Monday, September 17, 2012

It's not that I'm scared of heights...

...it's just that I've decided that a nearly foolproof way to avoid plummeting to a horrible screaming death is to avoid them where possible.

For example, you could not march me to where this hiker is standing at gunpoint. You might get me to inch out there on my tummy, eyes scrunched shut and limbs a-quiver if I really really believed you might shoot me otherwise, but to stand out there? Hellz no. You could fall off! I'd rather take my chances making a play for your gun.

My palms get sweaty just looking at that picture.

Oddly, heights don't bother me much in an airplane. Maybe it's that lack of any continuous visual connection between my point-of-view and the ground that robs it of its sense of perspective.


(H/T to Bob at The Drawn Cutlass.)

59 comments:

Mike V. said...

On a trip to indy a few years ago we went to the War Memorial downtown. Little did I realize a rickity elevator hauls you up the center to an observation deck. By the time it stopped, I was in full panic attack mode. I peeked out the horizon, managed to get down again (closed my eyes and kept saying "there's no place like home") and would get shot before going up there again.

Ed Foster said...

I'd do it on belay, but only if it got me free beer afterward.

Critter said...

i would hike there. :)

John Peddie (Toronto) said...

Funny, I have exactly the same problem. Love planes, especially the small single engine type, but I'm deathly afraid of heights.

And I reasoned it out the same way you did: I can't fall off a plane (nor out of, unless I choose to); but I can sure fall off building roofs and other high, exposed places.

I won't even look at a photo-I know there will be nightmares afterwards.

Bram said...

That picture gave the boys a serious tingle. I'm not afraid of heights, but they are.

sobriant74 said...

Tam
You have troubles with vertigo, not a fear of heights. True fear of heights wouldn't allow you to feel comfortable on a plane.
Vertigo is when the brain, eyes and ears have data about the surrounding area that don't jibe. I have trouble with vertigo, so I avoid edges. I can run around on my roof though, and hike a mountain, but not a ridge peak. You can acclimatize yourself, but it takes time and effort and probably will never get you to 100 percent. Ever had trouble with a fast elevator? That's vertigo.

Anonymous said...

I remember someone saying once in a book, while giving an example of how far gone our modern psycho-babble culture was, that the word Acrophobia was ridiculous.
Something along the lines of:
"You people have a word for being afraid of heights! Of course people are afraid of heights; that is called being SANE! You might fall off."

-8notch

Robb Allen said...

I've been standing with my feet planted on terra firma and have had winds come out of nowhere and knock me over.

At lest there the worst I had to endure was the humiliating looks from the other Piggly Wiggly shoppers versus having my final words be a blood curdling scream that echos off the canyon walls.

Robb Allen said...

I've been standing with my feet planted on terra firma and have had winds come out of nowhere and knock me over.

At lest there the worst I had to endure was the humiliating looks from the other Piggly Wiggly shoppers versus having my final words be a blood curdling scream that echos off the canyon walls.

Anonymous said...

Wiki Preikestolen.

You can stand on basketball court size platform and look straight down ~2000 ft into the fjord.



What the article neglects to mention is that the approach is, at times, less that a foot wide and while the fall is lessor there, there are no railings and the fall is more than ample to kill you.

In fact the whole way to get there is a monument to Norwegian safety engineering.

There's a sign saying: Dangerous.


I ate a pack lunch there on a beautiful day. WAAY back from the edge.

fast richard said...

I've never done a B.A.S.E. jump. A few of my old skydiving buddies have, though. That looks like a pretty cool place to do one.

pax said...

"It turned out that when Miss level had asked Tiffany if she was scared of heights, it had been the wrong question. Tiffany was not afraid of heights at all. She could walk past tall trees without batting an eyelid. Looking up at huge towering mountains didn't bother her a bit. What she was afraid of, although she hadn't realized it up until this point, was depths." ~ Terry Pratchett (in A Hat Full of Sky)

Anonymous said...

erosion causes cliffs like that to ocasionaly break another piece off, with my luck my fatass would be just enough to cause that, so fear of heights, no. fear of cliff breaking, yup!

Anonymous said...

I had the same basic fear so my dad got me a job with American Bridge one summer. That got me over it fairly quickly.

