Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tales of a Sandbagger.

I hurt.

There. I said it.

The thing is, when I started this whole process I was strong.

Nearly invincible, really.

I was pitching sand with that shovel like a sugar-crazed kid in a playground sandbox. (Well, I was out-shoveling the old guys, at least.)

And food?! Nonsense! I scoffed at the need to eat! I'd plow through my shift simply hydrating with water. By the end of the day all I could think about was getting out there and doing it again the next day.

Then the next day came.

Or I should say, the middle-of-the-night came. And a strong sensation of soreness penetrated my brain simply because I moved my fingers.

My fingers?! I was suddenly struck with fear.

If my fingers hurt this badly, what will I feel if I try to move my whole body out of this bed?

Sure enough. When morning came, it wasn't an easy transition to an upright position. But I popped some ibuprofen and committed to venturing out for another day of sandbagging.

I moved much slower this time. And lunch and snack breaks were a welcomed reprieve.

The 40 mph wind gusts whipped sand in my eyes. The cool morning air on my exposed neck left a miserable chill. Every lift of the shovel loaded with rain-soaked sand sent sharp pains through my lower back.

Unlike the previous day, I was not thinking about what more I could do...I was thinking about how surely someone could make this process easier. Like, what about making a machine that spits out sand into bags on an assembly line - kind of like in a candy factory? All we have to do is grab the bags as they roll off the conveyor belt! Easy as pie! Literally!

I know they have those fancy spider machines, but today it wasn't even all that feasible to use them due to the strong winds. It just blew sand around. Besides, those machines still require a lot of people to grab the sand as it falls.

I couldn't help think that in 50 years when our kids are doing this again for some freakish flood, the old geezers like me will be saying, "Remember back when we had to shovel the dirt into the bags by hand? And they needed hundreds of volunteers? Now they can get the same work done in a quarter of the time with a quarter of the people!"

Hey, when you're tired, sore, and freezing...your mind takes some travels. It's probably therapeutic.

But just when I felt like I couldn't fill even one more bag...I'd look up from my work and see...

...the mountain of sand they're expecting us to get into bags in the next 48 hours.
...a group of National Guardsmen and women who never seem to tire, despite working around the clock.
...a young boy gripping his plastic shovel and grinning from ear to ear - ready to make a difference.
...another trailer pulling into the site, its occupants full of hope upon viewing all those sandbags.

And...a group of 'newbies' - asking for a tutorial on their first sandbagging day.

We'll let them skip meals and charge on through. After all, it doesn't really matter what tomorrow will bring.

Because today they're invincible.

And until someone invents that sand-spitting conveyor belt, they'll have to be.

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