Meet the REAL Movers & Shakers at JSU
Shane Harrelson, left, and Richey Riley doing what they do best.
By Al Harris
JSU News Bureau
JACKSONVILLE -- January 25, 2001 -- "We may not always remember a name, but we never forget a piece of furniture," says Jacksonville State University's Shane Harrelson.
Harrelson and co-worker Richey Riley move anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 pounds of furniture and other objects each week, including specimens such as brains and bones.
Officially called "material handlers," Harrelson and Riley are the only full-time workers assigned to what many folks view as one of the worst jobs imaginable.
Surprisingly, they saw the job opening as an "upward move" despite its non-stop pace and a demand to heft nearly a half million pounds a year.
"Both of us worked on the grounds crew, mowing grass," explained Riley. "It was the same old thing, day after day. This work is interesting, and every day is different.
"We recently moved lab equipment and furniture into the new McGee Science Building, and in the process we were able to talk to some interesting people and see some fascinating equipment. It sure beats mowing grass."
Neither of the two did weight training or anything special to get into shape for the job. Their secret: a balancing act.
"Our best friend is a handtruck," says Riley.
"Plus we learn as we go. For example, I've found it's easier to move 15 chairs at a time than four at a time," says Harrelson. "We make the job easier by learning something new all the time, from each other and from noticing how others move heavy items."
Riley says the job rarely saps his strength. He said he had plenty of energy to spare when his mother asked him to move her into a new house over a recent weekend.
"During the summer, I drink a huge amount of water. A waitress brought a glass of water to my table one night after a hard day at work, and I asked her to bring a whole pitcher to save her some steps."
After working as a team for the past three years, the two men have learned to anticipate each other's moves so well that their steps look choreographed.
"When one of us is out and someone else has to fill in, it's a little awkward because the pattern is broken," Riley said.
What's the best part of the job?
Both men agree: "The food."
"People treat us really well, and we tell them that it's just our job and that they don't have to do anything for us," Riley said.
Even so, Harrelson admits, "The people we move feed us really well."
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