Saturday, July 5, 2008

Descending from the third floor

I hugged another man today.

Wait, it's not as bad as it sounds. We were just up on the roof of our office building, the two of us, watching colorful fireworks explode into the dark night.

Really, it wasn't that bad.

In order to get the best view from our building, you have to climb out a window on the second floor, walk across the roof, round a chimney and then climb an old, rusty ladder to the top-most floor.

I didn't want to do it alone, so I convinced reporter Walt to come with me.

Climbing out the window onto the roof isn't bad. We do it several times each winter to clean off our Associated Press satellite dish. The second part, however, can become a problem.

While Walt scurried up the ladder in front of me, I warned him: "Going down is much harder."
"Yeah, sure," he said, too focused on reaching the top to really listen.

Several blasts of green, pink, blue and gold could already be seen around us. Being a little scared of heights, I immediately sat down when I reached the top. We began some small talk. Frequent bangs and a strong smell of sulfur, however, reminded us what we were really doing on the roof.

When it was time to return to the lower levels, Walt walked over to the ladder and looked down to the second floor.

"Wow, it's really high," he said, trying not to sound scared. "How do you get back down?"

I explained the procedure of leaning on the railing, bending down on your knees, throwing one leg over the edge and then slowly turning your body until you're in the right position. Walt took a few steps back from the edge.

"Maybe you should do it first so I can watch," he said.

Slightly scared myself, I sat down on the edge of the roof, hung my left leg over the side and grabbed onto the rusty railing of the narrow ladder. I put my weight on the ladder, then swung my right foot over the edge and placed it next to the left. Then I started my descent.

"See?" I said. "You just have to turn, so you are facing the building."

I hopped down from the last step onto the second-floor roof. Then I looked up. Walt hadn't moved an inch.

"Do you think maybe I could go down facing the other way?" he asked. "I would feel a lot better if I could face the other way."

"No way," I said. "The steps of the ladder are too narrow and slanted downward. You might just slip and fall."

"Great," he replied, now terrified. "That makes me feel SO much better."

After a few minutes of coaching, Walt had his left leg on the ladder. His right foot, however, was stuck on a bump by the edge of the building, and while one hand was leaning on the railing, his other held a firm grasp of the roof.

Realizing he wasn't in the right position, Walt pulled himself back up.
"I can't do it," he said. "I'm gonna be stuck up here."

I started climbing back up the ladder.
"Put your foot right here," I explained, patting the second step. "Grab onto the railing with both hands. You can put all your weight into it. The railing will hold you if you slip."

Walt wasn't so sure.

A few more minutes went by. I started telling him of previous reporters and editors who have made the climb - and come back down successfully.

"Well, if they can do it, I guess I can do it, too," Walt finally said, swung his leg over again, got stuck again with the right leg, but put all his effort into it and was finally in position to climb back down.

He was shaking when he put his feet on the solid roof. Then he almost fell into my arms.

"Thank you," he said, voice also shaking. "You just kept me so calm. I never thought I could do it."

And I never thought I could talk a man down from the roof of a building. I guess each day is a new adventure.


BluePlastic said...

Eeek! I didn't know the climb up to the top was so arduous. At least you don't have to do the ladder part to shovel off the satellite dish -- a rickety metal ladder covered in ice is not my idea of a good time. :(

ab said...

Great job!

I am so glad he's not stuck up there forever, so you'd have to feed him and build him a little shelter! ;)

The Roofer said...

I told all my friends over the weekend about getting stuck on the roof. They weren't surprised.

Check out my old blog.

Vickan said...

I guess I didn't realize when we went up exactly how scary it could be.

To me it's getting stuck up there that would be the worst, so I just climb back down as quickly as I can and try not to fall.