Friday, September 17, 2010

Alone, 100 Feet in the Air, Rising a Giant Pirate Flag Over Campus

September 8th, 2010
A Wednesday
It's all Jens's fault. He got the pirate flag bug in my head, I couldn't shake it, and it was almost the death of me.

During the boredom of last semester’s under-scheduled progression, I hatched a brilliant plot to make a pirate flag out of a big black queen-sized sheet, and hang it up on the east tower of Old Main. I didn't want to just hang it off the front, that would have been easy, I wanted it on a 15 ft tall flagpole on the top spire.
The first step was to determine how best to get up on the roof. After a few minutes of snooping on the fourth floor, I realized that it was easy to get on the roof by going out any of the windows on that floor. I then located all the surveillance cameras and plotted the route that would take me past the least number of them. Next I crept up there at night to see if it was easy, and to see what would be required to get up to the spire. I determined that I would need a ladder, and some rope to tie myself off once I got up. I figured I would need some help, so I recruited a friend to hold the ladder, and pass me anything I might need. While gazing over the edge, I realized I could drape a rope off the edge, and pull up the ladder and the flagpole from the outside.

Once all my reconnaissance was completed, I made the flag, built a lightweight ladder, and started getting some people to be sentries down on the ground. I had everything ready a week before the projected date. I had decided to put it up on the Tuesday night before finals week, that way it could provide a good laugh to to those overstressed studyaholics who were probably going to be on the verge of collapse and could use a break. Unfortunately, it rained that night and I had to wait.

When fall semester started, I decided that the second week of school would be perfect. Although the stress isn't as high as it is during finals week, it's still pretty bad. I know that I definitely needed a pick-me-up!
All my sentries were still willing to do their job, and my rooftop partner was ecstatic that we were finally going to do it. While at Deseret Industries Thrift store, I discovered two Utah State University Facilities Maintenance t-shirts, the perfect disguise to enter the building with all the necessary equipment, which I would carry in a large box that would obscure my face from the two cameras I would have to pass. I finalized the plans, prepared a briefing presentation for all those involved, and waited nervously.

As Tuesday morning dawned, my rooftop partner called me to tell me he had the flu. I was so desperate for an escape from the insanity of starting, that I decided to do it alone. As the night approached, the excitement grew... I had been preparing for a long time, and it was finally happening!

After the briefing, I drove up to Old Main Hill, and moved the ladder and flag to the place where I had earlier dangled a rope off the ledge. I tied them off, and headed for the roof.

The disguise worked perfectly, and I was able to make it up to the 4th floor undetected. That's when the first hitch in the plan cropped up. I had planned to go out the window of an office on the 4th floor that was usually unlocked. When my gloved (to keep from leaving fingerprints) hand tried the door, it was locked. I almost wet myself I was so nervous! I started for my backup, the girls bathroom window, but something was wrong; the doors to the girls and boys bathrooms were propped open and the lights were on! Could the Janitor be in there? I hesitated, backtracked, and reassessed. After nobody came out, I decided to close both doors, and turn out the lights. In the dark of the Handicap accessible stall of the girls bathroom, I dawned my camouflage jacket and face mask. I then unscrewed the screen (something I wouldn't have had to do in the original office plan). I climbed out the window and replaced the screen, just in case. I pulled up the flagpole and ladder, moved them into position, and began to assemble the pole (it was in two sections, to make it easier to carry). Once it was fully assembled, I began to climb the ladder.

This is where it got scary. I had planned on having someone hold the ladder, but I was solo. I nervously climbed it one small step at a time.  Once I got up, I realized the ladder was a little short, so I had to stand on some protrusions on the metal spire cap. I tied myself off, and just stood there for a minute to regain composure. It was at this point that I started thinking about where I was... alone, 100 feet above the ground precariously balancing on slightly flimsy metal outcroppings while trying to move a giant pirate flag to the vertical in the dark, with a strong wind blowing... "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea" I said aloud. "A LITTLE LATE FOR THAT" I then replied, and I went to work!

The Zip ties I brought weren't long enough, so I had to combine them together. This took much longer than I had planned, but it worked. It took a while to get the pole up and secured. Once it was, I began to twist the rod and deploy the flag. It was so beautiful to see that giant scull smiling down at me, seemingly saying "I knew you could get me here."

I finished up, untied myself, and began my withdrawal. I made sure I took everything off with me. I tossed the ladder over the edge, climbed back in the window, and stuffed all my gear back in the box for my exit. As I descended the stairs, a real facilities maintenance man was doing his cleaning rounds, but he didn't get a look at my face. As I exited the building I wondered if he would end up being the poor chap who would have to take it down.

