Wednesday, July 1, 2009

From the department of irrational fears

Okay, this story--and accompanying photos--are enough to make my heart pound in terror:
CHICAGO (AP) — Visitors to the Sears Tower's new glass balconies all seem to agree: The first step is the hardest.

The balconies are suspended 1,353 feet in the air and jut out four feet from the building's 103rd floor Skydeck. Their transparent walls, floor and ceiling leave visitors with the impression they're floating over the city.

"It's like walking on ice," said Margaret Kemp, of Bishop, Calif., who said her heart was still pounding even after stepping away from the balcony. "That first step you take — 'am I going down?'"

Kemp was among the visitors who got a sneak preview of the balconies Wednesday. "The Ledge," as the balconies have been nicknamed, open to the public Thursday. Visitors are treated to unobstructed views of Chicago from the building's west side and a heart-stopping vista of the street and Chicago River below — for those brave enough to look straight down.

I do not like heights. I'm one of those moms whose kids have only seen scenic vistas from a safe distance. Inside a car, maybe. An elevator going up a mere ten floors makes me a little queasy. Parking garages--the top level of a parking garage is a clammy-hands kind of experience. The fact that I used to climb trees as a kid seems to me now like something that someone else did, and imprinted on my memory--surely I was never silly enough to go clambering up into space supported only by a few dozen pine branches?

But kids seem to like the new Sears Tower vista:

Adam Kane, 10, of Alton, Ill., rushed to the ledge with his friends and siblings, and they each eagerly pressed their faces to the glass bottom.

"Look at all those tiny things that are usually huge," Adam said.

I doubt Adam will grow up to be a heights-wimp like me; he'll probably be a fighter pilot, or something. The photo of little Anna Kane, only 5, lying down apparently on an edgeless sea of glass a hundred stories in the air is heart-stopping; the photographer caught her from an angle that makes you miss, at first, the solid glass wall perpendicular to her supine pose, making it look for all the world like little Anna's going to tumble down, down, down into rush-hour traffic.

I like Chicago. I admire the Sears Tower (or as it will soon be called, the Willis Tower) from afar. I can't imagine going up to the 103rd floor, though; and as for stepping out onto a ledge of glass overlooking the city--nope. That's not for me. While some might find such a birds' eye view exciting, moving, exhilarating--I'd find it horrifying beyond belief.

How about you? Do you like heights, fear them, or are you indifferent to them? Would you step out on this glass balcony, if you could?


LarryD said...

Heights usually don't bother me - except for super high roller coasters, like the ones at Cedar Point in OH. Not my cup of tea AT ALL!!

Oh - and to me, this is the scary part of the whole article: The balconies are just one of the big changes coming to the Sears Tower. The building's name will change to Willis Tower later this summer. Last week, officials announced a 5-year, $350 million green renovation complete with wind turbines, roof gardens and solar panels.

Great - more stupid "green" renovations. They will never ever recoup the costs of those renovations - but at least they'll feel good about them.

Chere said...

I'm with you--my palms are sweating just reading about this! And I would NEVER let one of my kids even close!

Amy said...

Those people are out of their MINDS.

NEVER in a MILLION years would I go out there. Oh, goodness. I'm getting nervous just looking at the photos.

KC said...

I'd go out there but with more trepidation than in my younger years. I've gone skydiving before so heights used to not bother me, but it does now, a bit.

Oh, and the name change is going seriously bother my almost 11 year old autistic son.

Baron Korf said...

Heights don't bother me at all, in fact I enjoy them. The Baroness, however, can't look down riding the escalator at Macy's.

Melanie B said...

I'm not really scared of heights. I've done the Empire State Building and the Grand Canyon and the Leaning Tower in Pisa and the Dome of St. Peter's in Rome. But I think the clear glass would give me pause. I like to have a feeling of something substantial between me and the drop. That was actually the scariest thing about the Tower of Pisa: no rails on those open windows and the thing is leaning, leaning. You feel like you are going to slide right out.

Rory said...

That looks like a lot of fun!

I'll send my pics when I go.