The First Two Weeks on the Job
Former Fine Homebuilding senior editor Andy Engel wonders if it's going to be a struggle becoming a carpenter again at 57.
A big worry going into the field again was simply how my 57-year-old body would react to actually working for a living again. My income and my family’s well-being literally rode upon the answer to that question. I really didn’t, and don’t, know what I’ll do if the job proves to be too physical for me. Sure, I’m in decent shape. I ride a mountain bike for hours at a time, ideally several times a week, bouncing over rocks, dodging around trees, and climbing grades that are hard to walk up. But that’s not the same as eight hours of carpentry.
Carpentry has a person carrying lumber and ladders and tools. Carpentry has you working overhead and down at your feet. You swing a hammer and wield saws, and these days, drive innumerable screws with an impact driver. You climb ladders and stairs and balance precariously (once you’ve fallen, is it “postcarious”?).
There was also the question of how my back would react to carrying, say, garbage cans full of demo debris down the stairs and out to the dumpster. My occasional back issues have diminished nearly to nothing in the two years since I’ve took up riding trails instead of roads, and they’d been lessening in the half-dozen years of road cycling prior to that because, in addition to a bunch of sweat and the occasional irritated motorist, I’d left 50 to 60 lb. of fat alongside the quiet roads of Litchfield County.
I was hopeful.
The first thing I noticed was that everyone else trotted up the stairs to the bathrooms we were remodeling. I was trudging. Evidently, climbing stairs takes different muscles than climbing hills on a bike. But I worked the day, finishing the demo on a bathroom, and carrying those cans full of wood and plaster down and out.
I came home from work, washed down some ibuprofen with a beer (Yeah, yeah, I know, but it’s my liver, so shut up already), ate dinner, and fell asleep on the couch.
But I was up and out of bed at 5 a.m. the next morning and back at work.
Lather, rinse, repeat, and suddenly it’s two weeks in. I haven’t taken an Advil in the past week (although I’m pretty sure I’ve had a beer or two). Nothing is particularly sore at the end of the day. I’m energetic coming home from work, and I’m sleeping like the dead. I’m always a little hungry, and I’ve lost 3 lbs. since starting as a carpenter.
Best of all, I’m trotting up the stairs.
You might also like:
Plumb, level and square – Carpentry is not as simple as you might think.
Why I Work Wood – Work makes you free.
Requiem for an Old House – What is it about destruction that fascinates us?