My mother in law stays out places like that because she has an urge to jump off of them.

Gerry

Drang said...

In Kauai last year I tried to get Mrs. Drang to agree to sign up for micro-light lessons--you get to fly around the Garden Isle in a micro=-light, learn to pilot the thing, and they film the whole experience for you so you're not missing anything by trying to film it!
Almost came home single. I had no idea...

perlhaqr said...

Urk.

rickn8or said...

Yup. All the above.

Gerry, I understand your m-i-ls feelings exactly. Maybe that's why I collect pictures like this.

As an aside, the oldest P-3 Orions had a window set in the fuselage at the galley floor. It was a novelty, as you could look straight down, rather than horizontally. I've watched more than one intrepid aircrewman get his coffee, amble over to the window and glance down. Followed by a shuffling retreat in which his feet never lost contact with the floor.

dave said...

Dad has the same issue. He can't watch TowerCam on TV without getting the willies, but he's a 500-hour pilot who never had trouble in an airplane. He attributes it to a combination of being in control, and being enclosed.

Helicopters are a different matter, probably related to the fact that his only experience in a helo was in a Bell 47, and the pilot chose that flight as an opportunity to practice autorotation. At this point, you couldn't get dad in a Medevac bird.

og said...

Heights didn't used to bother me, until I fell a couple times. Now that I've experienced the accel/decel of falling and landing, i prefer not to.

My specific trouble, though, is claustrophobia- not just any, but being in a submersible. I LOVE submarines, I love to watch movies about them, read books about them, see pictures taken from them and in them, but the only way to get me in one of those bastards that's actually underwater would be with a blender.

Which might coincidentally be the only way i'd fit in one, i think that Woods Hole has standardized on the 1.7 foot diameter hatch.

leBolide said...

I'm just surprised she didn't have to push a pack of squirrel-suiters over the edge in order to have the spot to herself.

DJ said...

I have a similar issue.

Heights and depths don't bother me at all. Fear of falling is at the other end of the spectrum. I can work on ladders and scaffolding without a quiver, provided I make sure the ladder and scaffolding are quite secure, and that even if I screw up, I won't fall.

Many years ago (around 1980), I owned and flew an ultralight aircraft, where I sat in a harness-type seat that hung from a single "Jesus bolt". It was a piece of cake until the winds enforced the realization that I was hanging from a large kite. The height, even at 5,000 feet, was nothing, but a very quick loss of most of my altitude due to a sudden gust of wind from the rear was enough to make me sell it.

NMBigfoot02 said...

If that made your palms sweat, then under no circumstances should you watch the following:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a411J1PoD5g

og said...

This video also has a healthy dose of "Not this white boy".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrJizok2Nrs

Nancy R. said...

That's what happens when you start pining' for those fjords ...

Ted N said...

Yet another place to visit added to the bucket list. That looks awesome.

BobG said...

Airplanes don't bother me, but standing on anything higher than my tiptoes makes my stomach queasy and a little voice in the back of my head scream "GET AWAY FROM THE EDGE!!".

global village idiot said...

And here, all along, I thought "Wyle E. Coyote and Road Runner" cartoons were shot on location in the American Southwest.

Re: vertigo - I have it quite badly. But I spent two years on jump status without a single problem.

Perhaps I should say 'vertigo related problem' - jumping C5s when the $%@#@%$ Air Force Reserve pilot forgets to cut the inboard engines is a problem completely unrelated to lizard-brain reactions to steep drops.

gvi

tc in tx said...

This seems to be a very common phenomena among pilots. Most pilots I know have this.

Chris said...

Looking down from buildings, cliffs, etc., scares the crap out of me, but airplanes and even helicopters are no problem. For example, I have rappelled out of a helicopter, it was fun. Down a 50-ft wall, I was nearly numb with fear. Someone once told me that the difference is a direct connection with the ground. I'm not going to do much research on that theorem, though.

Sean D Sorrentino said...

I'm not afraid of riding in airplanes, helicopters, or hanging from parachutes. Standing next to the edge scares the crap out of me.

In the third photo on this page

http://sorrentinotravel.blogspot.com/2012/06/long-drive-to-mountains.html

I was standing on that stupid deck grating that lets you see through it all the way to the ground, hundreds of feet below. My wife made fun of me for only walking on the parts that were directly over the I-beam.

