Thursday, July 2, 2009

Not on a bet.

I would imagine you have all heard the news. It's plastered all over my Yahoo news feed today.

Sears Tower unveils 103rd floor glass balconies

The full article is here.

I just want it made perfectly clear; nope, no way, nada, nix.

But why, you ask?

Simple, says I. I'm afraid of heights.

I've always been that way.

The first time I became aware of it, my family and I went to visit my cousins who lived in Des Moines, Iowa. I don't remember what year it was but part of the visit included a trip to tour the state capital building. I remember running into the building and seeing, on the first floor, a large circle in the floor which looked down into some room with chairs and desks. There was a vague feeling of uneasiness but I passed it off as excitement.

Looking up, there was another hole in the second floor and you could look straight up to the dome. It was, if memory serves me correctly, a beautifully decorated interior with lots of marble and statues and frescos on the walls. We looked about the first floor, what was open to the public, turned and hastened up to the second floor. I remember standing on the landing between the first and second floors, looking up at what my memory thinks were WPA paintings and being totally unable to go any farther. I can remember the fear, the paralyzing fear, that gripped me. I was scared to have to look down through that hole in the floor and just the thought was enough to prevent my legs from moving.

I've always been interested in art so I pretended to be studying the walls. My mother ordered me to come up the stairs. My dad made fun of me, once he realized I was scared to move. My cousins and siblings thought me weird. I felt humiliated and totally confused about this. I'd jumped from the hay mow to the basement of the barn through the hay chute. I'd jumped from the top of the hay stacks to the floor. I'd jumped out of trees. I'd sat on the sill of my second floor bedroom window with my feet dangling on the side of the house. Why was I so scared?

My uncle Moe came back down the stairs and put a big arm around me. In a jovial tone of voice designed to help and make me feel not so awkward, he told me this was a normal feeling. "You're scared of heights. It happens. The trick is to not let it paralyze you." He told me to keep my head straight and don't look below my nose. "So, you'll have to figure out where you can stand that lets you look at that hole in the second floor but not in a way to tilt your head down." I could look up but I couldn't look down.

I still can't.

Carole and I went to Gettysburg for her graduation from high school trip. There is a metal tower some 65' in the air at the border between the battlefield and General Eisenhower's farm. The winding staircase is wide enough for four people to walk abreast. I had to walk up two or three twists and stop. Carole said I didn't have to go to the top, but I knew I had to. I had to walk in the middle of the staircase and look only at the next set of stairs. But, I did it. I climbed to the top of the tower. Coming down wasn't hard.

In the former Marshall Field's flagship store on State Street in Chicago, the east side of the store has an open atrium. You take escalators anchored at each end but open to the atrium between the levels. I hate it. As long as I can stand in the center of the escalator, I can do it. The north side of the store has open holes in the floor where you can look from floor 7 to the main floor. I'm told it's an interesting view. I've never seen it.

And I'm told the view from the top of the John Hancock Center is gorgeous, particularly at night. I'm told it's the best view of Chicago, topping the view from the Sears Tower. I've never been up there. Carole and I spent one drizzly day in March of 2001 wandering around the area near the Hancock building. I had coupons for money off the trip to the 95th floor. But every time we got into the building, I could not, could not get into the elevator to go to the floor where you purchased your tickets for the observation deck.

But I love to fly and I always get a window seat.

So, when you come to Chicago, I'll be happy to take you around, but if you want to go to the Sears observation deck, you're on your own.

Beverage: English Teatime


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