Monday, May 25, 2009


I just read an article on The Simple Dollar on "working parties". This piqued my interest because I just went to one of these today.

A labmate of mine and his girlfriend just moved apartments, into the third story of a 100-year-old building. As is customary with old buildings like this, the staircase (no elevator - who are we kidding?) is one of those narrow, circular jobs. The sofa didn't fit up the stairs, so they sold that off on Craigslist. The queen size mattress they managed to bend around up the stairs, but the box spring had no such luck.

Being grad students, they didn't hire movers, so professional help was out of the questions.

The third floor does happen to have a balcony, however.

And my labmate is an engineer.

Take a guess what happens next?

On Friday the grad student office mailing list gets an email:

How many engineers does it take to hoist a Queen-size box spring up to a 3rd floor apartment through the back porch? I am looking for 2-4 helpers this weekend. I will provide transportation to & from the location of your choice, plus pizza and beer. We will get going at around 4 this Sunday.

A gang of engineers trying to agree on the best way to accomplish a task requiring pulleys, rope, elbow grease, and at least 14 alternate, equally viable methods of attack? Ah, perfect! I wouldn't miss it.

In the end it required a team of five people - two to pull on ropes, one to maneuver the box spring around gutters and the first and second floor porches as it was hoisted up, one to take pictures, and of course one to supervise.

My job was to help tie the ropes around the box spring to suitably secure it. The other guy working on this was a Boy Scout, so he was carefully telling me how to tie the knots (now, this one is kind of complicated, it's a double figure eight around a bite). Then he looked over and said, wow is that a double figure eight around a bite? Why yes, yes it is. Those sailing lessons last year paid off! :)

All in all, we agreed over pizza that it really only should have taken two people and about ten minutes, rather than five over half an hour. But what fun would THAT be?


  1. This made me chuckle....of course the Outlier family has not tried this in their own home before..oh no never... :-)

  2. Oh I recall one of the Outlier boys at a young age hoisting his wagon up with an engine block pulley - with himself inside the wagon...

    The boys and the things being hoisted have only gotten bigger since then. :)