Read Next:

Termination: Raiders of the Lost Wheelbarrow

Raiders of the Lost Wheelbarrow.


14 June 2011

Text:/ Graeme Hague

In a theatre in North Queensland, deep within the labyrinthine maze of concrete superstructure and supporting walls, in the upper levels where no one ever goes anymore, there is a wheelbarrow. Not just any wheelbarrow, of course. It’s an enduring urban myth… well, among the local tradies at least – and while I never witnessed this wheelbarrow myself I’m absolutely sure it exists. For a long time it was only spoken of in whispered tones. Later, when the architects had left for the last time, never to be seen again (unaware that the ‘VW’ on their borrowed hardhats had stood for ‘Visiting Wanker’) the wheelbarrow was more openly discussed. Was it real? Did it happen?

We’re talking about a wheelbarrow that was abandoned when, in the flurry of activity to achieve construction deadlines, walls were built and concrete was poured; and too late, someone discovered the wheelbarrow couldn’t be taken out. So they left it behind. It’s lost forever, along with about two dozen pairs of pliers, several hammers, screwdrivers, spanners, a thermos flask or two, four million dropped Tek screws and one of those fold-up camp stools. We also lost an electrician, but everybody’s pretty sure he ran off with his brother’s wife and isn’t part of the foundations – maybe.


In another few millennia, when we’ve all been long-wiped out by the dreaded Y4K virus, futuristic (possibly alien) Indiana Jones-like characters will pick through the rubble of our civilisation trying to figure out what made us all tick; and that wheelbarrow’s going to confuse the hell out of them. Like the ancient Egyptians leaving artefacts and paraphernalia, and a couple of hundred non-union labourers-behind in their stone tombs to work on in the afterlife, it’ll be assumed that the only sensible reason tradesmen in the mid-to-late twentieth century left perfectly good tools scattered throughout major constructions, must have been to appease the gods. The Great God Facebook and his minion angel Twitter must have demanded sacrificial offerings be left behind in important buildings to ensure no EvilBay befell the occupants. In particular, tools forged by the famous artisan Sid Chrome were favoured. An entire wheelbarrow must have been for… well, who could guess? Ancient history’s fascinating, isn’t it? I’m glad we always get it right.

The amount of stuff that’s misplaced, left behind and forgotten in large building sites is enormous and keeps hardware stores in business better than almost anything. If you’re ever standing in an office and suddenly need a pair of pliers, don’t bother slipping down to the maintenance room. Just pop one of the suspended ceiling panels above your head and have a look around – you’ll find one. And half a roll of Cat5 too, probably (send it to me).

Personally, doing installation work, the tool I leave behind the most is the one I just put down. Like a screwdriver – I’ll use it for screwing in something, put it down for a moment, go to pick it up again – and it’s gone. The bloody thing’s vanished. It can get to the point of rage as I search around looking for it. Absolutely nothing can explain how a perfectly normal screwdriver can apparently evaporate into thin air. In fact, I spend more time on a work site looking for tools I just put down somewhere, rather than actually working.


I’ve tried a few solutions. One was wearing one of those leather toolbag, belt things which oddly got my wife a bit excited, but I guess she just thought I was going to do something useful around the house. (I don’t understand why she’s always watching those house renovations shows on Foxtel either). Anyway, I just ended up frequently impaling myself on any of the tools hanging from my belt. I also tried buying tools with bright, florescent grips and handles. It didn’t work, because bright colours aren’t worth a damn when the screwdriver scurries away to hide beneath the amp rack or under the insulation batts (I hate insulation – when is someone going to invent non-itching insulation?).

The trouble is that you end up buying cheap tools, because you’re sick of the expense of replacing them all the time. Phillips screwdrivers with points that burr, budget pliers that won’t ply (ah… is that what they do?) and drill batteries that last about 15 seconds before they need recharging – yes, I regularly lose my battery drill.

So I’ve come up with an idea. If anyone wants to take it further, I’ll have 10 percent of the action thanks. 

Remember those whistling key rings? Well, not quite… if you couldn’t find your keys you just whistled and the key ring started beeping. Since then we’ve managed to put a satellite around Pluto, so how hard could it be to have a complete set of tools with a microchip, beeping thing embedded in each one? You’d have a ‘master’ device for selecting which tool you’d lost, press a button and voila, the missing screwdriver would start beeping. Maybe just like downloading mobile phone ringtones tradesmen could buy individual tool tones? Your hammer could play Pink Floyd’s The Wall – don’t stop me, I’m on a roll here.

Hmm… damn. Assuming you can always remember where you last put down the master device thing. There’s always a catch.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More for you