Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

The 31-Day Blog Writing Challenge, Day Eighteen: How Fast You Hit It

Today’s writing prompt:

31 DAY BLOG CHALLENGE, DAY 18: “What am I afraid of?”


Let’s cut right to the chase.


A common fear.

I have a variation on that fear that also may be fairly common, but when I think on it, I find it curious.

I don’t mind heights that are enclosed.

If I’m in a plane, either 1,000 feet or 10,000 feet or 30,000 feet in the air, I look down with detached interest.

If I’m in a tall building, and windows are either permanently closed or are closed in that moment, I look down with less-detached interest.

When I was 12 years old (some ages ago), my family and I went up in one of the World Trade Center skyscrapers. From probably the observation deck on one of the very top floors, definitely a hundred-plus stories high, I looked out a window at the streets of New York City below, and marveled at all the Matchbox cars and relatively small medium-height office buildings which from the ground look really really tall. I can remember making noises that were definitely not “OH WOW!!” but instead … “huh! Cool.”

I have no interest in bailing out of the aforementioned plane. That would imply that there would then be nothing but wispy clouds and the occasional bird between me and the very hard ground.

I have no interest in being on the edge of a tall building’s roof. One gust of wind, one misstep, and, well … well.

When I visited the Hoover Dam, not far from Las Vegas, I did peer over the edge of the thing, and I was okay. The railing, which consisted of a lot of very firm-feeling concrete, was not going to let me go over the edge myself unless I actively worked at it. So, no danger there.

So, non-enclosed heights are not my thing. When I go up two steps on a stepladder, I’m pretty good. Up three steps, I’m starting to think a little. Up four steps, and I can feel myself nudge an invisible horizontal barrier that effectively communicates, “this is as far as this will go.”

I have a rather vivid imagination when it comes to “I wonder what it would be like to fall?”

As Arthur Dent said, in one episode of Douglas Adams’ wonderful Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series, “It’s not a question of whose habitat it is … it’s a question of how fast you hit it.”*

So I tend to draw a conclusion, regarding this knowledge about myself, when I watch my college alma mater’s marching band do its thing, and particularly check out how the drum majors are doing, parked on the front sideline, near each 30-yardline or thereabouts. The only way those kids are going to be visible, as conductors, to the marchers on the field near the back hashmarks (and even further away!) will be if they get up on stepladders. Which they do. And those stepladders are not three or four steps high. More like six or seven. Those kids’ feet, when they get to the top of those ladders, are higher than the top of my head by at least a foot or two.

It just makes me glad I was a drum major in 1987, when the UMass band’s powers-that-be had not yet thought that stepladders were a helpful idea.

Hard to conduct when your fingers won’t let go of the ladder.


_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

*That line of dialogue, in context:

[Arthur Dent, while falling from a great height toward the surface of an alien planet, has landed improbably on the back of a large bird.]

BIRD: Then what the devil are you doing up here?!

ARTHUR: Falling!

BIRD ONE: Then get on with it! Go on.

ARTHUR: But the drop will kill me!

BIRD ONE: You should’ve thought of that before you started out. No point in saying “I think I’ll just go for a quick drop and if I get tired on the way down, I’ll jump on a passing bird”. It’s not like that up here! It’s all to do with the harsh realities of physics up in the sky; it’s power-to-weight ratios, it’s wing cross-sections, wing surface-areas, it’s practical aerodynamics! It’s also cold and extremely windy! You’ll be better off on the ground.

ARTHUR: No I won’t; I’ll be dead!

BIRD ONE: Well, it’s your habitat, not mine.

ARTHUR: It’s not a question of whose habitat it is; it’s a question of how fast you hit it!


May 18, 2016 - Posted by | blogging | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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