Because I suffer from acrophobia, which is an irrational fear of being any higher off the ground than the top of my head, I would rather have a root canal while listening to a telemarketer than get up on the roof of my house, a two-story Colonial that could give a mountain goat nosebleeds.
But I got up there recently with a fearless young man who came over to give me an estimate for a new roof.
“I never realized I was petrified of heights until we bought this house, and I had to clean the gutters every fall,” I told Anthony Amini, who owns the company that my wife, Sue, and I were considering for the job. “Even the word ‘fall’ makes me nervous.”
“You should have gotten gutter guards,” Anthony said.
“I did,” I replied. “Now I don’t have to get up on the roof anymore.”
“Except for today,” said Anthony, who agreed to my frankly stupid request to accompany him on a trip atop the Mount Everest of houses.
As Anthony put a ladder against the family room extension, which at one story has the lowest of our three roofs, I asked, “Are you afraid of heights?”
“No,” Anthony responded.
“Have you ever fallen off a roof?” I wanted to know.
“I’m here, aren’t I?” he said.
“What’s your secret?” I inquired.
“Don’t look down,” Anthony answered.
I didn’t even want to look up. But I had to as I began my ascent, which took so long that it could have been timed with a sundial.
“This isn’t so bad, is it?” Anthony said as I stood, knees shaking, next to our leaky skylight, which he said needed to be replaced.
“Skylights are great on sunny days,” I told him, “but otherwise, they’re floods waiting to happen.”
Even though we were only about 10 feet up, Anthony complimented me on my bravery after I was back on terra firma, a Latin term meaning “the place where you will be buried if you fall off the roof.”
But the coward in me came out, in pathetic whimpers, when I had to climb to the top of the house.
Remembering Anthony’s admonition not to look down, I stared into a second-story window and saw my reflection, which bore a frightening resemblance to the Edvard Munch painting “The Scream,” except with a mustache.
When I had reached the summit and surveyed my kingdom, which costs a king’s ransom in property taxes, I exclaimed, “Look, it’s the Great Wall of China!”
“That’s your fence,” Anthony noted.
He said our altitude was about 30 feet. It seemed like 30,000 feet. A plane flew past. I waved to the pilot.
“You’re doing great,” Anthony said as I stood stock-still, my feet straddling the crown of the roof, afraid to move. “You can join my crew. I’ll have you carry up shingles.”
“I may have to be carried down,” I stammered.
Then I noticed that my right sneaker was untied. Anthony bent down to lace it up, making a double knot.
“I’ve done it for my kids,” he said.
I slowly made my way back to the ladder and climbed down, only to climb up again, this time to the roof above the garage, kitchen and laundry room, a mere 18 feet high.
As he did on the other parts of the roof, Anthony took measurements and showed me what needed to be done.
Later, as Sue and I sat with Anthony in the kitchen, where he gave us a reasonable estimate, I said, “I just renewed my life insurance policy.”
“Looks like I’ll have to wait to collect,” said Sue.
“Your husband is very courageous,” Anthony told her.
“Coming from you,” I said with a sigh of relief, “that’s high praise.”
Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Hearst Connecticut Media and is the author of four books. His latest is “Nini and Poppie’s Excellent Adventures.” Email: JerryZ111@optonline.net. Blog: www.jerryzezima.blogspot.com.