The Problem of Coming Down After You've Gone Up

Walter Gabrielson Painter

The other day I had some roof work to do. Wasn't much, an hour's job to fix a leaky spot. I was exhorted by the wife to not fall off the roof and kill myself. I assured her that this was not in my game plan. For the next few days I made a lot of falling-off-the-roof jokes and then I had to bear the somebody-else's-husband-who-fell-off-&-killed himself story and another about a farmer who climbed up his silo to fix it and did a major , terminal brody, so I was ready.

It was suggested that I take the portable up so I could call in case I got into trouble. But you know, that is something that guys don't want to do, take along some wimpy lifeline on a simple Sunday honey-do job. Case closed. Wife went off to work and I went into the garage to get my roof stuff, got out the rickety aluminum ladder someone had given me (who gives away ladders anyway?) , propped it against the roof edge, climbed up, got my stuff up and carefully placed myself on the roof. What a view! what power! What an angle this thing is at!!

In an hour I was done. Then I put everything back into bags and went over to the edge to climb down. I know, this is the place where I was supposed to get dizzy, wobble around and go over the edge and splatter all over the driveway in a gross raspberry splotch that would greet the wife when she returned.

Instead, using perfect logic, careful balance and superior intellect I began working my precious body into a position to properly engage the rungs of the ladder and descend triumphantly to the ground. Wasn't happening. Without my weight already ON the ladder the damn thing was quite shifty. Shifty enough to make me hesitate. Not exactly sodden with fear but legally cautious, I thought about it for a while. I could possibly get away with it but maybe I wouldn't. One of those nasty fifty-fifty affairs. The two curves of risky business were beginning to intersect and I was cold sober. Question: confidently go for it and possibly bust my bones or stay up and be rescued like an old fool? Risk vs. losing face. Is it always like that? When you're young, not problem, you ALWAYS risk your butt because you're going to get away with it. Stupid arrogance can solve a lot of problems.

But that was then. Right now I was at a non-convergance with the physics of the matter. After several tries I decided to wait. Maybe someone would come along and help out. If I had had the phone I could of called the Fire Department, "Excuse me, don't get up from your card game or tarot readings but if later on you have nothing to do , maybe roll the hook & ladder (no sirens) and get an old coot off the roof?" "Also, don't be too funny about it." Or, I could wait for two hours until the wife gets home and endure a righteous toldyouso scene which I would never hear the end of. Kind of bit that makes you want to fall off the roof and be in traction for six months insead of going through.

So, I sat up there and waited for somebody to solve my problem. That's what cats do and they are pretty smart. But nobody came by. Good thing I wasn't out in the country, could stay up for months and months and starve, people would find nothing but a skeleton and some roofing supplies. What made him do it? Anybody still kept not coming by. I am on a quiet street and the joggers and muggers were done for the day. Aliens probably got them. Couple of cars came by driven by wispy females who would have trouble keeping a martini glass aloft, they couldn't do the job. One guy came by with his dog but he was on a walkman and didn't hear my pitiful cries. Fool. I had plenty of time to contemplate the meaning of life, the sky, the sun, changing political parties, all of that. I kept looking at the ladder. Maybe I should give it a try...

But, just when everything was becoming the most dire (I was missing some serious TV, getting hot from the sun, waiting for the wife's return), a guy came walking down the street!

Just the right sized guy, not too old, not too young, he looked in good shape, my kind of guy. In a most gentle, rational, non-panicky voice, I hailed him, "I say, could you give me a hand?" Guy looks around ,wondering if god is talking or someone craves applause, spots me. Came into the yard. I asked if he couldhold the ladder. Sure. Ladder was now firm, and without the slightest hesitation, Islid over the roof and shinnied down like a bunny. Went back up to get my supplies and came down again. Nice firm ladder now.

I thanked him profusly. We exchanged ladder busting your keister stories and then with a hearty wave, he was off. I put the roof stuff back into the garage, went inside, got cleaned up. Wife came home, says, "how did it go?"

"Piece of cake".