Climbing Jacob's Ladder
2005-01-13 - 2:04 p.m.

So, I work in theater, no not an actress. I am a lighting designer. I am also a stage electrician at times, though I definitely prefer designing. See, the problem I have is that for most of my life I have had this debilitating fear of ladders. In case you donít know why this is important, almost every light in theater is hung above the stage, and unless you are in a rather well appointed theater that means every single light has to be hung, reached and messed with by, you guessed it, ladder. Not to mention there is also cable, plugs, circuits and the like to play around with as well. Now, why would I get into this business if I hate ladders so much? Well, hereís the thing. I stated out working in some nice houses, which had catwalks and fly rails (thatís where they lower the pipes to the floor with a pulley system so there is no climbing involved). See, heights isnít the problem, I can run around on catwalks 40í above the ground no problem Itís just ladders. Now, I have also moved over mostly into design, and usually that means you donít have to climb anything because you are too busy going crazy over paperwork.

But hereís the thing. There is a lot more work for electricians than for designers so I end up taking electrics calls for the cash. Also, it was sort of embarrassing in college when the climbing that was involved came around and I had to try to come up with an excuse to not do it. Anyway, it was at that point I decided I needed to break myself of this phobia once and for all. So, for the last 7 years I have been trying, with various degrees of success, to get over this fear. It was very hard at first. When I started at University I couldnít go above the third step on a 10-foot ladder. I can now climb that ladder no problem, though I do need to stay below that ďthis is not a stepĒ step, no balancing on the top like a monkey for me! Now my problem lies in actually doing anything while Iím up there. Tying cable or sliding instruments a foot or so in either direction is no problem, focusing and changing light bulbs (but we call them lamps. (long story, just go with it.) is fine, but carrying things up and down is still a major problem. See, I think that fear is a little different, though. Iím terrified that I am going to drop whatever Iím holding and I really canít climb one handed yet, and honestly, I doubt I will ever be THAT comfortable. The funny thing is, that was never really my concern until I found out how much it would cost for me to replace one of those instruments. Then I was worried about dropping them. Go figure.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that a good friend of mine offered me a shift doing electrics for the theater sheís working at. I show up and realize they donít have any grids at all so it is going to be all ladder work and the grid is close to 20í. Thatís a bit high for me, even though I am doing much better. Then I saw the ladders. They had one standard ladder, but it was only maybe 15í, which meant using the ďthis isnít a stepĒ step. They also had two extension ladders (no way, no how) and an extension A-frame. I had seen these before and had used one once, but I didnít have to climb to the top on that one. I wasnít sure how this would work so I did what I always did. I waited until someone else used the extension A-frame so I could see what I would have to force myself to do. Well, he climbed all the way to the top of the extension and swung one leg over the top rung so he was straddling the top rung and had his feet where the extension met the A. That made me nervous, but I figured, hey, itís a focus call; no hanging, no carrying things up and down the ladder, no problem, I can do this. I asked the ME what he wanted me to do and he said, ďwell, I need four more instruments hung on the back pipe. Of course he did. Well, I didnít know this guy, I had never worked with him before and I didnít want to start things out on the wrong foot, so to speak, not to mention Iím way too proud for my own good sometimes so I just vowed to figure it out and get it done. Luckily, there was a rope tied to the ladder for sissies just like me so that solved the lifting part, now I just had to get up to the top of the ladder and not freak out when I tried to hang the damn things.

Anyway, after a little consternation and a very shaky first few minutes, I did it! I climbed up there, swung my leg over and hung the damn light. I was very proud of myself. I even got comfortable with the ladder and spent almost the whole 5 hour call on top of it. Yay for me! I am actually very proud of myself right now. This is a new level of comfort for me and I feel very accomplished right now. The only problem? Well, when you are on top of a ladder like that you (or at least I) need to keep pressing your knees toward each other to keep hold of the top rung also because the rung you have your feet on is closer together than you would normally put your feet so now all of the muscled from my knees to my hips hurt like hell. My shoulders do, too, from climbing up and down.

There was this guy at the hang, though who kind of tripped me out a little. He just didnít stop talking. Never. I felt a little weird about it at first because I felt like I had to answer, to be polite, you know? But I wasnít absolutely positive he was talking to me, but I was the closest person to him so I figured he was. Then I noticed no one else was really answering him either, no matter who he was near. So I just sort of stopped answering as well, and he didnít notice. He just kept on talking. I asked the friend who hired me about it the next day and she told me that, yeah, he just kind of talks to hear himself and he doesnít really expect anyone to answer him, he just keeps going. Wow. I just donít know about that. He was very nice, though, so it wasnít like everyone was sitting there hating him for it. I just donít know.

Well, thatís all I have for now.

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