June 3 2012
And so there you are, mourning your meagre earnings: kazi nyingi, mshahara mchache –‘overworked and underpaid’ in Kiswahili. Which Kiswahili, being of Tanzania, may not be understood by many, who are more used to the incorrect version: kazi mingi, mshara kidogo.
‘Mchache’ or ‘kidogo’, anyway, you are mourning because you think the work you do is so back-breaking that it should be bringing you a fatter pay-check.
That ‘back-breaking’, however, does not begin to define what back-breaking jobs are. It’s only when you see the lengths to which some job-seekers are prepared to go to secure themselves jobs that you’ll begin to appreciate the meaning of ‘back-breaking’.
Take the case of Bonny Ball of Kent, Great Britain, for instance. Ball was not your usual griping jobseeker and took on any job that earned a pay. He did not sit around to wait for your usual kind of ‘kid-glove’ job, either. However ‘body-breaking’ an opportunity, Ball took it when he got it. And so it happened that there was a job of staging shows as a human cannonball (no pun intended, I hasten to add).
The human cannonball is a performance in which a person (“cannonball”) is ejected from a specially designed cannon. The impetus is provided by, not gunpowder but, either a spring or a jet of compressed air. The human cannonball lands on a horizontal net or inflated bag.
So, in fulfilment of his duty, on Saturday last week (26-5-12), Ball entered the “cannon” and all of his 23-year-old and not-so-few kgs of him was duly cannon-balled to the highs until he reached a height of 40 ft. Then the whole “ball” took its momentum-quickened descent down, towards the horizontal net.
Alas, before he hit it, the net collapsed and lay flat on the ground. Thus went our dear Mr. Ball’s life and his pay-packet, Rest In Peace. So, as jobs go, watch out! Some may actually be skull-shattering.
Which, so stated, would only invite a dismissal of “Accidents happen” from Lady Cannonball. In an earlier time, September 1st 2006 to be exact, Stephanie Smith was propelled out of a cannon in a performance in Adelaide, Australia, with everybody sure that she’d connect with a welcoming inflated mattress.
That, as it turned out, was not to be. Stephanie overshot her target and bounced off the end of it, hitting the ground. Well, it could’ve been worse, as she was wheeled off to a local hospital with ‘only’ suspected spinal injuries.
Both of which incidents, quoted to Gary Connery, would send him into fits of laughter. And, believe it or don’t, with good reason. Connery goes for jobs at the mention of which you’d coil in your skin. He has completed 900 skydives and 450 base jumps.
Skydiving is where you exit an aircraft and return ‘down to earth’, with gravity pulling you down and a parachute slowing your descent lest you meet a ‘skull-shattering’ welcome. Parachute slowing your descent, though, only when you use it! Gary’s skydiving necessarily involves a lot of free-fall, a time during which he does not deploy the parachute. Not quite your cup of whatever beverage you take but, remember, you ain’t earning his bundle (akayabo).
Base jumping is actually ‘B.A.S.E’ jumping. In the activity, participants jump from fixed objects and they may use a parachute to break their fall. They jump from four categories of fixed objects: Buildings, Antennas (e.g. minarets), Spans (bridges) and Earth (cliffs).
Whatever free falls they are, you’d reserve them for the mad-hop (nut-head), I’m sure. But Connery is one sober smiley whose bags of dough you’ll covet to lay your hands on. He has starred as a stunt double in films like Die Another Day, Indiana Jones, Batman and Harry Potter. He has leapt from the top of the London Eye, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the catalogue.
But two weeks ago (23-5-12), the itch was for something even more death-defying. So, Connery was hoisted almost a mile up in the sky by a helicopter and then was let loose. With no parachute and looking like a bat in what he called a wing suit, Connery barrelled down towards hard earth where a strip of 18,600 empty cardboard boxes awaited the ‘arrival’ of his ‘body’.
The empty cartons were stacked on top of one another to measure 12ft off the ground. They were 100m in length and 15m in width to make a ‘spacious’ landing strip. The cartons, of course, were as useful as a few sheets of paper, considering their capacity to support Connery’s weight. But there were worse perils to fret about.
There was the problem of the wing suit allowing for some uncontrollable horizontal movement, in which case pinpointing the little strip to land on was a none-too-small challenge. Hurtling down at speeds in excess of 160km an hour can be extremely hazardous, if your expected redeeming support is a collection of yawning cardboard ‘thinnies’.
Daredevil Gary Connery is the first person to jump from a chopper in a wing suit – and no parachute. Another small addition for the Guinness World Records. And another small sack of monies for Connery.
How’s that for a back-breaking job!