Yesterday morning I was listening to the radio, when they read the following story that one of the guys on the radio had faxed to him (I’ve abbreviated it).
The story is presented as an insurance company memorandum, a bricklayer is justifying his insurance claim. He was laying bricks on a 6 story building, and hoisting the bricks up to the top with a barrel on a pulley. When he was done for the day, he untied the rope at ground level, and the barrel, at the 6th floor, started lowering. He forgot to let go of the rope, so was pulled skyward, hitting the barrel of bricks on his way up, and jamming his fingers in the pulley. Then as the barrel hits ground, the bottom (and all the bricks) falls out, so he falls again, again hitting the bucket on his way down, and landing on the pile of bricks. Of course then, he finally lets go of the rope…
Even in my semi-groggy still waking up state, I was able to recognize the story as being from a chapter in the novel Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (I looked it up, its pps 138-140, but the radio stations wording was different).
Now, I’m not all that surprised that that particular radio station would read something like that, considering that the morning crew seems to be staffed entirely by dumbasses (all the more reason for me to wake up and turn the radio off). But I wonder if this story is original to Infinite Jest, and has just recently started making the rounds, or if it was older than that (book was published in 96, I believe)?
I checked snopes, and didn’t see anything there.
I’ve heard this story, with much detail, many times before. It’s definately an urban legend. Why Snopes doesn’t have it listed, I don’t know. I think Brunvand wrote about it in one of his books.
I got a copy of that story back in the early 80s (this was when ULs circulated thru company mail instead of fax/email).
However, what I received was obviously intended to be just a story. I never knew anyone had tried to pass it off as actually having happened.
This was sorta reworked a few years ago in a story with some deadheads (not Grateful Dead) trying to crash a Whitesnake concert.
I thought to myself, “This seems very familiar. . . .”
This is listed on the Darwin Awards page as an urban legend. If those guys think it’s an urban legend, it must be, because they seem to believe anything. I’d post a link but that page is all about frames man, and I don’t like it. If you’d like to read their narative, click links for Urban Legends 1998, and then Bricklayer.
I don’t doubt that this predates 1998 even though I have nothing to back that up.
Wow, well thanks for the fast response. So I guess the UL was older than the novel.
One more reminder that I oughta get more of Brunvands books.
Although this question was answered, I thought I would post the Snopes link for anyone who is interested.
The Barrel of Bricks
This UL was made into a short Swedish film. I saw it a couple of months ago on the PBS series that presents short films (I can’t remember the name of the series, Short Cuts or something cute like that).
My dad brought home a mimeographed copy of this ‘report’ when I was a little kid. I’d guess it was around 1984 or 85. – Later, when I was spending all my time in an Irish pub in New Orleans in 1991-92, there was a song that the band would play frequently of the same story, but as a rhyming ballad. This isn’t a band known for pioneering new material either. I’d post the lyrics if I could find them.
Dang, must have missed it when I checked. Thanks for the link. It says that a version of the story showed up as early as 1918. Wow.
It’s older than that. Go to your university library & check a book on Mark Twain’s newspaper stories. Was it Twain who started this yarn, or was he repeating a common yarn? Hard to say.
I recall one book of Irish folklore listing it as traditional, but the author wasn’t much of a scholar.
I have heard an Irish folksinger sing a song about this story.
But, both the singer and the bricklayer were female.