A view from the top
On reaching a new level
At the top the first thing that struck me was the wind. In the tower, I was overheating from climbing. Perspiration danced down to the small of my back. It pooled around the harness straps pressing into me through my clothes. Once outside, this became a problem.
I started shivering right away. Craig noticed. Good view up here eh bud? Nothing like it. You afraid or cold? Craig’s voice was warm and reassuring.
A bit of both I replied. Craig wasn’t having it.
From where I stand, he began, and the way you’re shivering, it’s more than a bit. You need to get up and move around.
It was then that I realized were I was and what I was doing. At the very top of the tower, there’s a light. The light sits on top of a triangular, almost pyramid like steel construction. I was half sitting, half leaning on one part of the structure. At the same time I had my arm roped around another part, clinging on for dear life.
Hell of a view up here continued Craig almost lazily. I like coming up here. I enjoy it. You like it too?
I nodded. Craig laughed. You’d like it more if your knuckles weren’t quite so white. I laughed a little. Some air left my body. My grip relaxed a bit. I started to move around on the Dartmouth tower.
The first thing you need to be aware of when you’re on a suspension bridge is the surface. It’s uneven. There are steps, bolts, nuts and rivets sticking up from what seems to be everywhere. There are holes. It’s essential to pick up your feet. It’s vital to watch your step. That’s not the only thing to be aware of.
The space up top is small. In most places there is room for people to squeeze by each other on the steel platform. In others it’s more tight. Moving backwards or sideways without looking could cause a collision. Though there are protective railings up there, bumping into people seemed like a really bad idea. To make matters worse,
From the top I could see almost everything. The container pier, the golf course, the airbase, the naval yards were all as clear as day.1 I could even see Mount Ikea, miles away in the distance. Most surprising? The horizon. From up there it was easier to see the curvature of the earth. That made both myself and the height feel trivial. I started getting comfortable.
With comfort, comes play. Because this is a television show, and because I’m a bit of a ham, I needed to have a bit of fun for the camera. I started shouting, hamming it up and making strange sounds.2 Pedestrians down below began noticing. That's when the real fun began.
I would shout or make weird yelling sounds to see if they could hear me. They could as evidenced by them looking up. I wish I could have seen the looks on their faces. The height prevented that. It did however create room for an outstanding game of bridge tower peek a boo. In addition to climbing a bridge tower, I never once, ever before imagined that I would play peek a boo with people on the sidewalk from the top of a bridge. I was becoming more relaxed.
Craig noticed. Settling in a bit are ya? Don’t get too comfortable, Craig said. I checked my breath. Still shallow. I looked at the knuckles on my hand on the railing. Still white.
No fear of becoming fearless today Craig.
He laughed. I suppose that’s true. It takes time to get used to this. Back in the day we never had none of these harnesses and stuff. We used to climb all over this bridge like spiders. Just balanced, walking across the iron. Sometimes you’d wear a belt, but if you fell on that, it would just cut you in two. The gear is better now. Back then was different.
The two of us were leaning on a rail, looking out towards the mouth of the harbour. Craig continued, When I first got up here, working above, I was just like you - stiff, shivering, scared. Every day I would come just exhausted from shaking all day. Every day I’d be shaky. Just like you. Craig made a buzzing sound and moved his hands around chaotically, laughing as he did.
My guts would be going a mile a minute when I got up here. They would keep going for a couple of hours once I got home. I was tired a lot. It’s funny though. One day. It just stopped. One day, I just got up here, took a breath and the fear was gone.
The fear was gone? The question fell from my tongue with befuddled amazement. How could someone be afraid one day then have things gone the next. Craig, are you sure it didn’t disappear slowly without you noticing?
Naw buddy, it was like a switch. I got here, things were comfortable then I got to work.
And up until then what did you do?
I just showed up everyday and got to work. The fear, that was just a feeling. I had a job to do and I did it. The job was more important than my fear. Craig beamed with pride. Life at the top takes time gettin’ used to.
So, if you’re about to reach another level, remember Craig.
Life at the top takes time gettin’ used to.
Tune in tomorrow and I’ll tell a little story about getting down.
And if you’d like to see some remarkably foolish evidence of my adventures in television, check out this link to story highlights on Instagram.
All done safely while holding on. I was still fairly stiff with cold and fear.