Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My First Time

I rappelled off a building at work today.

I haven't rappelled off anything in years. There hasn't been much need for it in my daily job. Today was definitely an outlier.

That wasn't always the case. The Army was big on rappelling. I'm not sure why, but there was a lot I wasn't sure about during my time as a soldier.

Rappelling never bothered me. I'm not particularly afraid of heights and I figure there are enough redundant safety systems in a controlled environment that I don't have to worry.

Not everyone feels that way, of course. In basic training, one of my fellow trainees was an Iowa farm boy, 6'4", 250 pounds. He was good with a rifle, good at making his bed, good at dealing with pretty much everything you need to be good at in basic training.

Except heights. He hated them. Which we all found out the first time we had to rappel.

"Let's go soldier, rappel," our captain hollered.

The rest of us had finished our rappel and were standing at the base of the tower looking up at the farm boy. Our captain was a Ranger, stuck on a stateside base while his buddies were in combat. He was none too happy about it.

"I will, sir," said the farm boy.

The farm boy was securely anchored to the rappel line. There was a drill sergeant at the bottom to pull the safety rope tight and stop any fall. If you're scared of heights, though, you're scared of heights.

"Soldier, you had best rappel down this tower right now," hollered the captain.

We could just see the back of the farm boy, standing sixty feet above us on the edge of the tower platform.

"I'm trying sir."

Bad answer.

"Rappel, you son of a bitch," the captain screamed.

Those of us on the ground saw the captain push the farm boy. He sailed off the tower and seemed to float for a moment, kicking and waving. Then gravity took over and then the drill sergeant, pulling the safety rope tight. The farm boy twirled aimlessly above us for a bit until the sergeant slowly lowered him to the ground.

"Jesus," the sergeant said with a certain amount of pity, looking down at the panting, pale farm boy laying spread eagled on the ground.

"Goddamnit, soldier," the captain shrieked from the top of the tower.

"I rappelled," whispered the farm boy to himself.


Jennifer said...

Did you get to wear a cape?

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I'm not particularly afraid of heights and I figure there are enough redundant safety systems in a controlled environment that I don't have to worry.

I occasionally do building facade inspection drops. I've got a friend who does building forensics nationwide.

Too bad we couldn't have told you some stories before your drop. Surely you are familiar with the term SNAFU?

Chomble all over the pavement.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I'm terrified of heights!

Jennifer said...

So am I, thunder.

almostinfamous said...

while i am not scared of heights, i prefer to not jump off of them either. i would have taken a bit of prodding to rappel myself...

blue girl said...

I am not rappelling now, never have rappelled and never will rappel! No rappel!

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I am taking you all on a swing stage.

Jennifer said...

No. Way.

You don't need to be afraid of dying when you're already dead. We are still very much alive and would like to stay that way.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Everyone knows I was kidding, right?

Brando said...

The military is not exactly understanding when it comes to phobias.

This reminded me of a conversation I had with TLB's father this summer. He was in the airbone when he was in the army during Vietnam, and at one point they had him go through HALO training (the high-altitude parachute jumps). We were talking about this, and I asked him what's the highest jump he ever did.

After he thought for a moment, he said, "28,000 feet."

Meanwhile, I get vertigo watching a show on Discovery about guys servicing 2000-foot radio towers. Some of us were meant to stay on the ground.

Snag said...

thunder, that photo of your foot on the edge of the cliff makes me queasy.

And I can't imagine 28,000 feet.

Substance McGravitas said...

I get nervous at edges because I really really really want to be there.

Jennifer said...

Yes, I figured you were kidding, Thunder... I've seen enough of your left foot photos, taken in precarious places.

fish said...

Hey everybody, let's go out to dinner.

Mendacious D said...

I'm fairly certain that in your job the urge to throw yourself off of high places crops up whenever one of these road trips occurs.

Those motel rooms are all close to the ground for a reason.

Brando said...

I was looking out the airplane window on the way back home from vacation, trying to imagine stepping out from that height. The captain would have been coming with me because I wouldn't have let go of his leg.

Kathleen said...

I am afraid of heights but I love rappelling!! go figure.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

If it is not apparent, I am also afraid of heights.

As a teenager, however, I was volunteered to paint the upper portions of our house, because out of all our family, I was THE LEAST afraid of heights.

In my real life, I am occasionally tapped to perform Facade Inspections of buildings five stories or taller. So I get to bounce around in a cherry picker, or fly around on a swing stage. I haven't yet had to do a bosun's chair.

Facing your fears so directly makes for a bracing day. And afterward, I tend to make directly for an adult beverage.

Nobody says you have to face your fears sober.

herr doktor bimler said...

Heights are afraid of me.