The Friday Fillip: Fetch and Carry

Ever since things were invented, which is to say ever since the dawn of time, we’ve needed to take these things from one place to another. Using wheels to shift our stuff was a smart but later development and one that even now isn’t always available to us. So a great deal of the time we carry.

This business of carrying is so fundamental that we use the term in a large number of metaphorical ways, too: we “carry” tunes, conversations, genes, resentments, and legal cases, among other things. But I thought we’d take a look today at how in fact we do or may carry certain specific and perhaps difficult objects. Feel free to add to this (short) list with carrys of your own.

Fireman’s carry

Few things are as difficult to carry as ourselves. We’re heavy (I speak for myself), and if we’re unconscious or otherwise less than mobile, our limpness makes our human form distinctly unwieldy. Hence the fireman’s (sic) carry. (The sound in the video below is very poor — and the “fireman’s” English accent is hard to understand — but the visual demonstration is quite good.)

The book clutch

Books occasionally come in versions printed on paper and bound together between soft or hard covers. Paperbacks of certain handy sizes can be stuffed into pockets and carried that way. A hardbound book can be carried at arm’s length in the hooked fingers of a hand, though that can feel fairly insecure. It probably cannot be carried for very long at arm’s length gripped between thumb and fingers; this grip will loosen by itself after a while, as the muscles of the hand rebel. So you’ll sometimes see what I call the book clutch where the book is gripped but also pressed against the chest for support.


The teacup glide

Tea or coffee — doesn’t matter: you know the problem. The cup’s full and you’ve got to take from here to there. Of course it slops over into the saucer, if you’re fortunate enough to have one of those beneath the cup, or on to your hand. Mess either way. Now, it seems, there’s a technically sound explanation for why this keeps happening despite your best efforts at careful carrying. A couple of experts in fluid dynamics won a IgNobel recently for figuring out the problem. A careful study of a number of videos showed:

three competing motions of the coffee in the cup. The side to side sloshing,the forward-back sloshing, and the up and down motion of the walking. This ends up producing the motion of coffee that ends up swirling around in the cup, as well as rising up and down, resulting in spills.

The thing to do, apparently, is to avoid accelerating quickly, because it’s the acceleration that sets up the amplitude of the waves. So get up to speed slowly and then maintain a steady walk, avoiding any side to side motion as well. Or use a lid.

The long arm of the restaurant worker

It’s impressive, in a way. The person clearing your table makes off with three plates carried on one arm (and a fourth in the other hand). Or it might be your server who does this trick — though posh restaurants like to serve one plate to one customer at a time. Want to know how to do it? The video below shows you.

(If you’ve broken the plate at your elbow, there’s another video that will show you how to manage a mere three plates at once.)

The solo portage

Canoes can come with a middle thwart, or portage yoke, that’s rounded in such a way as to become a yoke for the back of your neck and your shoulders, allowing you to carry a canoe. (Though as this site points out, the one-size-fits-all nature of the yoke likely means it fits no one, and serious canoeists might like to remove it and add a tump line feature to their boat.) All well and good. But the trick is getting it up there in the first place. This video shows you a straightforward way for one person to hoist a canoe up into the carry position, so that you can do that 5K portage up a rocky hillside and down again. Into the wind.

The over-the-shoulder two-bagger

I saw this one the other day and it struck me as a very sensible idea indeed. You’re at the supermarket; you’ve got two or more bags full of groceries; and you’ve got a bit of a distance to carry your plunder home or to your transport. You can, of course, simply distribute the load, grab a bag or two in each hand, and set off like that. But with your hands occupied, how will you text? What if your nose itches and must be scratched? Then there’s the fact that stuff carried at the end of your arms tends to tire out your shoulder and arm muscles, making rest stops obligatory. What to do?

If you tie together two bags you can create a sort of soft dumbbell that can ride over your shoulder, one weighty bag in front and the other slung down the back. It’s simple to join the two bag handles by tying them with one of those free transparent vegetable bags all stores offer, producing the sling.


Carry on.

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