with nary a scratch

“Give me a fulcrum and a place to stand, and with a lever I will move the Earth,” promised Archimedes, the ancient Greek mathematician.

Where was Archimedes last March, on the day we moved an 800-pound, 8-foot-long pool table to our basement? We could have used his lever.

This was no ordinary pool table, but a venerable piece of Mt. Lebanon High School history. For years it resided in the activities office, affording hours of pleasure to students, as evidenced by its worn-out, patched-up, semi-dilapidated condition. But under the high school renovation, it was headed for the Dumpster because the building housing the activities office was being demolished.

Hearing the pool table would soon be discarded, my son Mark spoke up—without consulting Mom and Dad–and asked Activities Director Judy Kolko if he could have it. Graciously, she said yes.

I wasn’t there for Part I of The Big Move when Mark and a dozen friends transported it from school to our garage. That involved hauling it out of the office, cramming it into an elevator, dragging it outside, and loading it onto a truck belonging to classmate Reed Farber (Thanks, Reed). Then they drove it down Cochran Road and cautiously navigated through back streets until they reached home, praying it wouldn’t slip out of its straps and crash into something.

When they were unloading it from the truck, Mark and his buddies created traffic congestion on Arden Road which rivaled rush hour on the Parkway East. Vehicles unable to pass were backed up both ways, with frustrated drivers forced to view the spectacle of 13 teenagers huffing and puffing while straining to move this seemingly immoveable object across the road.

It’s best I didn’t see Part I of this saga. I’m too young to have a coronary event. Days later I was around to witness Part II–the dramatic transfer of the pool table from the garage to the basement.

As this part of the drama unfolded, I felt like a Dallas news reporter watching Lee Harvey Oswald being transferred from police headquarters to the county jail two days after President Kennedy was shot. Would the feat be accomplished without incident? Or would something horrific happen?

That brings us back to Archimedes and the logistics of conveying this pool table to the basement.

A mighty dose of manpower was essential. As soon as Mark’s reliable cohorts showed up—muscle men Eman Makris, Nate Sexauer, Christian Murphy, and Liam Dugan—my husband, Al, took command, ordering all hands to lift, heave, shove, and do whatever it took to get that thing off the ground.

After they maneuvered it to the driveway, they attempted to carry it through the front door and into the living room, but it wouldn’t budge. No matter how they nudged, elbowed, and prodded, the pool table stubbornly froze on the concrete.

When our neighbor John Bendel, and his son Dane, noticed this dilemma, they generously offered to help. With their added brawn, the group propelled the pool table through the door and into the living room then rammed it inside the kitchen—but not without first crushing my pachysandra in the front yard, dislodging my rock garden, and tracking dirt on my rugs.

For a few tranquil minutes, the guys rested the pool table on the kitchen floor while they congratulated themselves for hustling it that far. Then it dawned on them that moving it to the kitchen was the easy part. Now they faced getting it to the basement.

The basement doorway is about two feet wide and six feet high. The pool table is more than four feet wide and eight feet long.

“Mark,” I called out, “now it’s time to apply what you learned in those AP physics classes.”

Undaunted, the band of muscle men divided into two teams—upstairs and downstairs—and thrust the pool table through the doorway by turning it on its side and jamming it down the narrow staircase. Gaining momentum, the pool table slipped from their grasp and began sliding down by itself.

“Look out below!” I screamed.

Bendel, a Mt. Lebanon commissioner, was supervising operations downstairs. With a sickening dread, I envisioned the headline: “Mt. Lebanon Commissioner Pulverized by Pool Table.”

Fortunately, my frantic fear did not come to pass. After coasting a few inches, the pool table abruptly stopped. It was stuck, wedged between the wall and banister, its huge rectangular mass entirely motionless.

Now what? Who do you call in this situation? Hercules? MoveOn.org?

Instead of manpower, we needed brain power and a “Eureka!” moment like our friend Archimedes once had. Otherwise, the pool table would remain permanently lodged there, making the basement inaccessible—not to mention the team downstairs being trapped and held hostage by an inanimate object.

Afraid the pool table would suddenly lunge forward and lose control like a runaway train, Al moved a sofa against the wall at the base of the stairs to cushion it in case it went smashing down. Next the suggestions came rolling. Use a rope…Make a pulley…Build a ramp…Remove the banister! That last idea made sense and so Al ripped off the wooden railing, shattering some of it to pieces.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll fix it later.”

Removing this barrier freed up space. With some robust heaves and pushes, and some jostling and jarring, gradually the pool table glided down the steps and landed on the basement floor, ending the stalwart struggle, but also knocking the stuffing out of the sofa and breaking it in two.

“Don’t worry,” Al repeated. “I’ll fix it later.”

The disemboweled sofa was inconsequential compared to the priceless fun and camaraderie the pool table has bestowed since being installed.

Enjoying some time poolside: Mark Vrabel, Nate Sexauer, Cam Sexauer, Garrett Hinckley and Evan Ruchkin.
Enjoying some time poolside: Mark Vrabel, Nate Sexauer, Cam Sexauer, Garrett Hinckley and Evan Ruchkin

The game of pool is centuries old, indulged in by kings and queens, presidents and generals, writers and philosophers. Marie Antoinette shot pool. So did King Louis XIV. Immanuel Kant, Napoleon, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Lewis Carroll and Mark Twain all shot pool.

Another player, Charles Dickens, wrote: “There are few more cheerful sights, when the evenings are long, and the weather dull, than a handsome, well-lighted billiard room with the smooth green surface of the billiard table; the ivory balls flying noiselessly here and there, or clicking musically together.”

When Mark and his pals shoot pool and eat munchies, Dickens would approve. Their raucous laughter justifies the gritty ordeal of The Big Move, no thanks to Archimedes.

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