Sunday, November 21, 2010

OK. Now I Get It!

Most newer 8 and 10 foot step ladders have a warning notice about three steps from the top that says, "Danger! Do not stand at or above this level. YOU CAN LOSE YOUR BALANCE". I always thought it kind of silly that the ladders carry that warning, yet have two more steps (as well as the step on the top of the ladder) above the warning. If it is that dangerous, why wouldn't they just construct the ladder with no steps above that level? That has always seemed a reasonable question to me.

I learned a valuable lesson yesterday, as to why such a warning exists.

Last year, Christmas had sneaked up on me. Although I had done my usual front porch decorations - complete with greenery, garland, wreaths, bows, etc. - I never did get the lights strung around the gutters on the front and sides of the house. I don't remember why I was unable to get the place illuminated, but I was somewhat frustrated that I hadn't been able to accomplish my annual project.

Now, I'm not a Clark Griswold when it comes to exterior Christmas lights, but I do love to have the place illuminated during this wonderful season. My Christmas light philosophy is "Less is more" when it comes to outside decorations. Sometimes I have used the "icicle" type of lights, and at other years, just a string of tasteful, plain white lights around the front and sides of the old homestead.

The months of September, October, and the first half of November have been a tremendously hectic period of time for us this year. In view of last year's lighting disappointment, I decided to take the first opportunity available to get up this year's lights. Yesterday was a beautiful day, a little chilly, but a perfect day for Christmas light installation. After taking care of several ministry projects and hospital visitation in the morning, I helped Thamer Calhoun install furnace vents under the floor of the rental property next door. By 3:00 PM, all the other stuff was over, and I figured I still had 2 1/2 good hours of daylight to get the job done.

Linda was busy inside, putting up the family room Christmas tree, and she wasn't even aware of the fact that I had started the outdoor lighting project. Normally she likes to supervise that, and to "hold" the bottom of the extension ladder for my safety. Knowing that she was busy inside, and a little apprehensive about using the extension ladder with no one holding the base on a somewhat damp yard surface, I opted for the 10 foot step ladder. It seemed reasonable that the four legs of that contraption would provide the support needed to safely protect my 240 pound frame.

This was a decision I came to wish I had opportunity for a mulligan.

I started by stringing several new sets of lights along my 8 foot privacy fence. No ladder really needed for that. Then I began my work across the gutter over the front porch. The ground is fairly level there, and I made pretty short work of the front of the house. Jack Hollan, my neighbor of 30 years, called out to me as he backed his vehicle out of the driveway.

"Careful there! Don't break your neck."

I smiled, waved and told him I had no intention whatsoever of anything like that happening.

It wasn't until I started down the lower side of the house until tragedy struck. The job was roughly 2/3 complete, and dusk was approaching quickly. I had come to an area where the lights had to be strung from the edge of the front porch to the awning that sticks out over the concrete patio on the driveway side of the house. The height required more elevation on my part, so, disregarding the warning sticker, I boldly climbed up to the top step of the ladder. Things were going pretty well until one of the little plastic clips broke in my hand. The small adjustment of my weight caused the ladder to do the unthinkable. It kicked out from under me, slamming my body into the side of the house about 9 feet above the concrete outlined flower bed below.

As I flailed my arms wildly for something to grab, the ladder snapped back against my shins, applying uncomfortable pressure to my shins all the way down to my sudden stop at ground level. My butt landed on the little concrete wall, just before my elbow dug into the soft turf of the flower bed. The result was a wrenching jolt that rendered me helpless for what seemed like a long period of time, but in reality was only a few seconds.

With my body contorted, and in a twisted heap with the downed ladder, all I could do was moan and groan for help. Surely, I thought, that Linda must have heard my the sound of my body crashing into the outside wall, but alas, she was in the back of the house, and my cries for help went unanswered. The neighbors across the street were gone, so I had to suck it up and try to extricate myself from the twisted heap. It wasn't a pretty sight, and I'm sure if a video camera had been present, Tom Bergeron would have had a nice little clip for AFV.

To make a long (and painful) story shorter, suffice it to say, I was slowly able to reach my feet and gingerly make my way into the house, with my back and sides hurting like they had never hurt before.

"What's wrong?" Linda gasped.

"I fell off the ladder" came my weak reply.

If I had thought I would receive sympathy, I was severely mistaken.

"What were you doing on a ladder out there by yourself?" she barked.

"Well, you were busy, and I assumed you wanted to finish the tree."

(wrong thing to say)

So, after a brief breather in my recliner, and further admonishment from my help mate, I realized that if I didn't get the job completed, I wasn't sure when I might be able to do so. So back out I went, righted the ladder and set out to finish the ordeal.

This is where I need to stop telling the story, and repent for all the fun I had poked at my friend Darrell Clark, when he had a similar mishap doing a similar project several years ago. I had visited Darrell in the emergency room after his fall, which injured his shoulder bad enough that he had to miss quite a bit of work, and undergo physical therapy for several months.

Fortunately the most damage I had resulting from the mishap was a wrenched back, and a deeply bruised pride. I slept in the recliner last night and may do so again tonight, this time with a heating pad on my back.

One thing is for sure. As foolish as the warning sticker on the ladder seems to be - this bruised up 60 year old will heed it next time. If there IS a next time!

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