Tag Archives: don’t look down

Getting High…or…I’ll take the Ladder


For anyone who has never climbed their way to the top of a sailboat’s mast, anyone?, it is one of those experiences which includes the phrase, “Don’t Look Down.” Compounding that experience is the fact that the boat below can move while you are up there! It rocks!

Now applying a bit of physics to the motion, when someone happens to step “on board” at the bottom while you are (way up) at the top, the deck may only move a few inches or so; but the fulcrum applied to the length of the mast makes your movement at the top in feet and is definitely a case to “Hang On!”

So what does this have to do with “Sober Fun?” It came to mind thinking about this week’s story which has to do with cleaning out the gutters on the house. What? What could possibly be fun about that? And what has that to do with “all things sober?”

Sobriety puts you in touch with “all things”…real. The point of this story for me is to consider how different it might have been “un-sober.” The gutters, you know, are up there. If your house is two stories or you live on a hillside, up there is on a ladder. I mean a real ladder, not a “get that old electric wok off the top shelf” ladder.

On flat ground, maneuvering a real ladder up against the high part of a house is already a formidable task. Now add a new variable in the ground not being flat. Entering the equation is which way the ground slopes relative to the side of the house you are working on. When the ground slopes to or away from the side it is a matter of adjusting the length of the ladder to make the best “throw.” With a stable base and flat lean on the house, it is a simple matter of climbing up and down the ladder…no sweat.

The worst part is when the ground slopes up or down in the same direction the wall (roof edge) is running. Unless you have adjustable feet at the bottom of the ladder you have to use your imagination and…improvise. So…if the slope is “significant” and the height is “respectable,” you actually have a similar scenario to the boat and mast image. How is that? Well, to improvise means you put whatever you come up with (bricks, blocks, wood chunks, old tires) under the foot of the ladder on the downhill side so the ladder will stand up straight and not lean to left, lean to the right…stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight.

If the ground happens to be soft (like just after the rain we had the night before I did this) there is a chance that while applying ones weight to the ladder, the foot and/or support can sink a bit into the ground. I had to use two four inch garden blocks and a two inch paving stone to get the downhill foot up to the uphill height. They were set right on the ground so they too sloped counting on friction to avoid a “predicament.”

With each step up the ladder, I watched to see if the blocks were about to slip or sink into the ground, and consequently which way I was going to jump should the unthinkable version of “timmmberrrrrr!!!!” begin to occur (knowing gravity would not likely make it fall uphill). A settling of a couple of inches at the bottom could mean a couple of feet at the top! Tuck and roll in that case would take me all the way down to the street!

I made it to the top, and while holding onto the gutter gave a couple of “butt thrust” pushes to determine if the feet were going to hold. I pictured myself dangling and hanging on to the gutter (Helllppp!) like you see in the movies, should it decide to blow … Now I know you are waiting for me to tell you that’s what happened … but it didn’t. I got the work done there and descended safely back to earth.

Was that a result of sober safety? Maybe as it would not have been unusual in the past life for me to power down a couple of malt liquors before-hand to “drum up the courage.” Goof Off is more like it. But now I had to move the ladder to the highest part of the roof! The ground there slopes down and away from the surface I was leaning it on which now adds the potential of the bottom slipping out from under.

I extended the ladder to its fullest twenty-two foot length and leaned it up there. The top just barely made it to the edge of the gutter so I was doing the full monty, er, length to get to the top. (Did I mention I had lost just over twenty pounds in a little more than a month of cutting out the sauce?) I was confident it would not be a problem making the ascent so I put my attention to how well the feet were set to the ground. This of course includes determining if the angle of the ladder is enough so as not to fall backward while at the top; a scene also immortalized in movies.

Now, standing back looking at twenty-two feet of ladder from the ground does not look unyieldingly daunting. However, the “sensation” of height I believe becomes exponential with each step taken, beginning with the thought of even taking the next step. Twenty-two feet even achieves that “don’t look down” status, for me at least (I have fallen off a roof before), and as I reached the top I think I left some finger imprints in the metal of the gutter itself.

I made it to the top, and “carefully” got the work done there and … Then it was time to come down! (Did I mention I have just over twenty pounds I still want to lose since cutting out the sauce?) On the way up the ladder I climbed rung for rung like any ladder, arms slightly extended and feet taking each next step in turn. On the way down, however, it was a whole different story. I don’t know what makes the difference but I was huggin’ that ladder like a fireman on a pole. I had a “significant” grip on each side of the ladder and that extra twenty pounds I mentioned was protruding in and out of the spaces in the ladder like a slinky going down a set of stairs. I wasn’t about to lean back and I think I left a whole layer of epithelium tissue from my belly on each rung, even through my shirt!

But alas, the job was done. Miller time? ‘Fraid not. It was just nice to have been outside and active and getting something necessary done, picked up and ready for the next thing…instead of a nap had I gone the malt liquor route.