Elements of Danger

I haven’t read much about parenting, because, I’ve been busy… parenting. But I once heard a family counselor cite a study that showed life’s happiest memories coincide with the presence of three things: Dad, fried food, and an element of danger.

While the speaker didn’t say as much, I assume the data correlate to a widespread nostalgia for the Fourth of July, when Dad was home from work administering fried chicken and fireworks.

In any case, the speech was eye-opening to me, because I spend my life minimizing danger. As far as I’m concerned, the correct amount of danger is zero. I hate fireworks.

Yet I concede that my own happiest memories are in fact tinged with an element of danger. July Fourth is my favorite day, fireworks and all.

It’s hard to come by physical danger without actually imperiling the body. I suppose that’s why ropes courses are so popular: They evoke genuine terror at the end of a reliable tether.

Last week, The Wills Company held an office retreat at the new Adventure Park at the Gordon Jewish Community Center. I was so exhausted by the adrenaline rush of the treetop obstacle course that I could only complete one circuit, and very slowly at that.

Meanwhile, my carpenter colleagues from The Wills Company scampered nimbly across hanging bridges, trapezes wires and other ropes course “elements,”  like American Ninja Warriors. Or squirrels. They made it look easy. Then again, it was easy compared to what they do at work, climbing and balancing at heights, all while wielding power tools.

As timing would have it, I got a taste of that sky-high work on the same day of the ropes course retreat. Right before we went to Adventure Park, I rode in the basket of a 35-foot power lift, to see repairs on a third-floor dormer. Seconds after we broke the surly bonds of Earth and passed the house’s second-story windows, I became convinced that THIS LIFT IS GOING TO COLLAPSE ONTO THE DRIVEWAY AND WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!

I don’t know how long we were up there inspecting the third-floor dormer. It felt like maybe five hours—or however long it would take to fly from Nashville to Denver in a lightning storm—but I suspect it was closer to 45 seconds before my colleague John redirected the lift and set us back on terra firma. I tried to play it cool, and the guys were nice not to make fun of me. But they knew I was shaken. Because my knees buckled when I disembarked. “It’s just your equilibrium messing with you,” Allen reassured me.

In any case, my real-life brush with altitude put the Adventure Park ropes course, with its generous personal fall arrest systems, in perspective later that day. For one thing, it made me laugh that, generally speaking, I am so removed from actual danger that I had to rent some for an afternoon. For another, it fortified my admiration for the guys I work with, who regularly ride above the treetops, putting themselves in danger to build and repair the structures that allow so many people to feel safe.

The Adventure Park at Nashville is located at 801 Percy Warner Boulevard. mynashvilleadventurepark.org

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