A Bricklayer's Lament

Donald Smirthwaite, adjustor
Standish Insurance Company, Inc.
473 Ogallala Ave
Sioux City, IA 51101

Re: Claim no. 54784
(More detailed explanation)

Dear Mr. Smirthwaite:

I am writing in response to your request for additional information. In block number three of the accident reporting form, I put, quote ... poor planning ... unquote, as the cause of my accident. You said in your letter that I should explain more fully and so I trust that the following details will be sufficient.

I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, I was working alone on the roof of a new six-story building. When I completed my work, I discovered that I had about 500 pounds of brick left over. Rather than carry all of the bricks down six flights of stairs a few at a time, I decided to lower them in an empty barrel someone had left behind, using a pulley which was conveniently attached to a projecting beam on the side of the building at the sixth floor.

First, I procured a stout rope twice as long as the height of the building at the sixth floor and threaded it through the pulley. Then I rigged a sling for the barrel, attached it to the rope, and went down and secured the rope at ground level to a small tree, with a slip knot. I then went back to the roof, swung the barrel out and carefully loaded the bricks into it. They all went in nicely. Then, quite pleased, I went back to the ground and pulled the slip knot loose, holding the rope tightly to ensure the slow descent of the 500 pounds of bricks.

The next sequence of events occurred in much less time than it takes to relate them.

You will note, in block number eleven of the accident reporting form, that I weigh 145 pounds. Thus I was unsuccessful in slowly lowering the barrel of bricks. As soon as the rope was unitied, I was propelled upward at an astonishing velocity. Dazed at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I momentarily lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. I proceeded at a rapid rate up the side of the building.

In the vicinity of the third floor, I collided with the descending barrel, which explains the fractured skull and broken collarbone.

Slowed only briefly, I continued my rapid ascent, stopping only when the fingers of my right hand entered the pulley, explaining the contusions and abrasions of the fingers. Fortunately, by this time I regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope despite the pain of my injuries, which you can imagine.

At precisely that moment, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground. Did I mention that it was an old wooden barrel? Anyway, the bottom burst, spilling all the bricks. Devoid of the bricks, of course the barrel became considerably lighter. I refer you again to my weight in block eleven, 145 pounds. As you may imagine, I began a very rapid descent down the side of the building.

Again, in the vicinity of the third floor, I met the now empty barrel coming up. This accounts for the multiple contusions and the lacerations to my legs and lower body.

The encounter with the barrel slowed my fall barely enough to lessen my injuries when I fell into the pile of bricks, resulting, fortunately, in only three cracked vertebrae and badly sprained ankles.

I am sorry to report, however, that, as I lay there on the bricks, in agony, unable to stand and watching the empty barrel six stories above me, I"m afraid I again lost my presence of mind and let go of the rope. Which explains the internal injuries, broken ribs and upper body lacerations.

I hope this explanation will suffice for your office. Have a nice day!Yours sincerely,

Bjorn Luzer


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