MF home | news | bio | publications | books | contact

Heavy audio/video gear
takes its toll

by Mark Fleischmann

June 2000 -- I swear by the polypropylene mesh holding together my groin that I will never, ever lift large loudspeakers and television sets again.

Polypropylene ... isn't that the stuff speaker drivers are made of?

You are not helping.

Um, sorry. How's the newly remodeled gut?

It's fine. I'm aware of the hernia repair only when I sneeze, cough, sit up, stand, walk, speak loudly, or do anything else that exerts pressure on the abdomenal wall. It's just a little achey now, not extremely painful, but I still take painkillers and have people opening windows for me and taking bags of dirty towels out to the laundry -- just in case. My membership at the health club is on hold.

Cry me a river. You've just spent two weeks living the life I've dreamed -- lying on your back, listening to music, and taking legal narcotics. Anyway, didn't the surgeon tell you to go about your normal business after your post-op visit? Exercise common sense, avoid anything uncomfortable, all that?

Yeah, and he did an excellent job, but he didn't like being pinned down when I asked specific questions about what and what not to do. During our first interview he had a microcassette recorder running on his desk.

Low blow

Well, no one ever got a hernia from lifting a microcassette recorder.

True. It was probably a loudspeaker that did me in. This happened in my own livingroom.

Oh, like I'm going to have a lot of sympathy for an audio pig who turns his nice livingroom into a workspace for a dozen years.

Suit yourself. One day, when I spent a solid 10 hours recrating a mountain of gear, I had to pack up two powered towers that came in badly designed packaging. There was no way to simply slip the box over them -- I had to lift them at an awkward angle. My problem may have begun earlier, but on that day it became critical.

And so, DUH, you just went on your merry way ...

... which enlarged the problem. Literally. I was so ignorant, I believed it was a symptom of aging. You get old, you get lumpy. Or so I thought.

Sounds more like denial, in which case it's your own fault. Aren't you the one who praises the "heft" of heavy equipment, as though a weightier amp or speaker were actually better?

Weight does help defeat resonance.

It certainly defeated you. What exactly is a hernia, anyway?

Window of weakness

A hernia has been likened to opening a "window of weakness" in the muscles that hold you together. You can have a hernia almost anywhere in your body. Ten percent of people will get one in their lifetimes.

Yours is in the lower abdomen, right?

Yes, it's called an "inguinal hernia." When you lift something heavy, you're not just using your arms and back -- you're using the muscles in your lower abdomen. The ones above and around your, um, ah ...

I think we know.

They're the same muscles that help you sit up or stand up, as I now know all too well. Anyway, when stressed, they can stretch and tear.

Making, perhaps, the noise a FedEx envelope makes when you yank on that little tab.

Please. The problem wasn't even visible when I was lying down, but it was real obvious when I stood up, because my intestines would bulge out of my body. When the surgeon saw it he observed, "That's a biggie."

Now you're making *me* sick. So the doc stitched you up?

Well, there are stitches in there, but their purpose is to hold a piece of plastic mesh in place. Muscle tissue is growing into the mesh the way roses leap up a trellis in your garden.

How picturesque. What if your body rejects this stuff? Then you'll be in big trubs.

The surgeon said polypropylene has been used since 1963 and that hasn't happened. Have I mentioned the video cameras?

America's grisliest home videos

You have a tape? Oooh, let's watch it now.

There's no tape. At least, I hope not. But a small video camera on a telescoping stick entered my body through one of three small punctures. This "laparoscopic hernia repair" is said to be less painful and invasive than conventional surgery. Some surgeons are reluctant to perform it, but my guy has done it 1300 times over the past 13 years, with a high rate of success -- only six patients required later surgery.

Doctor DeMille, I'm ready for my closeup!

Who the hell let you in here, anyway?

You did. You wanted me to put in your air conditioners. Gotta love those little plastic Panasonics -- they weigh less than 50 pounds, run quiet, no sharp sheet-metal corners to tear up my hands.

Thank heaven for small favors.

Save yourselves

Anyway, now that you're recovering, middle-aged, and -- let's face it -- just a little effete, you can get staff members to do your heavy lifting for you.

Somehow, standing by while someone young and fully intact lifts a television set onto a stand doesn't make me any better about myself. I feel like running up to them and screaming STOP, SAVE YOURSELVES WHILE YOU STILL CAN.

Maybe the company should just buy a few of those thick hernia belts you see on moving men.

That wouldn't be a bad idea. I would definitely recommend that people doing heavy lifting get help to reduce the risk. One of those power amps enclosed in the kind of thick aluminum used for aircraft hulls is a job for two strong men. Four would not be excessive for a 36-inch TV. The old "lift with your legs" adage can only get you so far before something terrible happens.

Haven't some of us gone a little nuts with oversized home entertainment gear anyway? This megawatt, multichannel, bigger-is-better stuff makes me feel as though we were in some kind of arms race.

Maybe it's a guy thing. One thing's for certain -- from now on, I'll be reviewing a lot more micro-systems and accessories.

MF home | news | bio | publications | books | contact