In the summer before I left for college, I was a “tech” for a summer stock production of Jesus Christ Superstar. I was helping to build the set on an outdoor stage. Because “Jesus” had to be lifted into the sky on a hydraulic lift at the end of the play, the set was high. Since I have absolutely no fear of heights (in fact, I have whatever may be called the opposite of acrophobia. Acrophelia?), I was tasked with going out on a long wooden plank suspended between two very tall scaffolds in order to string heavy electrical cable along a steel bar that holds klieg lights. I was VERY HIGH UP!, and much too young too think about how short my life could be.
I was not quite halfway across when suddenly I hear a CRASH! and I looked over to see that the electrical cable was snapping free of its moorings. SNAP!, CRASH!, SNAP!, CRASH!, it was detaching along the bar and heading toward me at a very fast speed. Imagine a one-inch thick black snake whipping toward you while you are balanced on 12-inches of wood. I couldn’t grab it, it was too heavy and moving too fast, and if I didn’t get out of the way it would wrap itself around me and pull me down to the stage below. As I have mentioned before, I was VERY HIGH UP! and the stage was very far down. Simply put, if I didn’t move my ass, I was going to die!
The other scaffold was 25 to 30 feet away in the other direction. I had to move fast, but not too fast because, as I cannot stress enough, I was VERY HIGH UP!, moving along a wooden plank, while black death chased me along a narrow path. I could really run, I just had to WALK REALLY FAST!, sticking my arms straight out on either side for balance and rushing to the opposite scaffold like a rookie pilot trying to land an airplane.
This all happened very rapidly, and it was only my youth and strength that allowed me to react and move so quickly. In my young life, I had probably never been closer to death, which utterly fails to explain why, as I was hustling as rapidly as possible away from a large black snake that wanted to pull me to my mortal end, VERY HIGH UP!, both arms sticking straight out like an airplane, my certain demise mere seconds away, that I began whooping like Curly from the Three Stooges.
“Whoop-oop-oop-oop-oop! Whoop-oop-oop-oop-oop!“. My fellow theater tech, safely ensconced on the scaffold towards which I was rushing, does not see the cable chasing me. He sees only a young man apparently taken mad, running toward him from VERY HIGH UP!, both arms stuck straight out and whooping like a loony bird. Honestly, I think he was more frightened than I was.
Against all odds, I made it to the other side before the cable could get me. I hope never to have to stare death so squarely in the eye again, but if I do, I hope I can face it with similar collected calm and a clear sense of silliness.