Reaching New Heights

by Sean Adams

So, when an earthquake damages your Washington Monument, who are you going to call? According to an article on NPR: the difficult access team from Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. (WJE), that’s who! These guys have a pretty simple thing going on: they’re engineers, who are also hot shot rock climbers, who rappel up to and repair hard-to-reach damage on important structures like national monuments.

Wait, wha??? That’s ridiculous, right?? Kinda makes you wonder, if this is the job-part of their job, what extra stuff do they do to keep things interesting? (Full disclosure: they say the Washington Monument is the most iconic they’ve fixed, but let’s just ignore that, okay?)


Total bummer day today. We were doing touch-ups on lady liberty’s cheeks, so I brought my Stratocaster in order to crank out some sweet, finger-tapping power metal riffs for all the tourists who would naturally gather below us. But then, huge buzzkill: Tyler showed up with his Stratocaster and Rick, our supervisor, reminded us of WJE’s strict one-Strat policy, so of course we had to have a thrash-off. I thought my solo was a bit more pleasing to the ear, but Rick named Tyler the winner because he broke three strings playing with his teeth. Whatever. I’ll get him next time I guess.


TGIF! Always love Fridays with the crew. We were doing some work on Governor’s Island and, as usual, we were playing “If You See Something, Drink Something.” It’s this drinking game we made up where we take a shot whenever one of us blatantly disregards safety regulations to get a rush. There was one shot when Rick didn’t wear his harness, one shot when Mary put her arms through her harness instead of her legs, another shot when Mark wore his harness normally but lit it on fire, one more when Tyler started juggling carabineers, three shots for taking shots while several hundred feet in the air, and one final shot for when we were all so wasted that we took off our Burning Man shirts and started whipping each other with them.


Close call today at work. While patching up GW’s face on Rushmore we kept getting dive-bombed by these birds. Well, we were so distracted by them that we didn’t notice the rattlesnake nest in our first president’s nostril and Mark totally got bit. First thing was first, we had to strangle the snakes to show man’s dominance over nature. There were only seven of them, so no big deal. Then we needed to choose who was going to be the hero and rappel down to get the anti-venom. Everyone wanted to do it, even Mark, which meant a rock-paper scissors tournament (took like 45 minutes because we all kept shooting “rock”). Eventually, I won, so I went down to camp and grabbed the anti-venom (had to strangle a couple more rattle snakes who’d seen what we’d done and wanted to avenge their fallen brothers), but by then the whole thing had taken so long that I didn’t have time to repel back up. Luckily, we had human cannon (thanks for thinking of it, Martha!) so I was able to get the anti-venom up to Mark with time spare! Phew!

Photo by Flickr member StuSeeger, used under a Creative Commons License.