Sunday, April 22, 2012

365 Jobs: The Inevitability of Ladders

Saturday, December 10, 2011

By this time I should be scared of ladders, but I'm not.  All that falling.  Or really, as a friend pointed out, it isn't the falling from ladders that hurts you, it's the landing. 
  • Landing upright on a concrete floor.  (The ladder slid.)
  • Landing on my wrist — unbroken — on a hardwood floor.  (The top rung of a wooden ladder buckled.)
  • Landing in midair — catching hold of a two-by-four half way down — bruised but unbroken.  (Lost my balance while tightening a bolt when the head sheared off.) 
  • Landing sideways in a pile of garbage in somebody's garage where the client had piled about three months' worth of household trash in plastic bags because he was too cheap to pay for collection.  (I forget why I fell, but it was a soft landing, garbage being like a smelly pillow with a few embedded nasty things.)
But it's not the falling or the landing.  It's the lumbar discs.  The twisting, the reaching.  A bad back made me finally swear off ladders.  For a while.

Then in December of 2011 at night during a winter storm, I awoke to a BANG.  Daylight revealed a clobbered rain gutter.  A branch nine inches in diameter had detached itself from a redwood tree.

The damage was up high. 

This is why we have teenagers: to help with this crap.  But my kids are grown with lives of their own.  The nest is empty.

So I hire Tom, a carpenter with a lifetime of experience.  Tom sets up my 24-foot fiberglass ladder, cuts the gutter and removes it.  But now it's revealed: behind the gutter, the fascia's rotten.  So that's how squirrels have been getting into the ceiling and raising a ruckus somewhere above my dining table. 

I just happen to have a 16-foot all-heart redwood 1x6 in my garage.  After 35 years of contracting, I just happen to have a lot of odd planks and old tools.

Tom points out the obvious: to install a 16-foot board, somebody will have to hold each end.  On separate ladders, 16 feet apart.

So Tom climbs the 24-footer while I climb my 32-footer, each of us holding one end of the board.  Tom nails; I nail.  Here I am: climbing, twisting, reaching, hammering. 

"Sorry," Tom says.  "Just what you were trying to avoid."

That night I ice the lumbar, then take a hot bath.  Next morning it's a little sore but not too bad. 

That's the  thing.  There will always be a  ladder chore.  You can't get away from it.

And as long as I'm needed, I'm not dead yet.

. . .

Note: this is the end of the ladder series and also the last post for a few days.  I'm undergoing a bit of throat surgery on Monday.  It's a relatively minor procedure and probably less painful than falling from a ladder except that statistically there's a one in a hundred possibility that I'll lose my voice, immediately and permanently, which would be an ironic outcome for a writer.  I'll be back as soon as I can.

Update 4/26/2012:  Hooray for steady-handed surgeons!  Voice fine.  Health good.

1 comment:

  1. The amount of people who fall from ladders is still amazing concidering the fact that it just needs very basic observaional skills to keep safe.