owtch | Page 58 | Newberry


I am not old enough to have bought one myself (no, honest!) but in the nostalgic and very collectible days of radio premiums, one of the most intriguing items you could buy from Ralston Purina was a card with a diagram showing everywhere that Tom Mix (Straight Shooters Always Shoot Straight) had been injured during his long career as lawman, cowboy, and movie star. I especially liked the Xs that marked the miscellaneous bullet holes.

We are not to the point of issuing Book Fair Blog Collector cards yet, but I did think I would do just a verbal diagram for myself (Book Sellers Always Sell Books.) You will have to imagine the picture, along with all the little Xs marking miscellaneous cardboard cuts (have I mentioned the perversity and treachery of cardboard? Well, it’s sharp, too.)

A. Top of the head, small dent. People WILL stack boxes of books right next to the loading dock door, sometimes making it impossible to get the door open. They also put them underneath the phone box on the dock. If you lift a heavy box of books and throw yourself upward without noticing that your head is under that phone box, you will learn that phone boxes are made of solid stuff.

B. Bridge of nose: small dent. I get asked if I’ve ever been mowed down by a falling box of books. By and large, the boxes are not high enough to pick up that much momentum, and they also tend to make noise if they start to slip, which gives me time to dodge. A single book, however, can come down fast, with the corners extended. One of my most uttered remarks—among the printable ones—is “The power of gravity could be a lot more accommodating.”

C. Neck: compressed discs: One of the reasons I get injured less than people expect is that, where feasible, I carry things on top of my head. It’s a reasonably flat head, and with one hand to brace the material I have one hand free to open doors and an absolutely clear view of my feet and the path ahead. My natural tendency to trip is thereby frustrated. HOWEVER, it is necessary to use discretion. What may LOOK like a small stack of 19th century atlases can weigh over fifty pounds. It’s one of those things you need to do just once to figure out the flaws in the concept.

D Upper chest, puncture wounds. Have you ever lifted a heavy box down from a high shelf, only to realize too late that some part of it was in contact with the pricing pencils in your pocket? Well, if not, you have missed no great transcendant experience..

E. Biceps, bruises: This is where the boxes land when you’re picking up and moving a bunch of them in a small amount of time.

F. Shins, bruises, cuts, scrapes: this is where MOST of the cardboard cuts occur. That open box looks innocent, but if you walk past thinking the flap will fold quietly when you brush against it, you are incorrect.

G. Achilles tendon, deep bruises: If you are going to pull a cartload of books instead of pushing it, face it and walk backward. If you walk forward, pulling the cart behind you, it will not stop when you stop, and the three hundred pound load will plow into the back of your feet. And somehow this is one of those things you do a thousand times and still think, “It won’t happen this time.”

That’s enough for one blog. I will not go into the jaw muscles damaged by smiling at people bringing in a complete set of encyclopedias except for the L volume because 25 out of 26 isn’t bad or the bruised toes from kicking the wall after they leave. I might mention the small bone broken in my right hand. This was NOT, in fact, broken in the line of Book Fair duty but it did happen just a week before Book Fair set-up began. It was not a very important bone, either, because nobody at the Book Fair even noticed the slight swelling. For three weeks I moved boxes and bookcases without the hand hurting much. I put books into boxes without much pain, and took them out without much pain. I pushed carts of books without even minor wincing.

What DID hurt was all the people who came up to tell me “Well, the Newberry put on another great Book Fair!”, adding a hearty handshake. I wonder if Tom Mix had days like that. 

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