Taking my own advice

As a woodworking writer, Iíve written about safety issues many times, and thereís one piece of advice Iíve given frequently. Yesterday, I took that very advice.

I was shingling the roof on my new shed. The tarpaper went on fine. But as I worked on the ladder to apply the shingles to the lower portions of the gambrel-style roof, the task became more and more difficult the higher I went.

I mentioned here recently that my wife and I used to do a lot of climbing. Rappelling down a 150í cliff was once a cinch for me. (I have the photos to prove it.) But as Iíve gotten older, Iíve developed a bit of vertigo. My eye doctor tells me itís normal for people whoíve gone most of their lives without glasses to develop vertigo once they start wearing them.

Several times while 10í up on that ladder yesterday, I felt my head swimming. I found myself gripping the ladder with my knees while nailing shingles. And several times I thought I was losing my balance Ė I wasnít, but it felt like it. That is one weird feeling, and I didnít like it a bit. More importantly, it felt dangerous.

Thereís a woodworking safety rule that says you should never perform an activity that makes you feel uncomfortable. So with the shed roof 60 percent shingled, I wimped out. In truth, I got smart, but I still feel sheepish about it. Iíve called a roofer who Ė taking one look at how little remained to be done Ė chuckled and said he could do it on his lunch hour tomorrow. And still have time for lunch.

Let him laugh. The bottom line is that I recognized what was, for me, a hazardous thing to try to do, and so I followed my own advice. I decided not to try it anymore.

And you know what? I donít feel so bad. Sure, Iím disappointed that I can no longer do something that was once easy for me. I feel the loss of that ability. But it would have been far worse to have lost something more important: common sense.

Till next time,



  • Lee Gordon says:

    You made the wise choice. A good friend of mine who is, ironically, a physical therapist, fell off the roof of his house a few years ago and injured his back to the extent that he was unable to work — or do much of anything — for several months. And he was lucky his injuries weren’t worse.

    And on the bright side, of all the things that could bother you because they once came easy but you can no longer do, shingling a roof has to be pretty far down the list.

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