed the left tire on the dolly was only half inflated, and the right only a quarter. (Helpful tip: kicking a tire really gives you no actual indication of the state of its inflation. You can’t measure PSI with your foot.) As I pushed, the cabinet started to list to the right because of the lower right tire. Now, once that cabinet tilted past a certain angle, there was no way I was going to be able to prevent it from slamming into the floor and probably doing a great deal of structural damage. I not only had to balance it forwards and backwards, but also from side to side. I had a split second to decide to either drop the whole thing and run, or Dave-up and get it into her office. I decided to Dave-up.

    I shifted my body more toward the right side of the cabinet and pushed with all my might. I pushed and pushed and pushed… and then…

    … I farted.

    Now, I stayed awake just long enough in high school science to realize that when you put enough pressure on a container of air, that air is going to do everything in its power to escape that container and achieve a steady state. It’s called “dynamic equilibrium.” Look it up. Anyway, though I can’t explain the physics behind it, this sudden equalization of pressure allowed me to get forward momentum on the cabinet. I pushed the wobbling cabinet of death into her office, and then gently tipped it up before wrestling it back against the wall where she wanted it.

    “Thank you, Darling. I’m sorry this was such a hassle.”
    “Oh, you’re worth it.”

    Diana came home later from work, and thanked me again.

    “Thank you for moving the file cabinet for me.”
    “You’re welcome.”
    “I kind of enjoyed watching you do it.”
    “Did you?”
    “Yeah, the muscles in your arms and shoulders were all bulgy.”
    “Really?”
    “… and your veins were all standing out.”
    “Yeah, I imagine they were.”
    “It was pretty sexy.”
    “Was it?”
    “Yeah… right up to point where you farted.”
    “You heard that, huh?”
    “Yeah.”
    “I can see where that might have killed the mood.”
    “I was just glad it happened while you were wrestling a file cabinet. Usually when it happens, I get a sheet pulled over my head.”
    “I thought you liked that.”
    “No, Dear. No woman likes that.”
    “Do you think the girls at the teller line heard it?”
    “I don’t know. I’ll ask them, tomorrow.”
    “No. No, don’t do that. I’d rather not know.”
    “Then don’t pull the sheets over my head anymore.”
    “Deal, and I get to keep the hand truck.”
    “Deal.”

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