Ladder Safety: The Problems of Sandals and Climbing Alone

Reader Contribution by Geoff Taylor

At the end of this summer, a dear friend of mine climbed up on his roof to clean the gutters. This guy is like a brother to me, not just a neighbor but a pal I’ve known for years, college-educated and smart as a whip … except he climbed the ladder without a spotter. Well, why not? It was his house. What could possibly go wrong?

The other night at a community poker game, we had a talk about his injury — the one he had from falling off a ladder that was leaning against his own roof. The one that concussed him and inflicted a brain injury. He’s home now, on medication to stave off his narcoleptic attacks. He has no recollection of anything but setting up the ladder and beginning to climb; the rest of it, cleaning out the gutters and beginning the descent, that’s all erased. He leaned the ladder against the eaves, and then woke up in the hospital.

I don’t give a tiny pinch of raccoon scat about numbers, counting, computation or calculation involving adding, subtracting, multiplying or division, how the heck should I know how many articles I’ve written over the years on ladder safety? Dozens, at least. Wonder if any of them have persuaded even one reader to use basic common sense around ladders …

My friend cannot recall if he was wearing sandals on that day, but I’d place a healthy bet that his favorite Birkenstocks were on his big, wide, flat Danish feet when he climbed a ladder. He also favors those rubber thongs for outdoor work, because they go well with shorts. As for myself, I won’t even touch one rung of a ladder unless I’m wearing steel-toed boots, leather gloves, and long muslin workpants, preferably Filson’s. And climbing a ladder alone is out of the question, because I won’t do it. Except at gunpoint, which means I’m not alone, and therefore, if I fall, someone can call the ambulance. Or else shoot me and put me out of my misery. Don’t want to scare you, dear reader, but ladder accidents are not always instantly fatal.

BE CAREFUL WITH LADDERS. There’s something called “the Cassandra Syndrome,” meaning the handy foreknowledge of future events, weirdly coupled with the torment of being unable to change them. When I write these words, over and over, that’s how it feels.