How my day was

I could have died today.

The most frightening thing about these events is that they are potentially life changing, or even ending, and you can’t sense the impending doom above your head, like a Damocles’ sword, ticking backwards to the very moment. The hour zero. Sometimes I wonder, as I get up, how I will remember my day when I crawl into that same bed again. Of course, I can never tell until many hours later, at a moment like this:

Today is the day I nearly died.

It’s not as bad as it sounds, to be honest.
”Black Steel” is the given name for a type of scaffolding, that uses prefabricated tower structures to pull up a roof and pin it in place. It was during the assembly of one of those towers, that shit hit the fan.

Although towers are made beforehand, they come in sections and need to be put together depending on the height you want to go. Because the full length is often too heavy and cumbersome for the crane to handle, we put them up in pieces, climbing up each time to pin the next piece in place.
What was built at the time was no higher than five meters above the stage, and ready to be fitted with the “cage”. It’s a square piece that fits around the tower and to which the roof trusses are pinned to, allowing the whole to be hauled up around the tower using a complicated pulley system.

Fitting that cage is no easy task, since it is lowered right where you are hanging from the tower, forcing you to climb down as it moves into place. It must be kept steady at all times, because it is rigged with all sorts of protruding things for assembly which could easily catch.
This one hadn’t even made it over, though. I had my leg locked (so I had my hands free) as I was reaching up to guide the piece into place. My colleague was doing the hand signals to the crane from the other side of the tower.

I’m not precisely sure what went wrong. I do know that the crane operator was exceptionally lousy at his job, and that the view was obstructed for him to see the given signals. Either way, he did the complete opposite of what we asked of him. I took over from my colleague and gestured at the guy. I could hear him curse from down there, it must have seemed that we were giving conflicting signals. He jerked his lever too briskly, and the steel thing, weighing easily several hundred kilo’s, suddenly swung my way. Did I mention I wasn’t secured?

I had my hand on it at all times, so I sensed it early. Moving with it, I leaned back, my leg hurting like a motherfucker from the force on it. In regular limbo style I let the structure swing over me, and clung to the tower once again. I was now “inside the cage”, as the only thing sticking out from the top of the tower. I looked up to see if my colleague was okay, at which point I saw the opposite end of the cage swing back briskly, away from me.

There are several points you must keep in mind with a crane. The boom, hook, cable and cargo each have their own weight and swinging behavior, and the way they manipulate each other results in unpredictable movements when off balance. Enter the chaos factor.
So while the sudden change in direction didn’t come as a complete surprise, it did catch me off guard. I ducked and tilted my head sideways, to let the metal pass overhead once again. If I hadn’t, I think I most likely would have been decapitated where I stood. The other guy caught the piece with an impressive show of strength, and we both walked away unharmed.

For a close call, it was kind of an anticlimax. No noise, no explosions, or girls concerned about my safety- oh wait, there was one. Score.
In fact, it took a few panicky cries of the people underneath me to figure out that something was actually going wrong. It was only when I took a good look afterwards, that I saw what could have happened.


Ironically, this is exactly why I don’t secure when connecting towers or something similar. When things go bad, you need your space, you have to be able to climb down quickly. If at all, I click up as low as possible, so that I still have room to maneuver. Sometimes you’re better off unsafe, especially when falling is the preferable option.


2 responses

  1. Nath-en-J

    What a story. Safety first hè James. So you decided already? work or girl? Since u hate kapitalism (coca cola etc) ?I assume u choose for the girl

    18 September 2009 at 22:22

  2. Maarten

    Capitalism has little to do with having to make a living. If I could escape it, I would.There\’s no real reason to choose, anyway. Compromising is possible. …Was possible.

    20 September 2009 at 01:30

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