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Flying a desk


One task that’s been hanging over my head is to improve the ergonomics of my office area. I haven’t found any furniture that looks promising. I considered having furnishings custom-made, but, at least in my case, “build to suit” means built to suit the builder’s preferences, not mine. I’m not up for debates with guys who have sharp implements hanging from their belts. With no solution in sight I just gave up on the whole idea.

Maybe I should have contacted Airbus. That’s sort of how this whole notion got started. When I took a job flying an Airbus I realized that the aircraft was more comfortable than my home office is. That airplane spoiled me.

And so, back at my home office, flying my desk for my groundborne duties, I aspired to full cockpit efficiency.

In theory, there’s no reason that a desk worker can’t have, say, a laser printer, paper, envelopes, labels, calculator, reference books, and other essential things within arm’s reach. Sure, the essential items might change from person to person, but I don’t think the overall concept does.

However, as I mentioned, actually bringing the concept to life was proving to be elusive.

Then a funny thing happened: I bought an old four-wheel-drive pickup.

The truck sparked a do-it-yourself chain of events. Forest fires start the same way. So, too, do many diseases.

As for the truck, the first order of business was to remove its fiberglass camper shell. The shell was missing one window. It also had a few little cracks in it. I didn’t want the thing. I set it atop some concrete blocks in the mud as a prelude to disposal. But my wife, who berates me for my wasteful American ways, insisted that we repair it.

I soon found that a shell in the mud is a very awkward thing to address. So I decided to build a stand that will allow us to work on the shell’s inside and the outside without being hunched over. A visit to the hardware store yielded lumber, a cordless drill, a circular saw, and related accouterments.

Of course, if you really want to get anything done, the clean aisles of retail stores are mere gateways to the dark alleys of scrounging and improvising.

The garage soon become a backwater workshop with old shipping pallets, scrap lumber, and a motley assortment of rusty C-clamps; this was all cobbled together as makeshift jigs for cutting.

If you ask me if this approach is necessary for building things, well, I have no idea if it is or not.

And if you ask me if I know what I’m doing, the answer is “no.”

However, the stand went together as planned. Moreover, so, too, did a trussed rig I built that mounts in the pickup truck bed for hauling and dispensing gravel for driveway repair.

The rig actually worked. It didn’t tear loose from its mountings, it didn’t maim anyone, and, most important of all, it didn’t scratch my “new” truck. This was the highlight of 2017 around here.

And to think the rig only cost me $315 in materials and one week of time to construct and use. By contrast, hiring somebody with the proper equipment to repair the driveway would’ve cost about $200 and would have taken a half-day.

Talk about true genius, eh?

But you don’t have to be a genius to know that a pound of gravel weighs more than a pound of feathers. Gravel is heavy. The first syllable also matches the term “gravity.” Coincidence? I think not.

Not only is gravel heavier than feathers, it’s also heavier than printers, envelopes, and reference books.

With this in mind, with a smooth driveway that’s the envy of the neighbors, and with a camper shell in the process of rehabilitation, I pulled out my sketchbook and started designing my office space.

That’s right; I’m building my cockpit-efficient furnishings myself. I’m aiming for basic functionality here. Aesthetics can wait for some other year.

Meanwhile, as for this year, I’m now on a first-name basis with the local power tool salesman. The cashier at the hardware store knows me by sight. And, in fact, just yesterday, the manager even came up and introduced himself. He said he always likes to meet the larger accounts in person.

I am, at present, mid-stream in the project. The components have been cut in the garage. They’ll be assembled in the office later this week.

With any luck I’ll be flying into the new year with total workspace efficiency.

As nice as that thought is, I’ll admit that nothing is perfect. For example, the property will have to be sold in order to pay off the hardware store. But let’s look on the bright side: A driveway in good repair will help command a good price at the bankruptcy sale, and, with the camper shell almost fit for service, we’ll soon be able to move into the truck.

Ed Stephens Jr. | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Visit Ed Stephens Jr. at EdStephensJr.com. His column runs every Friday.

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