I’m sitting at my desk hearing icicles break off from my roof edge and crash to the ground during the winter storm that’s passing through, and I’m reminded of the time I almost won a Darwin Award.
For those who don’t know Darwin Awards, they are given out to “commemorate individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives. Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species’ chances of long-term survival.”
I dare anyone to call me selfish when I was willing to go to extraordinary means on behalf of humanity.
My almost-award-winning act happened during another winter, some years ago. I lived in the same house as now, and the kids were young and at home. Unknown to me—before I’d taken remediation measures and had learned to roof rake snow and ice—an ice dam had formed along the edge of the roof of my second-story dormer. The sun was out that morning, and because of the ice dam, the snow on the roof had nowhere to escape—except underneath the shingles and into my house, where it dripped steadily down from the kitchen ceiling onto our counters and floors. “Where’s that water coming from, Daddy?”
I had to take action. I got my extension ladder from the garage, which was just long enough to reach my roof, and climbing up I discovered a slick and thick ice rink. I needed to break up the ice enough to create a channel for the trapped water to run off. The roof wasn’t pitched at a steep angle, but it would be easy to slip and fall.
Not a big deal. I’m a problem solver. I would crawl up onto the roof with a rope and tie one end around my waist and the other around the chimney, creating a safety harness to protect me while I chipped away at the ice.
With rope in hand, I maneuvered myself onto the roof and snaked across the icy tundra until I reached the chimney. I tied the rope around the chimney. The other end was secure around my waist. I stood and walked carefully to the spot where I would break up the ice with a hammer and chisel. The roof was slippery, but I felt confident knowing the rope would protect me if I began to fall.
I worked steadily chipping away at the ice to create a channel for water to escape. The roof was slick and sloped and a couple of times I lost and regained my balance, but was largely unconcerned. Eventually, I broke through the ice as far as the roof edge and the trapped water began to flow off.
I kept the rope around the chimney in case I had to go back up later, and I descended the ladder and made it back to the ground. Only then did I notice the slack in the rope, the long coil next to me on the ground and ascending up to the roof.
All while I had been on the roof, brashly walking around, confident I was secure, chipping away at my task, the rope had been too long. If I’d slipped and fallen off the roof I would have slammed into the patio below.
We all know the proverb: give someone enough rope and they will hang themselves. Also, given my confident strutting on the icy roof: ignorance is bliss.
I didn’t win the Darwin Award that year, and I hope I don’t win it this year. If I do, it won’t be from climbing on an icy roof with a rope too long to protect me. Now I use a roof rake to remove snow before it can ice up. I better go do that now, and live for another day.