Offcuts: Ladder Up? By: Don Heisz

So, I should be an expert using ladders. I’ve been using them since I was very young. We never had a “good” ladder around the house when I was a kid, but we did have boards and 2x4s. So, if we ever wanted or needed a ladder, we would quickly nail one together. And, lucky for use, most of the boards already had nails in them, so we only ever needed to pull them out, straighten them, and they were ready for use.

But you should never assume you completely know what you’re doing, no matter how familiar you are with something.

A couple of years ago, I had to do some work in the ceiling of a classroom in a school that was being renovated. It was pretty unpleasant, since there was no air-flow and it was near the end of summer (almost all renovation work done on schools occurs within the last three days of summer – it’s a testament to human stupidity). Anyway, my own trusty four-foot stepladder which comes with me everywhere was too short for the work, so I had to use half an extension ladder.

Half? Yes, half. This half of the extension ladder was the half that was not totally destroyed when a forklift ran over it. It was the half that was pulled out of the dumpster and had the crushed bottoms of its legs cut off (unevenly) to “make it good”. Now, I approve of such thrift, especially if I don’t have to use it.

And, needless to say, I stupidly ignored the possibility that the legs would slide on the vinyl tile floor while I had it leaned against the wall. That’s exactly what happened.

It’s surprisingly not pleasant to feel your support fall out from under you when your torso is stuck up inside a drop ceiling.

I survived, though. I inherited the ability to bounce from my father, who was champion of falling off all types of things and surviving. I saw him fall off ladders, roofs, even a chair or two. Well, to be fair, the last time he fell was off an icy ladder and broke a couple of his ribs on some concrete blocks lurking under the snow. Not that the snow mattered: if anything, the snow softened the blow. Lucky for him, he missed the rebar.

Anyway, as I was saying about trusting you know what you are doing, today I needed to use my snazzy collapsible ladder.

Snazzy Collapsible Ladder

This has the ability to extend fully by screwing around with the black knobs at the top. It can also be heightened or shortened by pulling out the do-dads that slip into the holes. And the wonderful thing about this contraption is that it can be made to be uneven in height to accommodate those oddly hilly locations where you need a stepladder.

That’s where I needed it today, set up on a bank next to my house. So, I moved it and then I pulled out the do-dads on the sides of the ladder, pulled up one side until they slid into the next set of holes.

Do-dad securely in hole

Well, that’s what I thought I did. What I actually did was lift up until the do-dads went underneath the inner part of the ladder. Looked right. Felt right. Wasn’t right.

I confidently climbed the ladder and did what I needed to do. The ladder jostled a slight amount and suddenly, it fell apart.

I’m glad there was grass to fall on.

The moral of this story is, like the moral of so many, many stories, don’t be stupid.