And that’s why I shouldn’t go on roofs


Heights and I have a complicated relationship. We get along best when we’re apart. I’ve always been afraid of allowing us to get too close.

When I’m in an airplane, staring out a reinforced window at the ground thousands of miles below, we are most in love. When I stand above a tall abyss, say the Grand Canyon or a 19-story condominium, with nothing but a small restraining wall or guard rail separating us, I am loath to approach.

On the other hand, my attitude towards ladders is straightforward and simple: I am Burt Lahr in his most remembered role. For those of you not old enough or well-entertained enough to know that role, I’ve included his picture in this post.

My feelings about ladders are consistent at all levels, down to the little two-step stepladder I use around the house.

Now, combine those two relationships into one and you have the knee-knocking dilemma I faced after Hurricane Irma passed: I had a hole in the roof that needed temporary patching.

The sweat was already beading on my forehead and that was even before I stepped out into the steamy September Florida summer. At that point, regular sweat, flop sweat and fear sweat were indistinguishable but clearly defined in my t-shirt plastered to my chest.

Once before, after Wilma, I had faced this challenge. That time, I had to spend considerable time up top banging boards into place and nailing down tarps. I remembered the harrowing time well, as I abused parts of my body on the asphalt shingles.

A moment to inform you on asphalt shingles. Imagine a pebbly side street, roughly paved. Take said street and spread it across your roof. Add in five hours of UV11, 90+ degree Florida sun.

Now, lean on said roof. Burn. Rub on said roof. Gash. Stand on said roof. Melt. (see, another Wizard of Oz reference!)

So, knowing (and having experienced) all of the above, I planned to go up on the roof in jeans and a long sleeve shirt, with gloves.

But first, I needed materials and a (shudder) ladder.

Lowe’s personnel helped me with the former, suggesting something called “Peel & Seal”, which is aluminum tape backed by a rubberized asphalt adhesive sealant – supposed to be waterproof. Exactly what I needed for my not-too-wide but totally through my roof hole.

Next came the ladder. I only own a 5-footer (used primarily for Halloween decorations). I needed a “real” ladder for this effort.

I asked my always-prepared neighbor across the street and while he didn’t have one, he suggested his next door neighbor. He wasn’t home but his wife opened up the garage to let me borrow the ladder.

Apparently, my ladder aversion went both ways. This sucker was so heavy, I could barely lift it. Fortunately, my across the street neighbor was still around and he helped me.

And then, showing that spirit that has been on display during all these disasters, he volunteered to go up on the roof with me and help.

Awesome. Except…he was up on the roof in seconds and I felt bad about making him waiting for me to change, so…yes, I went up the ladder and crawled onto the roof in my own cowardly way. Somehow, I managed to survive the journey.

We fixed the tape over the hole and headed back down. I thought going down was going to be worse than coming up. I was right, as my nervous shaking caused me to wobble, which I could only adjust for by planting my left knee on the asphalt shingles. Leaving a portion of my knee on the roof.

But, the sense of overwhelming relief when I got both feet back on the ground and the sense of reasonable security I now felt about not having water pour onto my ceiling made the bloody dripping knee seem trivial.

In the backlog of roof repairs that now exist in South Florida, the earliest I can get someone out here to look at the hole is next Wednesday. I don’t know if they can repair on the spot or then have to schedule another appointment, but thank goodness I’ve been gifted three whole dry days in the midst of Florida’s wettest time of year.

In the meantime, I’ve done what I should for the knee, cleaning it, applying ointment and covering it. It’s ugly, but it finally stopped bleeding. Another fine example of why I shouldn’t go on roofs.

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