Saturday, August 08, 2009

Manly Moments

I know the few of you reading this have heard some of my many, many (many) tales about some of the embarrassing moments I've experienced in my life. If you know any of them, then you likely know about the girly scream that I unleashed the time I thought I was about to get hit head-on by a diesel on the freeway when I was, in reality, safely parked at a truck stop and the diesel has just parked right in front of me. Had I not been wildly trying to turn the (locked) steering wheel, I'd probably have erratically waved my hands in the air in terror. This is an important reflex to note.

I was at Climb Nashville with a friend recently attempting one of the walls that has given me trouble the last few times I've gone. It was my current goal to try and conquer; my Everest, and all that. I 'd made it to the same place that has always caused me to fail. It's an odd position where the only good foot grip for someone my height is right next to an area where the rock juts out several feet and when I go to stand straight up to reach the handhold I need, my leg is blocked by the lip of the rocks.

I'd been stuck on that spot for several minutes and any one familiar with climbing knows how rapidly your energy can drain when you have to stop on a place that doesn't have anywhere you can support yourself with your legs and by pressing your body to the wall. I was feeling weary. Nearing defeat, I released the rock and allowed my arms dangle, letting the blood flow to my stiff fingers. I was hoping to make one final, mad dash to the top.

The ropes they have are double-looped on the supports at the top so that the person belaying only has to support half of the weight that they would otherwise. This is usually a great thing however this can also cause the ropes to get slight hitches in them. I never really thought about this.
It's about this time, suspended 30 ft off the ground, my feet pressing against the wall so that my back was nearly horizontal with the ground far below, that one of these hitches decide to free itself. And I began to fall. I say "began" but what I really need is word that means both "began" and "finished" because the fall was so short and such a small distance that it was nearly over by the time it began. However, my brain didn't figure this out and all it knew was, "oh crap, I'm falling" and it proceeded to start reminding me of the highlights of my life. During the time it took me to start and stop my fall, my mind really only had a chance to get to "oh c..." but I guess it had stopped working properly at this point, deciding it wasn't going to accept any more input from the world, and completely disregarded this fact.

My brain may have been moving in slow motion but apparently my latent ninja reflexes decided to reveal themselves and managed to move my arms faster than the time my fall took, because by the time I had stopped, they were up near my face - spread wide and waving rapidly - and my mouth was agape preparing what I can only imagine was a sad, piercing womany scream that was working its way up from the depths of my throat. Thankfully that did not happen, my brain finally starting back up, but the danger was there.
Let's forget the fact that I was about to yell in a very non-manly way and instead look at the fact that I thought I was about to fall to my doom and instead of reaching for the wall, no matter how vain an effort it may have been, I instead INSTINCTIVELY reacted by waving my hands around frantically. Go, go survival instincts. If I'm ever in a nuclear fallout scenario, I'm screwed.

Oh, and also be sure to imagine how that would have looked to the people in the audience. I'm a single fellow and there's lots of potentially interesting people there to meet. But had they seen me - a tall guy, clinging to the wall with grim determination as I willed myself to victory - "plummet" a mere half a foot, while frantically flailing limbs and screaming in high-pitched terror...well, let's just say I wouldn't expect any dinner invitations to be forthcoming.

On a similar note, I went back today with the same friend as before and told him this story. He'd not recalled the incident and with his good memory I figure maybe it wasn't as obvious as it felt. But he found the whole situation funny, so he thought it'd be hilarious to drop me while I hanging from a rope again (this time taking photos) to see if he could replicate the reaction and maybe have me complete the yell. It wasn't the highest of the walls by any stretch but the fall wouldn't have been pleasant.
I thankfully disappointed him but I must have still made some sort of surprised gesture, sound or expression if his laughter was any guide. He couldn't have timed it better though. I'd been trying to get a shot of straight down the wall (to give a little perspective on how it looks from up top) with my terrible camera phone.

That was proving harder than I anticipated, my arms tired and shaky as they were. I got one shot off while suspended and RIGHT as I was about to take a second one, he dropped me and I snapped the photo as I fell. It's blurry and you can't tell at all what's going on, but I still found it entertaining.

So in case you're not familiar with it, that is what the moment right before death looks like. No soft white lights, just someone using too much motion blur on your life.

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