On eased conveyance

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The first time you use a hand truck you will crash into a corner and run over your feet. It’s normal. The guy with infected knuckle tattoos lies when he howls his hand truck skills. But once you get the hang of manoeuvring around corners and avoiding others’ toes, you’ll discover a functional task that is remarkably empowering.

The hand truck has an obvious purpose: move lots of stuff from point a to point b without hurting yourself or the objects. Maybe you’re moving a couch or boxes of books. Regardless, the object or objects are heavy and unwieldy and it’s duty of these four-wheels to transform the item from intimidating to acceptable. With the hand truck you gain a powerful ally in negotiating space with the heaviest things.

Although the hand truck mitigates the threat of the large and overwhelming object, the truck itself retains an aura of intimidation. With it’s looping handle and stiff bars and corrugated metal bed it resembles a medieval torture device. And that’s when folded up. Open and ready to drive, hand trucks appear weather-beaten. The long metal bed hangs down a few inches while inexplicable scratches and loose screws punctuate the handle. Standing ten feet away you picture steering it with ease. Then you approach. And as you play Tetris to fit your couch or boxes of books on the bed, you realize that the hand truck isn’t a soft ally: it wants skill and attention in return for moderated conveyance.

You move. At first you push, forcing your body weight force against the hulking object to make pushing flimsy metal wheels less fatiguing. But after twenty feet you run against the wall. You switch tactics. You pull. The back wheels rattle ominously. Fifty feet later a corner blocks your progress. It doesn’t physically bar like the wall, but as you skirt the edge you realize the back left wheel is stuck. You push back a little, then push forward. Nothing. Standing there, slightly dumbfounded, you contemplate going behind the truck to heave up the back wheels. But, no, that won’t work as you could barely lug the object you’re moving onto the truck. So you drive back further and after manoeuvring and manoeuvring and manoeuvring you finagle a turn wide enough to slide the hand truck through the corner you newly perceive as narrow.

The first time you use a hand truck you will run into someone or something or both. And then you’ll use it again and again and again and at an undefined point your path will function with the vehicle’s. Through changing the way you move through space, the hand truck presents a new lens through which to view everyday objects and passages. All it takes is practice, patience and humility to understand this new outlook.

(Image via Flickr: Jeremy Brooks)

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