Here's the situation when I was on the ladder.
• The ground under the garage gutter sloped hard from right to left.
• Plants prevented ideal positioning of the wobbly painter's ladder.
• And I was already tired from cleaning the gutters in the front of the house.
All the conditions were present for a classic weekend DIY accident.
Balanced on the penultimate step, I reached hard to the left for a handful of debris that was just beyond my grasp. The black ooze and brown leaves taunted me. I reached harder. The ladder rocked. My heart froze.
For dramatic purposes and as a lesson to young readers, I suppose the ladder should have toppled, causing significant harm.
But here's the thing: I didn't fall. I actually got away with it. If one were to estimate the odds of that outcome, he'd probably come up with something in the neighborhood of 50 to 1.
Several semi-related points about the incident:
A guy in New Jersey wanted me to pay him about $500 to repair my gutter, damaged by a falling branch. I almost caved. But for the heck of it, I threw on some protective hand gear, screwed off the wire mesh protection system and went fishing up there. After pounding the gutter back in shape with a hammer (and pair of pliers), it looks and works better than ever.
About five years ago, another gutter salesman came to my house on a dark, moonless night to inspect my gutters. He shined a flashlight at an area that measured about 3 ins. He turned to me with the confidence of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and said: "Oh yeah, you need new gutters."
He was right. I needed new gutters. But there was no way he could know by shining a flashlight at a 3-in. sample.
There's an old saying: How do you know a gutter installer is trying to sell you a gutter? His lips are moving.