Sunday, April 30, 2006
I have vanquished the dragon. Although beating the masses to take on the dragon was arguably a bigger challenge...
I don't want to knock the WWF too much, especially their volunteers who were very helpful. For the number of people they have to deal with, it's a huge task. But there were a few things that were unclear that didn't have to be. For example, I believe that I read three different start times, 5:30, 6:00 or 7:00, depending on what my source was at the time. I also read that the last climber would start at 10AM, which made me nervous because I just got released to climb right at that time and there were a LOT of people behind me. Most worrisome, they had a different (lower) donation total for me than my individual climber site shows because they hadn't taken into account the offline donation I received. Still not sure how I'll make that one count.
Nonetheless, it was enjoyable. It's a little strange in there because it's no more than a dimly lit, vertical, concrete corridor. And as you can imagine, after a few flights people become far less chatty. The only sound is a sort of constant hum from the pounding of feet on metal steps and laboured, heavy breathing. Creepy.
A nice touch was having drawings and paintings from grade school children, including motivational messages, covering the walls on the landings the entire way. It certainly brightened the place up. The kid who did the "You are here" picture of the tower with a red dot to mark the spot gets a stand-out thumbs up from me; that cracked me right up.
When I reached the top and they called for time cards to be handed in, I'd like to take a minute to thank the @$hole who chose to reach over me rather than wait his turn so that he could shave a second or two off his time. The confusion caused by that was appreciated, since I nearly ended up getting the wrong card back. And to think that by society's rules, if I'd elbowed you in the face and sent you tumbling down the stairs behind me, I'd be the one looking like the bad guy, even though you deserved it. What a country, eh?
A couple of other notes/suggestion/advice:
To fellow climbers: Just accept when you're about to be passed. I know it's a little demoralizating, because at some point I got passed by a friggin' 12-year old (estimated). Yeah, it hurts the old morale, but deal with it rather than maintain your ground and slow someone else down. Really now.
To non-climbers: Pick another friggin' day to visit. Seriously. The tourist area is jammed full of sweaty post-climb'ers. I'm dying for a bottle of water, and you're standing around gawking at pictures. There are 365 days in the year. Can you not show up on a different one? No? Then please, just go a little later. By about noon, everyone had cleared out. Then you have the entire place to yourself. Play on the glass floor to your heart's content.
Speaking of 12-year olds...something that jumped out at me was the high number of young people there. That was fantastic. I don't know if the older crowd typically shows up earlier to climb, but even if that's so, the number of climbers in their teens to early 20's was staggering. Walking along the looooooooong line-up to register I commented to my unoffical photographer that I thought I was the oldest person there at 35. How great was it to see that many young people involved in something like this?
That photographer, by the way, was unable to fulfill his duties because the line-up to the elevators up was so long and slow that I actually beat him up there. Another logostical snafu. So I don't have a picture of my arrival, unfortunately. Ah well. We'll know for next time. I have to admit that it was still sharp to walk through the door to applause from strangers, especially since at that point I was feeling like an extra from "Night of the Living Dead". There's a little something that they don't tell you on the site; when you have your time card punched, they direct you towards the exit door...which leads to about another five flights of stairs for some reason so that you can reach the main tourist area. Good one!
And so it's done. I look forward to seeing my official time. My time card read 22:13, with which I was pretty pleased. I didn't stop and I kept a steady pace throughout so I was pretty confident that I was beating the "average" mark of 30-40 minutes but I had no idea by how much.
One last thank you: The Toronto Argonauts cheerleader auditions were in my hotel that morning. I don't know who scheduled that right there and then, but thank you. Thank you thank you thank you. :-)