An earth excavator driver who helped free a giant container ship stuck in the Suez Canal said the memes generated from his efforts had motivated him to work harder.
The driver said he didn't particularly enjoy or found the memes funny but he did find them motivational.
Abdullah Abdel-Gawad worked for six straight days to dislodge the stuck container ship. The 28-year-old, his small machine compared to the skyscraper-sized ship struck a chord with online users, who generated and shared hundreds of memes on social media.
The image of the excavator digging below the huge ship captivated people worldwide as it mirrored the struggles against insurmountable odds everyone has experienced.
Abdel-Gawad said during an interview that he was initially unaware of the memes. He said he didn't even notice that a photograph was taken of him while he was working.
At first, Abdel-Gawad was mad at how people were making fun of his work. He understood how people had used his excavator to represent the inadequate tools people had to deal with their own massive problems, represented by the stuck ship.
"Well, the thing is, they were making fun of it. They said: 'The Suez Canal Authority took action but sent equipment the size of a grain of rice,'" Abdel-Gawad said.
Later on, Abdel-Gawad said he used the jokes as motivation and he wanted to show the world that his "little excavator" was able to get the job done. The thought of the entire world now looking over his shoulder motivated him to work harder, Abdel-Gawad said.
The pressure also affected other people working to get the ship unstuck. Abdel-Gawad said mariners operating tugboats were aware of the memes.
Abdel-Gawad said it was difficult to find the memes amusing given the pressure he felt and the fact that he was working under such an enormous vessel. Abdel-Gawad estimated that the Ever Given was elevated about 6 meters (yards) from where it would naturally float. His job was to completely remove the rock and mud that was surrounding it.
Abdel-Gawad said he was constantly worried that his digging would destabilize the ship and possibly cause it to topple on top of him.
"If you see the size of the ship, and you see the size of the excavator, it is absolutely terrifying. They found me working there, and they were like, 'OK, this guy is next to the water. Nobody interfere now,'" Abdel-Gawad said.