I live down the street from the Eiffel Tower. I can see it from my window (well, if I crane my neck hard right), the sparkly lights shining on summer nights and the search beacon piercing through the fog each winter. Every night I think "OMG I live in PAAAAAARIS and that's the frickin' Eiffel TOOOOOWER".
Then I smile.
Or look pensive....depending on which music video I am pretending to be in that night.
But, like most tourist attractions I have lived close to, I have never actually been inside it. Or up it. So when my dear friend Sue came to town this past week with her family in tow, I was more than happy to take the walk down the street to meet them for a night journey up into the tower. I should have known what was in store when it took me a lot longer than I expected to walk there. One hour later, I realized why you can actually see the Eiffel Tower from my window.
Because it is REALLY FUCKING BIG, that's why.
After giving my usual speech about not asking me any pertinent questions about when it was built or the guy's name who designed it or anything other than what color it is because I actually AM the worst tour guide on the planet, we braved the long line and shoved our way into the window elevator. Smashed up against a window, hurling upwards, the city spread itself before my eyes. Higher and higher, my heart jumps into my throat as I think one thing only....
GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE.
I usually "forget" all the things I am scared of....like um, heights. I talk a big game all the time, "Yyyyyyyyeah, one day I'm TOTALLY gonna skydive, bungee off a bridge, maybe onto a cliff. Then dive into the Colorado River.....maybe para-sail off the coast of Africa...you know how it goes. Of course, this is all after I para-glide off the Alps next season."
Cut to airless elevator face pressed against glass, the beginnings of hyperventilation and knees buckling....yeah, you're a regular Top Gun there, champ. The six year old next to you has more balls.
Exit onto the first level deck.
OK, not so cool.
OK, DEFINITELY not cool.
It helps to have a friend in terror. I was genuinely excited when Sue informed me that she was about as high as she wanted to go that night, and maybe in her life.....so we just waited patiently on the deck for the rest of her family, gazing up at the 2/3 of the tower we would NOT be visiting and taking terror shots of each other.
"Ha, I'm so glad we're not going UP THERE."
"Yeah me too, NO WAY am I going up there."
"TOTALLY no way."
"I'm ready to go back down when you are. You ready?"
"TOTALLY ready to go back down."
Enter sister-in law:
"Hey you guys! We decided we are going to the top, OK? You ready to go?"
Especially after I caught a glimpse of the tiny tiny string that pulls the big big elevator....
24 minutes of terror on top of the world is all I needed to resolve that I would never ever in a million billion years bungee off of ANYTHING, much less para-glide off the ALPS.
Someone had the bright idea to take the stairs on the way down. The stairs. Staircase after staircase, a never-ending metal jungle....around and down, around and down, the ground never seeming any closer while vertigo quickly setting in on me...
SUE: "You OK?"
ME: "Yeah....uh....(pant pant)...this is just....(round and down) kinda funny and all.....ha (round and down) kinda like my recurring nightmare that uh....I've been having since I was a child."
SUE: "Oh wow, what's that?"
ME: "It's uh.....I'm walking on endless stairs really high up and uh....it's actually uh....exactly this. (round and down) So uh.....don't really wanna talk about it or uh....describe it more or even really discuss it right now at ALL...'cause uh....I am actually LIVING my recurring nightmare at this very moment. I'm living it...and it's real....and uh.....I'm about to freak the fuck out and everything...."
SUE: "Yikes. OK."
(round and down, round and down, round and down, round and down......)
We made it.
And I've already forgotten the terror.
I'm TOTALLY paragliding off the Alps this winter.