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The Roof

By: Scott Ghiz

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 stop.
 
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.


COL

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