June 4, 2016

Icarus and The Drone

I don’t want to exaggerate any of the details of this story, for fear of making it appear implausible. Everything I am about to tell you is true to the best of my knowledge...

Late in the afternoon of this rainy, lazy day I took Skyelar down to our tennis courts for some free-form drone piloting. Shackled by the confines of the roof and walls of our condo, it felt necessary to unleash the beast to the elements and really let’er fly.

We both took turns maneuvering the tiny vessel, each of us hooping, hollering and cheering in our own way, as the four propellered device rose and fell with deft agility and grace. Until at one point, much like Icarus, I became too confident in my skills and too excited by the thrill of my ascent that I lost control and the drone crash-landed on top of the ivy covered wall that rings the tennis court.

This is where it is important to get the details right. The wall is about one and half, almost two stories tall. I would say at least twenty feet, but my gut is saying more like twenty-five; I wouldn’t dissuade you if you wanted to imagine it being thirty feet for the sake of this story. It was tall. Although there are sections of the wall that are made of chain link fencing, there was no way I could scale the fence and get to the upper part where the drone was stuck. Throwing things at it (balls, frisbees, rocks) was out of the questions because a bit further on the other side is a major rode, and I am sure the drivers would frown upon a deluge of detritus raining down on their cars.

I was about to give up and cut my losses on my first drone when the security guard came to tell us to get off the tennis court, because people had complained. Apparently this space is to solely to be used for playing tennis. Singapore- go figure. A few seconds after his arrival, he noticed our distress and as soon as he assessed the situation, he offered to let me use one of the massive ladders to try and retrieve the drone. This would be a piece of cake. No worries. Problem solved.

I grabbed the ladder; he didn’t help me at all, and I lugged it back to the courts, where after some considerable struggle, the thing was freaking heavy and I don’t know the laws of physics, but propping up a thirty foot ladder by yourself requires a sort of super hero strength that my chicken bone arms simply do not have. I finally managed to get it up and somewhat secure on the wall. I was certain that the angle was way too rigid and that I should have moved it back a few feet, but then the top of the wall would be out of reach. I would need to scale this thing as it stood. Almost straight up and down.

I took a deep breath and I climbed a few rungs- my breath grew short. My heart was beating rapidly. My palms were sweaty and my knees were shaking. I normally have little to no issues with heights, but the thought of the ladder slipping or me simply falling off of it was enough to make rethink the merit of risking my life for a thirty dollar piece of plastic.

I was halfway up, when I really felt the thing wobbling. Go down. Go back down you idiot. The voice was loud and clear and persistent. I made the mistake of looking down and it was clear that falling even at the halfway mark would cause some serious injury. A broken bone minimum. I climbed on. I didn’t go through all this work to put the ladder up only to return empty handed, besides Skye was watching. I had a dad reputation to upload. At the top, I had to grab the wall and place my feet on the last few rungs. The air was thinner up there, I swear. I saw the drone tangled in some ivy and I grabbed it quickly without hesitation or nonsense and started my descent.

My body was still running on adrenaline when I touched the ground. There was a moment where I was legitimately afraid. I had to choose to give in to that fear or to keep going. There is a high that comes from putting yourself in danger, enough so that you are scared, and when you push through it? Well? That’s called living.

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