|September 11, 1995
This happened yesterday after work. I'm not
making this up.
I got home from work yesterday and let the dogs
out. I was walking around back when a gust of
wind came up. The big umbrella in the middle of
our picnic table lifted off like a Saturn V moon
rocket. It was a neat sight to see. The
umbrella had to go as high as the house (25'), it did
few flips and then landed right on the apex of our
garage roof. Of course it slammed a huge dent
into the gutter on it's way to the bivy ledge.
Lucky for me, I had left an extension ladder up from
this past weekend. I needed it to replace a
flood lamp. I figured that it would be easy to
climb the ladder, hop on the garage roof and recover
the umbrella. But it also occurred to me that it
would be a wise idea to change out of my
suit/tie/shoes and put on at least a pair of sneakers,
if not climbing shoes....um...nah...too much work.
My neighbors had, in the past, mentioned that they
thought climbing was irresponsible. I could get
hurt or killed... What the hell do my neighbors
know anyway. They're dumb and I'm smart.
I thought the roof would be class 4 at worst.
The "route" started off with the ladder
(5.1) for about 12'. Then the route traverses
left about 4' on the roof slab and goes up the slab to
the apex of the garage, where the umbrella is perched.
As I began traversing, some funny words popped into my
head..."...remember that you didn't plan to
free-solo an unknown quantity today."...umm..
where did I hear that before?
The slab began fairly easily. After the
traverse, I headed up the slab where I encountered the
first wasp. Must have been a scout with radio
contact back to the main nest. I smacked the
little guy, not too hard because I didn't want to lose
my balance (not because I love wasps), and he rolled
down a few feet and then stabilized himself.
About this time, I noticed my feet were not sticking
too well to the hot roofing shingles. It seems that
the little crushed rock or sand that is used on the
shingles built up on the bottom of my leather
bottomed, tasseled, dress loafers. I couldn't
brush the debris off the bottom of the shoes...didn't
want to get my dress socks dirty...but the crap was
turning into millions of ball bearings. At the
same time, I heard the low droaning. I looked up
into the vent window for our upper attic (above the
main part of the house) and saw a lot of angry wasps
hanging on their numerous paper nests...They were not
very happy about me smacking their buddy or invading
their turf. I promised myself that I would come
back up here and spray these suckers with wasp killer.
Ok.. I'm pretty gripped now but I'm almost to the
umbrella. Then I begin to slide.
Thankfully, I stop after only sliding one
shingle...whew! I feel very insecure now, I'm
hugging the rock...er.. uh...roof like a crazed
novice. I can almost hear my neighbors saying
the dreaded "I told you so". I must
look awfully dumb. Dressed in a $500 suit, $50
tie, $100 shoes, gripped outta my mind, sweating
bullets, looking at a painful grounder, can't go up,
can't go down, too proud to yell for help...my mind
races for a resolution to this situation....
The first wasp got me in the right cheek, just below
the eye. The next in the back of the neck...I
dyno for the apex...just short...now I'm sliding, feet
first on my stomach...oh please, let me hit the
gutter...yes! oh no, something's wrong.... I
Picture this. My upper body is plastered to the
roof, my feet are in the gutter and the gutter is two
feet out from the roof supported by the downspout.
I'm ten feet off the ground above my wife's cherished
flower garden. What the hell do I do now?
I figure I'm dead anyway...land in the flower
bed...killed by wife later....try a mantle...land on
my head and do a Christopher Reeves.... Better go for
the flower bed.
I push off and try to get my feet under me...no go.
My feet get hung up on the gutter. I land flat
on my back in the flower garden, in the process
mashing the maximum number of flowers.
I'm lying there thinking "I'm such an
asshole". I can't breath, one of the dogs
is licking my face and I'm almost positive that I
lying on top of an old dog turd. I really hope
none of my neighbors saw what just happened.
My breath finally comes back, my toes work so I don't
think I have any spinal injuries, my face and neck are
swollen from the wasp stings. I'm bleeding from
numerous lacerations and road rash. My suit is shredded,
the toes of the shoes are gone, the Ungaro tie is
trash. My shirt is torn with blood stains.
My watch is broken. I leave the flower garden in
it's state of devastation...I can't wait for my wife
to get home.
I go inside, grab a cold beer and bleed on the couch.
The aftermath...I'm still alive today. It was
almost dark when my wife got home. She never saw
the garden. I told her most of what happened.
She wasn't even mad that I bled on the couch.
I'm telecommuting from home today. I'm really
too embarrassed to go into the office. I'm all
cut up. I'll probably wait until Monday.
The umbrella is still up there.
I think the farmer down the road has a big shotgun.