I’ve discovered a new game. It can be enjoyed by women and girls, men and boys, all races, all religions and all ages. However, in spite of the potential popularity, I don’t think there will ever be an Olympic gold medal awarded for falling-off-the-roof.
Who hasn’t had to climb up there to retrieve a Frisbee or a ball stuck behind the chimney? I remember going on the roof to adjust the television antenna before cable TV was invented. My father would holler through an open window, “Tilt it more to the right. There, that’s perfect,” never realizing the reason it was perfectly tilted was that I was holding on to it for dear life. As soon as I let go to climb down, it un-tilted and the TV fuzzed up again. Fortunately my dad didn’t watch a lot of TV so I didn’t have to stay up there all the time.
Just last year I climbed onto my own roof to cut away some tree limbs that were scraping the eaves. I carried a pruning saw and some garden clippers. The trip up was simple. I just leaned towards the roof, taking short, shuffle steps, as my tennis shoes gripped the gritty texture of the shingles. Perching on the roof peak and cutting the tree limbs was easy. Coming back down was not.
Right before my eyes the pitch of the roof increased to ski-slope steep. My foot-wear transformed into sliding-shoes-of-death and took off with me still in them.
I always thought I was a together-kind-of-guy who could easily handle such a minor surprise. I simply sat down; certain this would create the needed friction to stop my descent. Instead, I discovered that my bottom had the same capacity for speed as my still sliding shoes. I became a skidding, panic stricken, hot-seated, coming-apart-kind-of-guy, who was falling to his death.
I let go of the pruning saw and garden clippers. They would have to survive on their own. I lay back, flat against the roof, flailing my arms, grabbing for all manner of finger holds that weren’t there. In my mind I slid for about a year before coming to a surprise stop with my feet dangling over the edge. The saw and clippers weren’t so lucky. They fell the entire two thousand feet to the ground and perished. At least that’s what I was thinking at the time.
As impressive as my new talent was, one major component was missing from my routine: follow-through. All I did was loose a couple of trimming tools. That’s not worthy of an award by any standard.
A home builder I know was up on his house touching up the paint on a dormer window. As he began to climb down, his ladder became impatient, and decided to get him down faster. So it kicked its own feet out from under itself and fell, leaving the man momentarily suspended in mid-air. Witnesses claim the builder actually did a flip with a half-twist on the way down and still managed to stick a perfect, flat-backed landing. The builder only suffered a few bruises for his event but would have surely medaled in the World Games.
Finally, we come to the premier contender for the gold. A professional roofer, who knows all the rules about caution and safety, chose to carry a bucket of runny, roofing tar up a rickety stepped contraption that might have been a ladder in years gone by. The roofer often joked about keeping the ladder long enough for the missing steps to grow back.
His ascent to the flat roof was uneventful, but the return trip was nothing short of glorious. The first step down was also the last. The ladder-like apparatus collapsed completely. The roofer’s only attempt to grab for support required that he let go of the tar bucket. But, it wasn’t just a release. It was more like a discus throw, which lifted the bucket vaulting and spinning high into the air spreading its contents in long, viscous spirals of black, streaming stickiness.The roofer’s fall was just a simple plummeting technique, but he was able to land with enough force to leave an imprint in the flower bed similar to the chalked outline of a murder victim. The only major consideration was whether it would be easier to clean the spiraled tar pattern off the walls, or to paint the rest of the house with the same stuff.
I don’t have any intention of supporting an Olympic-Falling-Off-The-Roof event, but I have noticed those tree limbs are back. I wonder if the broken step on my old ladder has healed, yet.
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