The next morning when I went to my 7:30 am class, there my flag was, waiving briskly in the stiff breeze! As I walked to my 9:30 am class, I watched a crew of men heavily harnessed climbing up to the top to take it down. I stood there, talking with a friend as a police officer wound up the flag on the pole. It didn't last long, but it was totally worth it!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Canoing at Midnight with a Cute Lunch Lady I Had Met at a Rock Concert Earlier That Evening

September 6th, 2010
A Monday

Saturday was an Airsoft day. I took the M-14 I got from a pawn shop for $25.00, and it performed perfectly. After coming home and crashing, I decided to go for a walk to scout a little for a prank I'm pulling later this week. While wondering, I discovered that there would be a rock concert later, so I decided to go change into a shirt I had made that said "UTAH STATE ZOMBIE INFECTION SURVIVOR" because that seemed like something that would be cool to wear to my first rock concert. When I came back, I was very glad I had chosen that shirt, as it attracted the attention of a cute girl named Ashley. She looked Korean, or maybe Japanese, but at least a generation removed from her immigrant ancestors. I was hoping that I could get her number, but as the night wore on it looked less and less likely.

Now, I realize that there are, in fact, other kids my age who haven't gone to rock concerts. For most of these kids either the phrase "instance" has a deeply WOWing personal meaning or they were home-schooled. When I discovered that I wouldn't have to pay the usually outrageous prices I've heard being paid for attendance at such events, I decided to get some proper pop-culturing.

The first band, who's name included the phrase "Shut Up," was musically unimpressive to me, but obviously the horde of "my esteemed peers" around me was really feeling the spirit of the music. As the muscular, long-haired electric guitarist sprung up on stage and let fly with the first cords, a general cheer eeked out from the crowd, but quickly subsided. The band, who was just playing the intro for the main feature, recognized their roll of getting people all riled up. Although their tunes weren't my type, I was impressed by their ability to get the crowd to start cheering, if not for their music, than at least through their encouragement and enthusiasm. They were continuously flinging statements to the effect that we were the greatest crowd they'd ever had. As I looked at the swirling tangle of arms and bouncing faces screaming around me, I thought to myself "I believe it."

As the next song began to erode my eardrums, a drunk that looked to be in the early stages of being infected by the zombie-creating Solanum virus shoved his way past me, and began to violently shove the people around me. I don't how such a sensible and responsible thought could occur to anyone at such an event, but my first thought when I saw this drunk start to shove and hit the people around him, was to get a police officer. This thought was quickly quashed when I realized that this might be the start of what I had heard termed a "Mosh Pit," and since more people started shoving and pushing, and nobody else around me (except the cute girl from before) looked shocked, I was content to look on in fascinated horror. Amid all the shoving and pushing, one kid did a flying sidekick that looked like it was straight out of a Chuck Norris video. I decided that the one short little guy standing between me and the mosh wasn't enough, and I did some shoving of my own to move back a bit.

As the crowd-mentality willed me along a seemingly random course, I found myself blocking the view of an attractive girl about 10" shorter than me. I began to tease her about blocking her view. Flirting is difficult when you have to shout (it takes some of the more fine subtleties out), but judging from her giggles and grin I wasn't at too much of a handicap. As the throbbing beat continued to jar my frame, I felt relieved that I might at least get a date out of all this insanity.

The lead singer of the band made two very interesting comments in between songs. One was when he swore. He caught himself and apologized, as the crowd cheered, some because he swore, and some because he apologized. He said that it was a miracle that he had made it half way through the concert without swearing... Only in UTAH! The second was the comment that he had been all over the nation, and that by a very long shot, the girls in Utah were more attractive than anywhere else. I couldn't help but reflect on the reasons for this, and wonder if he would ever really understand why that was.

After the first band quit, I found a slight reprieve during which I could "get to know this chick." Her name was McKenzie. I found out she was a lunch lady at the High School, and a hairdresser. I asked if she would like to go get a Slurpee with me after. She smiled and with a cute little jump she said "Sure!"

As "The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus" mounted the stage, I realized that the slightly unkempt look of the previous band was just to desensitize me. Once or twice during their performance, I thought for a moment that some crazy girl had jumped up on stage, only to realize again that it was a guy under that flowing mop of hair. By this point, I was suffering from dehydration, and much to my relief, my new friend McKenzie announced that her friend had some pizza and pop, and we just had to shove our way through the crowd to the back to get some. As I began clearing us a path, I began to understand a little bit of the appeal of shoving people to the rhythm of a throbbing bass. Refueled by her friend, we plowed back into the morass.

As the concert drew to a close, the drummer tore off his shirt, and began to parade around the stage. I shouted to my new companion "Hey, do you want to see a slightly overweight drummer without a shirt?" (She was too short to have a good view). She said yes, and I offered to boost her up on my shoulders. My last moments at my first rock concert were spent watching a topless, tattooed drummer toss his sticks to the crowd, while an attractive hairdressing lunch lady perched on my shoulders to get a better view.

After fleeing the crowd with our hands clasped, we got Slurpees, and then randomly decided to take my canoe to a nearby lake. As the Midnight hour approached, I started thinking about where I was... Canoeing with a cute lunch lady I met at a rock concert. A good way to finish out a week, I think.