I suppose I should feel rather guilty about what happened, but I don't. After
all, I didn't set out to do anything wrong, only something out of my usual
routine, and even that was a spur of the moment decision. I've wanted to tell
somebody about it for a long time and now I've moved to a different city I've
finally decided it's safe to write it down. I guess all I have to say to set the
scene is that at the time I was a long married department manager for a big
insurance company. My husband and I had our ups and downs but we got along as
well as most couples do. A boring life mostly, I guess, until this particular
It all started when I came back to work from lunch. When I entered the
lift two young men came into it with me. What was odd was that they were wearing
hard hats and tool belts, which is not a common sight in a building with forty
floors of offices. I hadn't noticed any renovation work being carried out
anywhere so I wondered what they were doing.
One of them, a slim dark guy in his twenties, spoke to me about the
weather, about how hot it was down in the streets. I agreed it was a bad day and
he said it was glorious where they were working, high up in the fresh air and
with a fantastic view of the city; he said the pair of them were installing a
new microwave dish on top of the communications tower on the roof of the
building. I commented that they were probably working in the best place on such
a day. The guy I was talking to was Tony -- or at least that was the name
stenciled on his helmet.
The other guy had 'MARCO' lettered on his hard hat, and he was blue eyed
and stocky, with muscular arms and shoulders like a weight lifter. He made a
light hearted suggestion that I should come up to the top of the tower with them
and see a view of the city that I'd probably never get a chance to see again.
Just then the elevator stopped at my floor and I replied that it might be
fun but I had to get back to work. Tony glanced down at my ID badge, kind of
sneered, then said: "No way, Marco, Ms (name deleted ) has to go and type up all
the letters for her boss, or she'll be in big trouble."
I assumed he didn't know that the purple edge around my badge meant that I
was a department manager. Of course he did know, and he was using the knowledge
to needle me even more than I realized. At the time though I thought he really
believed that I was just a middle aged, middle grade secretary at everybody's
beck and call -- and that assumption angered me. So I pushed the button to close
the doors again without getting out.
"I don't type letters for anybody and all the men who work for me are well
enough trained to get by on their own -- for a while, anyway. I'll come up and
take in the view for a few minutes."
Tony and Marco grinned at me and stepped aside deferentially when the
elevator reached the top floor. Marco then led the way up two flights of an iron
staircase to a door that he unlocked and opened.
"This is as high as the building goes -- the rest of the way is up the
tower," he told me as if it were some kind of a challenge.
As soon as I stepped through the door onto the roof I knew I'd made a
mistake. I've never been very fond of heights and I even hate looking out of my
office window only halfway up the office block. Now we were so far above the
city skyline that I felt a genuine touch of vertigo. But what was far worse was
the communication tower itself. As high as we were already, it seemed to rear up
into the sky above us like the Eiffel Tower. Even more disturbing to me was that
the thin aluminum cladding around it seemed to be shifting and creaking even in
the light wind which was blowing.
I couldn't believe my legs were actually carrying me towards it, even with
Tony's arm pressing lightly around my back to coax me on. I wanted nothing more
than to turn around and go back. Marco had already relocked the staircase door
behind us though, and I would have felt very foolish if I had had to ask him to
open it again because I wanted to run away. It was the price I was paying for
all my boasting about being an executive.
That was the real reason I was going with them, not because I wanted to
see anything, but because I'd been talked down to as a female nonentity. Being
patronized by arrogant males always makes me bristle up and determined to prove
them wrong. A pair of young chauvinists had challenged me and I'd responded. It
never crossed my mind that such good looking studs could have any serious
intention of making a pass at an older woman like myself. Maybe I should have
remembered that Nicholas Chauvin got his name in the dictionaries for adoring
Napoleon: especially Napoleon's skill in making quick and easy conquests.
"You'll love this, you'll be the queen of the town today," Marco
encouraged me as he went past and entered the tower first with Tony still
following me. Innocent as I still was, I was soon to find out why I was
positioned in the middle.
Inside was a very narrow and steep staircase which spiraled around the
inside of the tower, with steel mesh on the inner side of the stairwell to stop
anybody from falling off the steps. It seemed a pretty insubstantial protection
to me though, especially when I looked upwards and saw the huge hole that was
the center of the tower.
"We have to keep this clear so we can hoist up the communication dishes,"
Tony explained. "Some of them are ten feet across. It's an easy climb up
It certainly didn't seem too easy to me. I was puzzled by circular bands
of light inside the tower, three or four of them and each one about a dozen
steps up from the next. It looked as if there were large gaps all around the
tower, each one at least big enough to put my head through. I asked Tony about
them and he said the gaps were to relieve the wind pressure against the tower
when gales were blowing.
IN THE MEMBERS SECTION