I went paragliding a couple of days later and had no troubles.

Kristophr said...

I suppose this path in Spain is completely out, then?

( Be sure to watch it in HD! )

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=y1Nd1qtk1Go

Sebastian said...

There's something about an airplane that doesn't trip the lizard part of most people's brain that are afraid of heights. I think it's perhaps we had nothing in our evolutionary past that went that high, so it doesn't look like a height to that part of our brain.

Ken said...

I might sidle gingerly out there, not actually picking up my feet. That's a lot higher than Natural Bridge in Kentucky, though, which I used to cross with equanimity.

Frankly, though, I sidled even more gingerly than that across an old railroad bridge frame in Connecticut last year that had only about a 15' drop to a (not near deep enough, I'll warrant) river -- and I had to work up to doing even that. For me, it's about "How much extra room do I have to plant my stoopid feet?"

JeanC said...

I'm not so much afraid of heights as I am afraid of the sudden stop at the bottom. Sudden deceleration is very painful :(

Bob said...

Thanks for the link, Tam. Very much appreciated, and I'm happy to have you visit my blog.

Patrick said...

The wife and I have brought people rock climbing with us who are all good up the face, until they get over the top and look down at what they have done. Then they freak, and at least one had to be held until far from the edge she just climbed 80 foot to reach.

It didn't make sense to us at first, but we have since figured out some people need to have a physical, intimate connection to solid surface between them and the void. An airplane has walls between your eyes and the ground, and when climbing you are focused on things within reach of arms and legs. Remove that and the world is gone.

It's natural and not a sign of anything but a well developed sense of self-preservation. Still...the wife and I learned to try to get people to look down before we get them to climb up.

My advice: look at your feet and shuffle off with help. You are pretty much always connected to them. Don't close your eyes. It seems (from observation) to make the void seem bigger.

KM said...

Can you drive there? Hiking is such a PITA.
It's like lifting weights - those things are heavy.

Nathan A said...

I'm sure y'all would just love this teahouse in China.

doubletrouble said...

Yeah- I can bop around (carefully) on the roof, & no real problems in a functional aircraft.
Edges though- the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland a few years back gave a HUGE set of the tinglies.

Anonymous said...

That looks like a lot of fun, one hell of a veiw. I may be older and heavier but I used to free climb, rappel and jump off 110' cliffs into water so walking out to the edge of a 3k drop doesn't give me the willies. Do I worry about falling? Not really as I have both feet on the ground and I'm not leaning over for a 'better view'.

Gmac

Cybrludite said...

Oh. Hell. No. No way, no how.

rickn8or said...

Nathan, the problem is that once you finish the tea, you realize "Oh Cah-rap! I gotta go BACK!"

Windy Wilson said...

1. The pathological word should indicate the absolute lack of heights. Perhaps Ironworker syndrome.

2. I'm not at the right computer but there is a photo of some ladies of the Sierra Club about 100 years ago doing high kicks on the brow of Half Dome in Yosemite.

On a Wing and a Whim said...

Airplanes bother me. I'll be walking along a ramp, minding my own business, when a gleaming curve of metal will wink in the sunlight, and the breeze over a fabric wing will whisper "Hey! Wanna fly me?" Worse still, the old radials that send out oil and avgas-scented lures, drawing me in like a moth to a desert flower.

Even if I avoid airports, they'll fly above me in the sky, calling out for me to come join them.

As for heights, I have no paralyzing or irrational fear - but I do have a deeply healthy respect for the consequences of falling.

That looks like a lovely spot, and I'll that to my list of places I'd love to hike. The tea house, though - I don't have enough cartilage left in my knees to make it back down those stairs.

RM1(SS) (ret) said...

Looking down from the Empire State Building didn't bother me a bit. What I can't do is look up when there's a dropoff behind me. One of the worst attacks I ever had involved standing on a chair and looking up to replace a bulb in a ceiling light. Stopping halfway up the stairs to look up into the dome in the Iowa state capitol was another one....

Buzz said...

Somewhere, there's a pic of me standing on a precipice of Fuji's summit, overlooking the steep back side.

