I'm standing on the ledge of a building downtown, my back toward the open air, which is the only thing between me and the design on the plaza below that, from 30 floors up, looks suspiciously like a target.
"Lean back," Brian says.
Sure, why not? That's why I'm here.
I'm rappelling down the SandRidge Building in Oklahoma City for a good cause. Because it's a blast. And, oh yeah, to help publicize an event that benefits Special Olympics Oklahoma. Today, more than two dozen other people, each of whom raised at least $1,200 in donations for the organization, will get to do the same thing. About the same number of people will rappel down the Hard Rock Hotel in Tulsa.
Over The Edge, a Canadian company that helps people who know nothing about rappelling do it off large buildings, was conducting this event. "They've done this event with other Special Olympics programs throughout the country," said Derek Cain, development director of Special Olympics Oklahoma. "They had some very successful events so we decided to try it here in Oklahoma."
Dangling 300 feet up
A few participants made large donations themselves to be included in the event, which raised $88,000. But most did it the old-fashioned way, collecting from co-workers, family and "BFFs."
"Most people are using their social networks to get to that level," Cain said.
As a member of the media, my contribution to the Special Olympics consisted of showing up. It's a beautiful day, and I'm not passing up an opportunity to dangle more than 300 feet above solid concrete from a building on the same day an earthquake shook buildings in Oklahoma. Besides, after the first 40 feet or so, it doesn't matter how high you are. If you fall, you get the same result.
Still, it's plenty safe. I know that mainly because my boss didn't object to this. Also, because of all the redundant safety devices and procedures pointed out to me by the Over The Edge climber expert dude, you know, right after I signed that form that says I "could be risking serious injury or death by participating." And I'm wearing a helmet.
A fight breaks out
So I'm stoked. And if Rumble the Thunder mascot can do it with a video cam screwed directly to his mascot head, I figure I can too. However, as I look over the edge, a fight breaks out. It's in my head between my "higher" brain functions and my "lizard brain." The intellectual part assures me this is statistically way safer than the drive through traffic to get here, while the primitive part says, "Pardon me, but millions of years of evolution suggest this is not a prudent move."
I go with the traffic argument. I lean back, squeeze the red descender handle, and I'm on my way. After the first 30 feet, I come to the first of about two dozen sloping window ledges, perfect spots to plant my feet. I even pass a few offices with people busy at work not noticing the guy dangling above that target on the plaza.
Too soon, I'm on the ground again. I missed the target. But I had a blast.