Tall buildings and high places

Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
From left, Ben Keilholtz, Joe Grabb and Greg James, all from AAA Sign, attach the "G" from Wells Fargo on the old Wachovia building, Monday, Oct. 18, 2010, in Augusta, Ga.

 

Let's be clear about this:  I hate heights.  Not in the sense that you can say you hate carrots, simply because you're over exaggerating a distaste for them.  It's more like I loathe heights.

Probably related, I also have a deep fear of them.  An irrational muscle tightening and body paralyzing fear that strikes whenever I get on a ladder any higher than 10 rungs. 

I was reminded of all this when I was escorted to the 17th floor of the old Wachovia building and into the storage/maintenance facility wedged between the top of the building and the Pinnacle Club.  All this to photograph a crew putting up the new Wells Fargo signage on the side of the building.  Then came the worst part - and something I should have remembered from my previous trip to the roof of this building - the two story free climb up a perfectly vertical steel ladder attached to a wall next to the equally tall air conditioning units. Two of the cylinder rungs near the top are bent, as if an elephant had recently tried to use it (how you bend a metal ladder at that height is beyond me.) 

Being on the roof of a tall building, with a wall surrounding me is not the issue.  It's when there's open space below that gets me.  And that's why that two story climb is exponentially worse for my nerves than hanging out on the roof and enjoying the view of sunny Augusta and North Augusta.

And then there's the very awkward and embarrassing, if anyone's with you, transitioning between the ladder and flat roof surface - with camera equipment.  It almost always ends up being a mix of falling and rolling oddly onto the flat surface.  No matter how hard you try, you can't look cool as you take your shaking hands and grab at anything attached to the floor only to imitate Shamu jumping out of the SeaWorld pool.    

But, once on the roof, there's a small retaining wall all the way around so as long as I keep my eyes looking level, or up, I'm ok...until I have to take pictures of guys attaching a giant G to the building's side 20 feet below me.  There's no other way to get a good shot without leaning over the side, thus exposing myself to the open space below.  As I'm taking pictures, the guy on the roof, making sure the hanging scaffolding is secure for the three men below, asks me: "Hey you should get down there with them, and feel how it swings."

Um. No. Thanks.

This is all topped off with the process of getting down, this time with the equally awkward transition from surface to ladder, in reverse (arguably less dumb looking but probably more dangerous.)

I'm always so happy to return to solid ground after these assignments. 

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Connor Threlkeld
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Connor Threlkeld 10/22/10 - 12:30 am
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I must confess, I felt the

I must confess, I felt the same sensations climbing that ladder. It's a beast. Granted, a small portion of it was due to the fact that I was wearing a suit and didn't want to mess it up.

Fall 20 feet off a ladder, break my legs, no problem. I've got medical insurance. But don't mess up my suit.

But kudos for looking over the side of the building. I stayed about 2 feet from that wall.

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