SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
There are some days when it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. I’m about to relate to you one of those days, featuring a young man whose identify will be kept hidden, but who we’ll call … oh, heck, it was me.
Let me start by reminding you, dear reader, that at the time this story began I was still covered with poison ivy. Now, I realized that if I did things that required staying on the move, the itching didn’t bother me as much. That, combined with the unusually warm weather of this particular day, convinced me to go outside and do something I normally hate: home maintenance.
Well, I still hated it, but I went outside anyway.
My only intention was to clean the gutters and rake the leaves. The latter chore was quickly abandoned, because every single time I make plans to rake leaves, a gale force wind comes up and starts blowing down small object and large trees. The result was that my leaves had been blown into nice big piles, although in the wrong place, and raking them to the right place is akin to spitting into the aforementioned wind: pointless and embarrassing.
As for the gutters, I have a 20 foot ladder with which to reach 24 foot eaves. You do the math.
However, I had great hopes for a new device I’d gotten through the wonder of infomercials. It’s an expandable wand with a hook at the end of it, tipped with a tiny nozzle. You hook a garden hose up to this wand, and use a stream of high pressure water to force the contents of your gutters out into the ether. With luck, that black gunk that collects after you neglect your home’s gutters for a few years will get blown clear over onto your neighbor’s property.
I remember opening the box, looking at the wand, and thinking, “I don’t understand how this will work.” It turns out, neither do the makers.
Now, some of my gutters can only be accessed from the flat section of my roof, which is covered with rubber membrane roofing. You have to get on the one story section, climb from there onto the second story, and start scooping. Stay with me, I’m going somewhere with this.
When I turned on the spigot, water immediately began spraying all over. Unfortunately, the wand was turned off; water was coming from places on my 15 year old garden hose other than the ends. Being a person of great imagination and technical ability, I wrapped the leaks with duct tape. (The entire contents of my tool box include a roll of duct tape, a butter knife, and a cancelled credit card.)
As I climbed the ladder with hose draped over my arms, water began leaking out from around the tape, but I didn’t think about that because I was trying to climb a ladder with hose draped over my arms. So my clothes got wet – so what? Maybe it would cut down on the foul smell of that stuff I’d smeared on my poison ivy.
So I climbed, made my way up the peak of my oddly multi-storied two story building, shoved the wand into the gutter, and opened it up. Nothing happened. Oh, water was spraying – it was even spraying where it was supposed to, into the gutter. But nothing was coming out, except the aforementioned water. I changed angles. Nothing. I tried to use the wand as a kind of hook, to gouge the stuff up. Nothing. I cursed the fates. In retrospect, cursing the fates when you’re standing on a roof that’s rapidly becoming soaked isn’t a great idea, but that’s what I did.
So, in disgust, I used my hands to scoop the gunk out of my gutters, onto the flat roof below. Then I started down the slope to where water from the leaking hose was cascading down the leaf coated rubber roofing material. Are you starting to get a picture, here?
An instant later I pinwheeled through the air, one leg stretched out so far that my shoe was almost touching my ivy scarred forehead. Just before I made a perfect landing, flat on my back on top of the roof (and the wand), I remember thinking this would be a good time for Curly and Moe to come out and start making funky Three Stooges noises: “Whoo! Whoo! Nyuck, nyuck. Nyah, nyah, nyah …”
I was probably making the same sound Charlie Brown does when Lucy pulls the football away before he kicks.
Several minutes later I crawled to the edge of the roof, and dropped the hose over the side. To heck with the hose. I climbed down the ladder, picked up the wand, and stood looking at it. There was one more gutter to clean, the big one on the opposite side of the house – the 24 foot one that required me to stand on the top rung of the ladder and hold onto the very gutter that was now filled with heavy, wet leaf gunk. I’d depended on the extra length of that extendable wand. 24 feet. That’s three body lengths.
At that point, I had this vivid, overwhelming premonition that if I climbed that ladder one more time that day, I was Going To Die. It was as if the angel of death was standing right behind me, whispering in my ear. “Don’t be a fool … think how it would look in your obituary.”
Still holding the wand, I turned to look at my car. My car was dirty. Very dirty. It hadn’t been washed in … well, a long time. But if I washed the car I wouldn’t have time to finish cleaning the 24 foot tall gutter while standing tip-toe on a cheap Wal-Mart ladder.
Oh, well. My obituary can wait.