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Taking my own advice

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As a woodworking writer, I’ve written about safety issues many times, and there’s one piece of advice I’ve 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 150’ cliff was once a cinch for me. (I have the photos to prove it.) But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a bit of vertigo. My eye doctor tells me it’s normal for people who’ve gone most of their lives without glasses to develop vertigo once they start wearing them.

Several times while 10’ 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 – I wasn’t, but it felt like it. That is one weird feeling, and I didn’t like it a bit. More importantly, it felt dangerous.

There’s 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. I’ve called a roofer who – taking one look at how little remained to be done – 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 don’t feel so bad. Sure, I’m 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,


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