by Floyd Maxwell, BASc
Walking down the alley in a neighborhood where a number of friends of mine lived, I heard a friend of mine hailing me from his rooftop apartment.
Quickly climbing the four flights to his modest penthouse, I was ushered out onto the rooftop where I saw his work- in-progress -- removing an old wrought-iron railing from his sundeck.
He had already disconnected the bolts and now it was time to lower the very heavy railings to the parking lot below. Given the railing's size and weight, he had wisely concluded that he could use some assistance for the delicate process of lowering it to the ground.
With a stout rope secured to the railing, both of us firmly grabbed hold of the rope, braced ourselves as best we could on the pebbled gravel roofing material and began to lower it over the edge of the roof.
With part of the railing over the edge now, its weight was sufficient to drag the rest over so all we had to do was pay out the slack, while controlling its descent, until it reached the ground.
Until, that is, the knot attaching the rope to the railing undid itself before our very eyes!
Discarding the now useless rope, I lunged for the railing itself and just as quickly was dragged across the roof, rapidly approaching the edge and an assured express trip to the ground.
With my feet just an inch or two from the edge, the railing's downward pull was finally equalled by my own force of resistance to its free-fall and I skidded to a halt just an inch or two from the edge.
There I was, holding the weight of the entire railing as it dangled above several vehicles in the parking lot below.
My friend animatedly exclaimed "The rope came off! The rope came off!", while I suggested that he concentrate on reattaching the rope...and to do so fairly quickly :-).
Eventually he was able to reattach the rope with a more secure knot and the railing resumed a more leisurely and controlled descent to the ground, without further incident.
To those that might be wondering why I didn't let go of the railing sooner, instead of risking being dragged off the roof, I can assure you I was ready to do exactly this, but only at the last possible moment.
I planned to wait until the last moment because, while I was sliding I had reasoned that the force that was so successfully pulling me off the roof was a horizontal one that would become progressively more vertical as I neared the edge of the roof. At the very edge of the roof, the force would be pulling me almost 100% downward and the elimination of a horizontal component of the force would make it possible for me to stop my horizontal movement and remain on the roof. And luckily that is exactly what happened.
I guess cooler heads really do prevail...
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