Death by Embarrassment

on September 20, 2010 in Misc

You know, one of these days I’m going to get caught by a stranger when I’m right in the middle doing something very Layla.  Maybe that stranger won’t call the police and I won’t get arrested, but I could definitely die of embarrassment.

Take tonight.  At about 10:30 p.m. I was ready to climb the crabapple tree next to my condo building’s garage.  No big deal, you may figure.  It’s easy and I’ve done this on a couple of other nights.  It’s good practice for me since Layla climbs trees and buildings in the dark.

Trouble is, tonight, for the first time I wasn’t just wearing dark clothes that make me look kinda suspicious; I was also in a climbing harness and had on a small backpack in which I had zipped my night vision goggles and in which I can also carry climbing rope, which I hope to buy within the next couple weeks.  Then, for that extra touch, I had pulled on my black bicycle gloves that just happen to look like handy-dandy burglar accessories.  At least I wasn’t wearing my headlamp; I figured that would be too over the top.

I want to emphasize that this wasn’t some kind of strange dress up act I was into.  What I was doing was testing myself.  Can I really climb around in the dark while wearing a harness and backpack, which can feel awkward and act as impediments in literal tight spots?  Can I be dressed and equipped for a Layla-type slightly illegal job and still get the job done?

The first part of my self-testing was fun.  I found that I was able to get into my spanking new climbing harness in the dark and make all the adjustments very quickly.   But I also wanted to see if I could move stealthily about in that harness, which isn’t too easy since the carabiner and a couple other metal parts dangle from it and make clanking noises if I’m not careful.  If I were Layla, I’d either want to wrap some black electrical tape around the shiny metal both to disguise and muffle it, or slip it off my harness and into a pocket once I’m done climbing.

These are the kinds of detail you only figure out by physically, really doing what your character does.  Although there are a couple scenes in which Layla uses a harness and ropes, I’ve already discovered that I’m going to have to tweak the details of one scene, thanks to what I’ve learned from my own experience.

Anyway, about the embarrassment…

As I’ve told you before, the biggest risk of doing any Layla stuff at night is that in my neighborhood people just plain don’t seem to GO TO BED!  There is always, always someone out walking a dog, couples taking a stroll, a runner or two, and the occasional passing car.  Then there are the streetlights, which are close by and FRIGGIN’ BRIGHT!  So there I was, in almost full Layla working regalia, climbing the first couple branches of the tree when…

I could see someone walking down the street and in my direction.

That’s when I figured… Oh, to hell with it.  I went back inside and called it a night.

I think I’m gonna ask a favor of a couple friends who live in quieter neighborhoods and see if I can climb around their places at night.  I don’t think they’ll mind.  They may even have a good laugh watching me.

7 Responses to “Death by Embarrassment”

  1. Hart says:

    *falls off chair*

    You know… even NOT breaking into places, you sure do a lot of things normal people don’t. You crack me up. I can totally picture my husband the curmudgeon (not just a curmudgeon, but a NOSY curmudgeon) watching you then walking over to demand what the hell you were doing. You would need me to insist that YES, in fact that IS a reasonable thing to do as research for a book.

    Do they have rubber coated carabiners or am I making that up? For some reason I thought they did (handy for icy conditions where you don’t want to touch metal, and I think more slip resistent for wet conditions… but like I said–totally might be making that up.

  2. Helena says:

    Hart – Your husband is just the kind of person who scares me — the kind who wants me to explain myself and my non-normalness.

    You may be right about the rubber carabiner (and if you’re making that up, it’s because you’re a novelist with a great imagination). I’ll look for one. When I bought my harness I got a package deal with several accessories thrown in. Saved me a whopping $5 compared to buying everything separately.

  3. ann says:

    There has to be a sitcom moment in here someplace. Hmmm, who could we get to play the next door neighbor “superhero-spy wannabe”?

    I’ll have to check with “the husband”, but you could try the oak tree in the backyard… less chance of getting in trouble. I really don’t want to get that phone call from the local authorities asking us to bail you out of jail, although it would make an interesting blog entry.

    At the very least, we need to get a few pictures of “Layla” in action and post them on your blog. What do you think?

  4. ann says:

    I just read my last comment and I need to ask your forgiveness for all of the “quotation marks”. I guess I’m one of those people who can’t write without a lot of dashes, quotes, and ……dots….

  5. Helena says:

    Ann — “I think that’s a great idea about the photos…” And “climbing the oak tree” or, maybe, your “roof and walls” would work too. Thanks so much…

  6. Ben says:

    Hahaha, that’s priceless!

  7. Helena says:

    Ben — Oh, I’m a real prize, alright.