So, my wife is out of town for the weekend and I’m solo at home. I wake up on a Saturday morning and let the dog out, then back in. I feed the cats then head out the garage door to get the paper. I open the garage door, stumble down the driveway, pick up the Oregonian and wander back up. When I get back to the door in the garage to go inside, I grab the doorknob but it doesn’t turn.
Confused, I turned it again. No dice. Then, like an electric shock in my brain, the synapses connect and I remember locking the door to the garage the night before, something I never do. Well, something I’ll never do again, but that doesn’t help me much now, standing in sweats and slippers in my garage. Seriously, what the f am I going to do?
Hmm. Do I have my cell phone? No. Well, why would I? I wasn’t expecting to need to make a call on my way to the ….newspaper. Do I know anyone who has a spare key? I think to myself on that one. Well, I have not given any out since we moved to this house a couple years ago. My wife gave one to her former neighbors since they watch the cats when we are out of town. I could go to the neighbors and wake their happy asses up to borrow their phone to call my wife but the problem is, I have no idea what my wife’s cell number is. It’s just #1 on my contact list in my cell phone, which is sitting happily inside on the sideboard.
Maybe I better check the windows to see if anything is miraculously open. So, I make the round that I know will be fruitless. After coming up with no fruit, I do what any other sane man would do. I look at my dog through the back door in the kitchen looking at me and I try to use the Force to teach her how to unlock the back two locks on the door, despite the lack of opposable thumbs.
After that little exercise, I think about other options. Do I break a window? It’s not cold outside. But I can’t wait 34 more hours for my wife to return. I mean, I could tough it out in the garage drinking old beer and thawing raw meat from the refrigerator, but, I am thinking Luna, our dog, is going to have about a dozen accidents in the house by that point. Well no, actually, it would be worse. After not being fed, the cats might get that look from her that all cats fear. I need to find a way inside!
But, I really don’t want to break a window. We DO need new windows but there has to be another option. And then it comes to me.
Our roofline is rather odd, being a 70’s split-level home. Multiple levels and lines to it, and, there are two windows up there that don’t currently lock. They are sliding windows that allow light to come into the living room and are about 2 feet high by 3 feet wide in a row where one roof level is higher than the other. We have these vaulted ceilings in living room about 15-20 feet up where its roof line is higher than the kitchen’s. But that is a long way to drop onto a new hardwood floor. That is not going to end well. I mean, I’d be inside, but then I’d be on the floor for 33.5 more hours until my wife came home to find me unable to move with broken legs. But could I rappel into the house?
I start looking around the garage for what was there to see if I could make this work. First off, rope. There was about 40-50 feet of an old static 8 or 9 millimeter frayed-end thing that could pass as rope that a contractor once left behind. I grabbed it, ignored the spongy feel to it, and set it next to me.
There were plenty of ladders in the garage with which to get up on the roof. No problem there, but what about a harness? Well, there was the dog harness in the car. We have a larger dog and we harness her in the car when she rides with us (can’t stand those guys who have a loose dog in the back of a pick-up truck, but I digress). I pulled that out and by putting it on upside down, I came up with a sort of harness that I thought would work for a quick rap (and would be quite embarrassing to be seen in by a neighbor should I be spotted). But I wanted a chest harness, too, so I didn’t end up dangling upside down halfway down my living room wall next to the framed leaf prints and light fixtures. There was a leash in the car, too, good, but that only worked for half a chest harness. I then pulled out the webbing that makes up the rest of the dog harness. Along with this is a pretty damn decent carabiner that clips from the dog harness to the webbing that attaches to the car’s seatbelts. I used that to link the seat harness together and then I spotted the heavy bag.
I’ve got a heavy bag hanging in the garage that hangs on a hook from the garage ceiling by a small carabiner attached to a small chain, attached to another carabiner to the bag. I took it down and pulled all the carabiners and chains off. I then connected up all the parts of the harness and looked at it. It was hideous, but would it work? I pulled pretty hard on it from various angles. Ow. I then noticed I didn’t have padded leg loops and that hurt. But I thought it might work for a short rap. There was also a small two-looped piece of metal chain on the apparatus that the bag hung from that would have to do as a rap device. It was pathetic but again, all I needed was about 30 seconds or less before the metal probably twisted apart. Then again, it holds up an 80 pound heavy bag, it would probably hold up twice that, right? Well, maybe a bit more than twice that.
I grabbed the “rope” and made off to the roof with a ladder. Once up there, I opened up the broken window (Oh, it’s been fixed since then, so don’t get any cat burglar ideas!) and looked down. My dog looked up at me. I could identify at least two looks from her. The first was a “what the!” look. The second was “what are you thinking of, idiot?” I looked around the roof but there was nothing to rap from. Back down I went into the back yard to look around. There was a barbeque grill, no. Patio table? Nope. Wait! There is an iron rail around one of the window wells. I went over to it and checked it out. It didn’t wiggle too much and it seemed secure. I wrapped the rope around a corner of it where it is thicker as the iron curves. I tied it off.
Back up the ladder I went to the window. I gently lowered the rope to see if there was enough length. To my surprise there was. I pulled on the rope to see if the iron made a sound or if I could hear bolts loosening in concrete. No sound. I looked at the rope and it struck me how thin it looked. This was not meant to be climbing rope. This was meant to pull a bucket up or something. Was I really going to do this? Was it worth it? There were so many ways this could go wrong. I could see the chain snapping, the non-climbing biners failing, the rope snapping. Hell, I could see a huge iron railing come thrashing up onto the roof from below and through the windows down into the living room on top of me like some Wile E. Coyote cartoon. But all I needed were just a few seconds. I tried not to think about how those could be some famous last words.
I looped the rope into my “rap device” and wrapped it around the “biner.” I leaned back on the roof and it seemed to work. I worked my right leg inside the window, then my left. I gripped that rope in my right hand like I was holding on to a pair of front row Led Zeppelin reunion tickets. I leaned in, then back, then in, then back. I looked down into the living room and saw that the rope had wrapped itself around a triple-candle holder that my wife cherishes. Great. Now I have to try to be gentle too when I do this? I leaned in again….shoes!
I had put some shoes on that were in the garage and I figured now would be a good time to take them off so there aren’t muddy footprints down the wall. Whew! Glad I thought of that one.
Shoes and window
Then, I leaned in again and this time kept leaning. I got over the sill and was fully weighted on the rope. I looked down at the rap device, it was holding! Good Lord, this was working. Good Lord, quit admiring this and get down before it falls apart. I pushed the little rope through the tiny device and to my astonishment, I was lowering myself. It didn’t get stuck, the rope was not fraying apart. And I kept on going. About 12-15 more feet to go. Push more rope, push more rope. 10 feet to go. Then it was 5 and I felt better because if it snapped now, I liked my chances better. I s-l-o-w-l-y pulled the rope up a bit and around the candle holder until it was clear. Then I finished off the inaugural living room rappel at my dogs feet and started laughing.
I honestly was shocked it worked. Of course, I grabbed the camera and memorialized this great accomplishment in abseiling history before cleaning it all up (with several doors unlocked this time). Then I read the frigging paper and had some damn breakfast.
And that, my friends, is how you apply climbing skills to everyday life.