The other day I was f’n around online and I came across this video of these guys that climb all the way up to the top of really high structures, like antennas out in the middle of nowhere. The head climber attached a camera to his head, so you got a pretty realistic point-of-view type film, of this guy just climbing higher and higher up to the top.
Let me tell you, just by watching this video I experienced a strong physical reaction. My stomach got shaky, queasy. It’s the same feeling you get if your car goes over a hill really fast, or if you’re on a ferris wheel that takes a dip at the same time as the carriage starts rocking. I was terrified for this guy. This particular antenna that he was climbing was about as high as the Sears Tower in Chicago. Once he got as high as an elevator would take him, he basically had to climb an open ladder. And it just kept going up and up and up. And then finally he gets to a platform, but that wasn’t even close to being the end. Then he had to climb an even smaller ladder, this one was basically just a pole with pieces of metal coming off the sides. It was like a half-ladder, like a ladder’s inverse.
And this guy wasn’t even using any harness or anything. The video said that constantly attaching and detaching and reattaching a harness would slow him down. He had a little clip that he would stick to a rung every now and then so he could lean back and rest. Like he would actually just lean back, his feet on the ladder, but then just releasing the weight of his body against this chord that he affixed his life to, just taking a rest from climbing up this never ending pole, leaning back against the void.
Oh yeah, and he’s carrying his tools up behind him, also attached to some other rope, and the whole pack weighs maybe thirty pounds. And he finally gets to the top, this tiny piece of platform maybe three feet squared, and he pulls up his pack of tools and starts changing some light bulb at the top.
First of all, what kind of a sociopath designed this antenna? Aren’t we at a point in technology or society or civilization or whatever where we can build an antenna with maybe a ladder that’s surrounded by a scaffolding so that this guy could climb without a legitimate risk of falling to his death? And to do what, change a light bulb? I’m no genius inventor, but maybe they could install a light bulb at the top that would attach to some type of mechanical elevator, so when it dies, you can just press a button and it would come down for a change instead of a human being going up.
But whatever, I guess eventually whenever you have tall structures somebody’s going to have to go up and at least make sure everything’s OK. And this is what kills me. That’s an actual profession out there of people who climb up buildings and bridges and antennas. It makes me sick to my stomach. I wouldn’t say I have a fear of heights, but thinking about these people doing this sends my body into a panic.
Every time I think about it, my palms start sweating. What kind of a physical reaction to heights are sweaty palms? How does it make any sense at all? If I’m up somewhere really high, chances are, if I want to survive, I’m going to have to grab onto stuff and hopefully climb down in one piece. How is this easier with slippery hands? What the hell evolution? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to have a magnet grip, or maybe Spider-Man’s wall crawling powers?
But what really bothers me is that this is part of the human experience. Every once in a while I’ll get stuck in my head and I’ll think about my life and how comfortable it is, but how outside of my own tiny existence there are people going through all sorts of crazy shit, like free climbing up a giant antenna. And I think to myself, well, I’m a human being, and they are human beings too, so the only difference between myself and person changing a light bulb at the top of the world is, well, there is no difference. It’s really just a matter of elevation. I can very easily picture myself up there, and my imagination is obviously a very good one, because I’m able to trigger these stupid panic responses, like nausea and sweaty palms.
And what if one day I find myself living under a totalitarian regime, and I get drafted as a laborer by the state, and they put me in some worker camp, and they look at me and say, “You. The tall guy. Come on, we’ve got a new job for you.” And the guy pulls out a light bulb and smiles. And as I lose control of my bladder and beg to be spared from this human experience that I desperately do not want to experience, this psychopath smiles even harder, knowing that he picked just the right guy for the job, and he takes out a gun a cocks the barrel back and he says, “Climb.” And I don’t have a choice.
Honestly, shit like this keeps me up at night. I just, I just really hope that I never, ever have to do something like that. Or even watch another video like that again. I should just stop using the Internet. Or leaving the house. Or writing out these crazy imaginary scenarios that only get more vivid and descriptive as I write them out. Jesus Christ my palms are really sweating now. Like my keyboard is soaked. I can’t believe it’s still functioning, because it’s so wet.