Life lessons from meatballs


Ed Murphy

“Handsome Hank” (above) is seen on site in Buck’s County using the “knockout.”

Ed Murphy, Digital Managing Editor

Now-a-days it seems like people are more unlikely to step out of their comfort zones. They stay where they know it’s safe, feeling comforted by familiar situations and perspectives; they stay sheltered, never truly learning new stories from people who walk a different path in life. Needless to say, putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation can be difficult.
For those who know me, they know I’m an easy-going guy. It’s a lesson I learned during my summer job that has allowed me to live a lifestyle that keeps me sane: keep it simple.
My trade during summer break is as a Compaction Grouter. It’s a very niche type of construction. The location of job sites all depended on the soil composition. The majority of our jobs takes us away from our home base in Delaware, County, affectionately known as “Delco,” to the Allentown-Bethlehem areas and as far away as Buffalo, New York. During the work week, our crew will live out of our suitcase and scour the local areas for food. Some of the crew packs soups and other dry goods for the week, while others go to Walmart, convenience stores, and fast food dives. It’s an awful diet, but you have to make do with what you have.
The crew I worked with was chocked full of characters. The crew leader was a recovering drug addict, two operators had wrap sheets (one described to me how he fire-bombed a car once), a couple freshman at Penn State, and a welder who was just looking for work. All different walks of life came together to not only work, but to live together.
Living with these guys I got a different view of the world than I normally would have, especially if I had a typical college summer job. Hearing their life stories, made me rethink how I perceive things. It taught me things that would have hit me later in life if I wouldn’t have worked there. The biggest piece of knowledge I learned was from my crew leader, “Handsome Hank.”
Up until that point, I thought my summer was going to be defined by the hands-on knowledge that I was gathering: how to change the oil on an inner pac, how to change a hydraulic line, or how to become certified to operate a telehandler. On one truck ride home, he dropped some wisdom, saying, “My frozen meatballs are keeping my pizza cold in my suitcase.” With this, he killed two birds with one stone, making the best of what he had. It was this little anecdote during small talk on the truck ride home that changed my entire perspective.
Since that truck ride on the way back from “Pennsyltucky,” I concluded that it’s important to keep life simple and make the best of every situation; this advice is applicable to nearly every situation, from the Turkey Hill running out of Twinkies, to the mixing truck leaking diesel, to having to work late nights to finish assignments.
Since I have started to implement the wise words of “Handsome Hank” into my life, I have noticed some changes in my life. The most obvious is my mood. I was always jealous of my friends who got to go home every night and see each other and their family after work. I decided that they can do their thing and I’ll start to enjoy my own company more. With that decision, I felt liberated. I started to do a bunch of activities by myself that I would never have done before. Hell, one of my favorites nights from this past summer was a night where I drank on the front porch by myself, listening to my favorite band that none of my friends like—hell of a good time.
Another theme I noticed in my thoughts and behavior was that I was much more easy-going than before. I was always easy going to begin with but was a bit more resistant to new things. On the rare occasion that I did see my friends over the summer, I was down for anything. A party in someone’s basement? Sure thing. A late-night cruise around town? I’ll drive. A day trip to Philly? Cool beans. And if I had no plans, my front porch and a case of Miller Lite will do the trick, too.
All-around, I was more satisfied with my life. I was more content with my surroundings. If things didn’t go as planned, it was “whatever.” Shit happens. I’ve tried to just be happy where I am. the highs know no limit. So, if things ever seem like they are down and out, just remember to use your meatballs to keep your pizza cold.

Ed is a senior Art major from Delco and is the Digital Managing editor for The Voice.