Friday 28 September 2012

Edge what walk are you crazy?

Following the guide's instructions, I sort of sit down so I am hanging from the harness then slowly use my feet to push myself backwards. I get my feet to the corner of the walkway then straighten up so I am now leaning backwards at a fifty-five degree angle. Letting go of the support, I hold my arms out and smile for the camera. I look down. The ground is 356 metres or 1,168 feet straight down and the only thing stopping me from an approximate ten second drop to my death is a steel cable my guide assured me could support the weight of an elephant and a half. The intellectual side of me has calculated the risk and determined I'm safe while the emotional part of my brain has gone into hyper-drive screaming, "Ahhhhh!"

The CN Tower, Canada's phallic symbol, stands at 553 meters or 1,815 feet in downtown Toronto. Completed in 1976, it held two records for 34 years: world's tallest free-standing structure and world's tallest tower. In 2010 the Buri Khalifia in Dubai and the Canton Tower in Guangdong, China took over those titles but the tower remains the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere. Currently the world's tallest tower is the Tokyo Skytree.

By the way, the CN refers to Canadian National, one of Canada's railway companies which built the tower. The railway has since divested itself of the tower and it now belongs to a Crown Corporation (agency of the Canada's federal government) although the name remains as is.

My humorous reference to "phallic symbol" dates back to a tour I was giving to a Danish student perfecting her English on an extended stay in Toronto. She looked at the tower and asked me, "Is that Canada's phallic symbol?" and I cracked up thinking that "phallic" wasn't a word I would have expected a student of English to know. Her command of my mother tongue was better than I thought.

For those of you unfamiliar with the tower, there are two main observation areas. The main deck at a height of 346 metres or 1,135 feet is a seven story structure containing shops, a revolving restaurant, and observation areas. The upper deck or the SkyPod is at the 446 metre or 1,465 foot mark and is just for observation.

In 2011, the tower opened its EdgeWalk attraction. It consists of a metal walkway going around the circumference of the tower on the roof of the main pod just over the revolving restaurant. Thrill-seekers are tethered to an overhead rail system at a height of 356 meters or 1,168 feet. EdgeWalk is billing itself as the world's highest full-circle, hands-free walk.

The whole experience takes about an hour and a half but the actual time you're out getting the bejesus scared out of you is only 30 minutes. It takes time to get suited up and time to get "unsuited" and to get your photos.

Walking around ain't too bad but it is bizarre. Standing at a window or an outside screened in area on the observation deck is one thing. Standing on a walkway with no screen, no railing, nothing between me and the vast space of open air and the entire city of Toronto laid out at my feet is another and my mind is reeling at this inconsistency between this and my day to day reality. It's not every day I find myself this high off the ground.

The guide, a sadistic young lady about 25 years old named Margo, makes me do two things which completely contradict my sense of well-being. The first, as I mentioned above, is to lean backwards from the walkway. I am hanging by this support cable connected to my chest. My feet are on the walkway but I am literally hanging in open space and yes, the ground is 356 metres or 1,168 feet straight down. I'm chuckling about it now but at the time, every fiber of my being was screaming, "Get the hell out of there!" Ha ha.

The second sadistic thing is to have me lean forward from the walkway so I am looking out over Toronto but I bend my head forward and I'm looking straight down. Hey, are those people or ants down there?

It's an odd comparison but one of my fellow thrill-seekers asked me what felt scarier, this or the parachute jump. When I stepped out of the plane at 4,100 meters or 13,500 feet (approximate equivalency), I was so high up I didn't quite appreciate the height. Being on the tower seemed to give me more vertigo. Is the possibility of death more apparent the closer you are to the ground?

Final Word
Parachute jump, hot-air balloon, zip-lining, parasailing and now, well, this. I am slowly going through my bucket list and checking things off. Sorry did I say bucket list? Maybe I meant death wish. Then again, much to my amusement, these activities look more dangerous than my everyday life but statistically seem to be safer. When I did my parachute jump, my research said that I had a one chance in 100,000 of dying but I had a one chance in 6,000 of dying behind the wheel of my car. Yes, I was 17 times safer getting out of an airplane than getting in a car. Go figure.

Let's chalk up my fear to the fact I don't do these other activities very often and consequently they seem strange. An acquaintance told me she had a zero chance of having an accident on EdgeWalk because there was absolutely no way she would ever do that. Ha ha. At least for me, I now have photographic evidence which gives me perpetual bragging rights so I never have to do this again. Whew! (wipes brow with forearm)

I will close with mention of my parachute jump. Colleagues joked about me soiling myself adding they could get me some Pampers. My response: "Necessary? Depends." But I discovered that the old saying "to be scared s**tless" is apparently not true. I think it took a full 24 hours after the experience for my sphincter to unclench.


Wikipedia: CN Tower
The CN Tower (French: Tour CN) is a communications and observation tower in Downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

official web site: EdgeWalk
WHERE: On the roof of the CN Tower’s restaurant 356m/1,168ft above the ground! That’s right – way up there – way out there!
WHEN: May – October 2012. Bookings are now available. 1.5 hour total experience with a 20-30 minute outdoor walk.
WHY: You want to experience the thrill of a lifetime and join an exclusive group of EdgeWalkers.
HOW: Tickets are $175 and include keepsake video, printed photos, certificate of achievement and re-entry to CN Tower. You will also receive a Total Tower Experience Ticket which includes access to Look Out, Glass Floor, Sky Pod, Movie and Motion Theatre Ride.

Google image search: EdgeWalk

Google video search: EdgeWalk

Wikipedia: Pampers
Pampers is a brand of baby products marketed by Procter & Gamble. Pampers was at one time only used as a name for a disposable diaper.

Wikipedia: Depend (undergarmet)
Depend is a brand of absorbent, disposable underwear for adults experiencing urinary or fecal incontinence. It is made by Kimberly-Clark. The product was first introduced in 1984. It is the dominant brand of disposable incontinence garments in the United States, with a 30.8 share of the market.

my blog: Parachuting: If God had meant me to...
In the United States, there are over 3 million jumps each year and about 30 people die as a result. This works out to approximately 1 death for every 100,000 jumps. So, your chances of dying by doing a skydive are 1 in 100,000. In comparison, 40,000 people die each year in car accidents. That works out to 1.7 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles. If we take the average person driving 10,000 miles a year, you have a 1 in 6,000 chance of dying in a car accident.

Uploaded by aashleybond on Aug 3, 2011


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