A few months ago, I was contacted by the General Manager of a local Hampton Inn here in Mishawaka. The brand new hotel was scheduled to open in the coming weeks and they wanted a local photographer to capture their Grand Opening event, as well as take some interior photos for their website. Nothing I couldn't handle, right?
When I arrived on the day of the Grand Opening, I was greeted by a nice gentleman who was one of the regional managers. "You must be Jonathon, our photographer?" "Yes sir, nice to meet you." I said. "Say, you're not scared of heights are you?" He asked.
What? Scared of heights? Why in the blazes would he ask me that? I didn't answer right away, and I'm sure the look I was giving him was a lot like the look my dog gives me after I've caught her in the trash. (For those that don't know me, I'm deathly afraid of heights. I mean, the kind of fear that freezes you and turns your stomach into a full-blown free-fall.)
"A little." I replied. "Why?" I gulped, not wanting to know the answer at all.
I couldn't possibly fathom where he was taking me. I was supposed to be shooting a Grand Opening. Grand Openings usually take place on the ground, right? With both feet firmly planted on the ground? Gravity plays a vital role. Of this, I'm sure.
We walked around to the side of the building where some construction trailers were sitting. "There. You see those?" He pointed at several cherry pickers parked nearby. I'm pretty sure my stomach dropped on the sidewalk somewhere behind me.
"We want you to go up in one of those and take some exterior shots from the front of hotel...you know...from a higher vantage point."
"Don't worry, we're gonna send you up with someone."
Dear God. Meanwhile, my stomach is back there laying on the concrete in a puddle of fear.
"Why don't you walk to where you want to shoot from, and I'll have the guy come over there with the lift." He said.
"Okie-dokie." I started the walk back up to the front of the hotel. I picked my stomach back up on the way. I could still hear it screaming. No, really.
I chose my vantage point and stood there waiting as my impending doom rolled towards me at a speed of 2 MPH. I tried to calm myself by going over the science behind my position. These guys go up in these things all the time, right? Safely! Yes. And come down safely? Yes. I looked around at a few trees nearby. It wasn't windy, so it shouldn't sway much, right? Yes. So, what am I so worried about? Gee, I don't know...going up over 100 feet in the air, in a see-through metal basket that's no bigger than my coffee table. What could possibly go wrong? I decided that going over the logistics wasn't helping.
After what seemed like an hour but was probably more 10 terrifying minutes, the gentleman and my doomsday ladder got into position.
"Open the gate and climb on in!" The man said. We'll call him Bob. "Make sure the gate latches behind ya!"
Sure thing, Bob. If I was going to plummet to my death, Bob and this gated metal basket are damn straight coming with me. I thought I would politely encourage him to be as cautious as possible.
"Say, Bob, I've never been in one of these before...they're pretty safe right?" I said.
"Oh yeah, just hang on to the railing...you'll be fine." Bob said.
The railing! This was a spectacular idea! I draped my camera over my shoulder and grabbed on with both hands as the lift started to rise. My stomach decided to wait on the ground beneath me. Chicken.
Once we reached our desired height, the real terror set in. In order to capture the shots I wanted, I was going to need both hands. This meant I was going to have to let go of the railing. Meanwhile, Bob's patiently waiting.
"This is a great view from up here." Bob said.
Yes it was. I took a deep breath, let go of the railing and began shooting. Once my concentration was centered on getting the image, my fears of being over 5 stories up in a metal basket with Bob fell away. I ended up coming away with this image.
It's exactly what they wanted. I was pretty happy with it under the circumstances.
Bob and I came down minutes later. Safely, I might add. As Bob began his 2 MPH journey back to the trailers, a sigh of relief poured over me. I did it. I survived the doomsday ladder.
The Grand Opening ceremonies began. We heard from Mayor Dave Wood, Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and all the people who were affiliated with making the project a success.
The ribbon was cut and the hotel was officially open for business. They even had soldiers raise a new flag.