Thursday, April 2

The Mop Handle

This likely would be funnier if you had been there. Fair warning.

This story goes back many years, to about fifteen years ago. I had a co-worker who was really, really good on networking technologies, and went with him on numerous service calls.

Along with the tools of the trade he always carried a stick about four feet long - he'd use it to poke acoustic tiles in ceilings to see if network cables were in the ceiling, what kind they were, and whether they were in contact with any nasty EMI-inducing conduits.

The stick in question was a broom handle. He'd "borrowed" it from a broom in the office, and would return said handle to the broom after returning to said office.

Or so we thought.

Years later, when our digs were getting a bit cramped - this was just before UTA started building the University Line for TRAX - and we moved from downtown Salt Lake City to West Valley City; while packing, we found the business end of the broom was missing the handle. We basically figured it was hidden up in the ceiling somewhere and didn't try to find it - would likely be a surprise and a head-scratcher for whomever would later occupy the space.

Over the years, someone would mention the broom and the missing handle. Or the handle without the broom. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, you really did have to be there. But that damn broom and the history of it was always fresh in our memories, as was the purveyor of the original story. Did the handle really get swallowed by the ceiling, or did the handle user make off with it?

Or was it waiting in the wings to further perpetuate the story?

Over the years, people came and went. Then a couple years ago, due to getting a new contract, we gained a few new people in the office.

In the first few days, in any such environment, there's always a breaking-in period. For the existing people, you're wary of the new faces, of their mannerisms. For the new people, there's concern over their fitting in. Learning new procedures. And histories.

Ultimately, most of the new folks fit in rather well. Of course there were flare-ups; some of the embers never quite settled down, but for the most part, everyone got along.

Most of the remaining people were of sufficient age to be (not wanting to say fragile) careful of our physical limitations. So it came as no surprise that I wasn't the only one to have painful back problems. The only difference between all of us was the way each of us carried ourselves when we were ailing.

I, for one, always try to stay as vertical as possible when my back problems would flare up. My ("old") boss would do a quick shuffle. The other oldster in the mix would walk with a bit of a stooped-over gait.

Somewhere along the line, there was a flood in our stock room from a leaking pipe, likely frozen and backed-up with water from the roof. Searching for the mop, we discovered the mop handle was missing from the mop. Those of us who had been around for awhile wondered if the mop handle had gone the way of the broom handle, but that had been years ago, and was likely not in the ceiling. About that time our one oldster had mangled his back and came in with an uncharacteristic stoop to his gait. Upon seeing this, I called upon my ("old") boss and declared "I think I know where the mop handle went!"

The stooped one, hearing my declaration, asked where.

"Well, the way you're standing, it must be up your a..." 1

So last weekend, after a weekly visit to Costco, I wrenched my back picking up a crate of bottled water; quite painful, I stayed home on Tuesday after driving to St. George and back on Monday. Six hundred miles of back spasms. After calling the requisite people to let everyone know I wouldn't be in, I later got a call from my good friend, the oldster.

"We appear to be missing the mop handle again. Have you seen it?"

1 This being a family show, I'm not inclined to utter the word ass in context. But you get the idea.

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