I'd like to hike to troll tongue.
(although Nude Hampster's famous rock face fell not long back, so cantilevered rock formations are ALWAYS temporary in the grand scale of time)

Love to climb things.
The beauty of seeing a sunrise from way above the clouds is hard to match.

Jeffro said...

Not this fat boy even if lots of cash happened to be involved. Howza bout the Grand Canyon Skywalk??? Not in a million years.

Ken O said...

Now that my asshole has stopped wobbling- no.

Anonymous said...

Planes and extreme heights don't really bother me too much. If something goes wrong, there is basically no hope of survival. As a result, I'm not terribly worried by what will happen if I crash/fall. I'm not going to take unnecessary risks, but I'm not going to freak out.

The heights that really bother me are the ones where falling might not prove fatal but will certainly maim or cripple me, e.g. a 16 ft. ladder propped against a wall. The prospect of getting really, really hurt gives me the willies.

fast richard said...

That Grand Canyon Skywalk looks pretty cool. There is a tourist trap in Wisconsin that has something with the same concept, but not nearly as high. The House on the Rock also has rooms full of "antique" guns, a few of which may actually be old rather than modern replicas made to look old.

Og's link to the Crumbling Concrete Cliffside Catwalk had the highest pucker factor of anything I've seen lately. It's not so much the height as the lack of confidence in the structural integrity of the thing. When I was in my late teens, I chose skydiving over rock climbing at least partly because I had more confidence in the equipment.

Anonymous said...

I have a photo of my Dad doing a handstand there when he was young and invincible.
I only walked to the edge and appreciated the view.
I am a whimp I suppose.

Julie said...

Wow, I'm not a fan of heights but I'ld do that just for the view!

Temnota said...

Working over my head, at the top of a ladder, in the lighting grid over a theater stage. There's nothing in my field of view except the batten I'm working on, which is just a pipe deadhung from chains that vanish up into the gloom. Everything is fine, until the batten starts to sway - and my brain becomes convinced that I'm the one doing the swaying. Instant vertigo.

I can't do it anymore, and I go through several assistants per show.

Cheesy said...

I urge you all to try this kill or cure for agorophobia, located at Grand Canyon -

http://www.grandcanyonwest.com/skywalktour.php

BillB said...

As a (mostly) reformed Climber I can tell you that all the bad stuff happens right at the earths surface

Way up high like that you are fine

It is the decelleration at the end that tears you up!

global village idiot said...

Um, no.

The closest thing I get to "aversion therapy" is when our ham radio club cleans the repeater site. Our club's repeater is parked in one of those concrete microwave towers (the link for a photo of it is here: http://images-mediawiki-sites.thefullwiki.org/08/2/9/1/05535082970450173.jpg)

It's a really cool place - a metal staircase goes up the inside, and above the second floor, between it and where you start seeing windows again, is a big empty chamber. If you snap your fingers in this chamber, the "snap" lasts about 60 seconds.

Anyway, once a year we have to repaint things. One of the things we have to repaint is the door leading from one of the utility rooms to that first catwalk.

This is all the aversion therapy I need. I do it just to prove to myself that I can, but it isn't much fun. I really mean the "Our Fathers" I keep repeating while I'm up on that catwalk.

gvi

Matt said...

The airplane is under the continuous and affirmative control of two guys who, both individually and as a team, have a significantly better record of not-crashing-airplanes than I have of not-slipping-and-falling-over.

Anything high enough off the ground that I'd probably die if I fell off it uncontrolled, and I'm going to be extremely nervous unless there's some way to make sure that if I do slip or trip on something, it doesn't result in an uncontrolled fall.

Justthisguy said...

Ma'am, I believe you are correct on the continuous visual connection thing. I am an old wussy-pussy when it comes to having no head for heights, but had no problem stepping out onto the wheel of the Cessna when I was jumping out of airplanes forty years or so ago.

Other people seem generally to agree with me.

( P.s. Always assuming that the pilot had the common courtesy to set the parking brake)

Justthisguy said...

Say, Tam, have you ever been on top of Stone Mountain, and walked over toward the steep side? I have been there and done that, and can tell you that it caused interesting sensations in my guts and scary thoughts in my head.