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I once knew a nature reserve manager who said his PhD really stood for “plumbing and hardware degree” given all the repairs he did himself around the reserve buildings.

From the amount of time I spend on the skinny side of a shovel (i.e. holding the handle) I have found there is truth in that statement, and I often ponder if my MS degree simply means “more shoveling“.

Yet another hole in the ground. I have dug more of these than most gophers.

Yet another hole in the ground. I have dug more of these than most gophers.

I am no stranger to manual labor. After all I paid my way through graduate school to get that “MS” degree by spending quite a bit of time at the skinny end of a shovel. And one lesson I learned early on from a long time coworker (and from the uncanny propensity in the US for litigation regarding work place injuries) was to do some simple actions to protect your body from damage: things like wearing gloves, proper shoes, and back support.

I work my gloves hard, and wear them out so fast I buy gloves by the bushel.

I work my gloves hard, and wear them out so fast I buy gloves by the bushel.

My wife and I were still living in Switzerland when we purchased our little Hungarian Winery over a decade ago. And at purchase I could see from the state of the property I would need to use my “MS” degree again.

So I started by going to the hardware store in Switzerland to get a good (imported) American made shovel (they were not — and still are not — available in our part of Hungary). Not seeing any back support belts I would normally find in most Hardware stores in the US, I asked where they were.

I got blanks stares.

Perhaps it was my German. My wife, a 26 year resident of Switzerland, and far more fluent in German than I, tried.

We got blank stares.

My dear wife then spent several weeks calling around Switzerland trying to find where to buy one of these:

Back support belt.

Back support belt.

And do you know where we finally found one? At a pharmacy. And it was a special order as they were not kept in stock.

Yep. Apparently, these things are only worn by sick people. The concept of “preventative action” seems somewhat lost here. Ironically, the brand name of the back support belt was “Wellness 1st“. The good news: to buy the belt, I did not need a prescription…..

And again, this all happened just 10 years ago in western, modern Switzerland. Go figure.

Take one of these and call me in the morning.

Take one of these and call me in the morning.

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