Jobs We Used To Do Ourselves

In LA we didn’t even have gutters, in Atlanta not only do we have gutters but we have to take care of them. They fill with leaves every fall and need to be cleaned out. The problem is how to get to gutters that are some 30-feet high, below a roof angled like a Swiss alp.

Not long after moving into our Atlanta home, we had a gutter stoppage that I could see from our bedroom. “I’ll just go out there and clear it by hand,” I told Alex. She had other thoughts: “Are you crazy?!” she exclaimed. After putting my pride in my pocket, I realized she was partially correct. The roof area outside that window is a tin-type of material. Probably slippery, maybe not too supportive of weight. But I wasn’t giving up just yet. “What if I tie myself to a rope?” I said. Reluctantly, Alex gave in. I tied one end of a rope around my waist and the other around the space between the two windows leading out to the tin roof. “I can’t watch this,” Alex said, as I slowly made my way out the window. “It’s okay,” I assured her, “I’ve been on plenty of roofs.”

When I was a teenager, fear wasn’t really in my vocabulary yet, so I did all kinds of stupid things. Carelessly climbing on roofs was just one of many. In fact, two other friends and I paid for an entire spring break trip by knocking on doors and offering to clean the gutters of anyone who answered. This was before building materials and engineering came into the Gehry-age of twisted metals and unimaginable structures. We were climbing up simple ranch homes or maybe a boxy two-story colonial.

It is long enough in the past now to admit that there was one house we climbed up and found nary a pine needle. Now, this guy was wealthy and we knew it, and we were young and broke and he knew it, so maybe he was just trying to help us out all along. He probably had his gutters professionally cleaned the week before, but appreciated the gumption of three young boys who were ballsy enough to knock on doors to make a dollar. Either way, we stayed up on that roof doing nothing for a good half hour before coming down and boldly collecting our fee. The guy even threw in an extra twenty “for the cause.”

The Atlanta gutter scene is now a pretty competitive environment. People canvas neighborhoods with flyers a few months before the season. Crews have all sorts of ladders and ropes to handle these crazy roofs that some of us now have. Leaf-blowers are brought onto the roof to make the process faster and more efficient.

My foray onto our steep roof was not a catastrophe. The roof held my weight and I didn’t slip, but looking down from the 30 or so feet made me a little reluctant. Needless to say, we ended up hiring some professionals. Not only did they clean our gutters, but we got a free Cirque de Soleil style show out of it while watching these guys do their own version of a high-wire act right outside our windows.

Later that day, I couldn’t help but complain about the loss of yet another thing we used to be able to do ourselves; “Car repair, now gutter cleaning– what’s next?” I mused out loud to Alex, who replied; “Well if you want to be a do-it-yourselfer, a bicycle and a ranch-style home I guess.”

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