The Twin Cities Rainbow Chaser

moving across the country…to discover what God has in store

To Belay or Not to Belay

on January 20, 2013

Describe your last attempt to learn something that did not come easily to you.

…to belay!

…to belay!

When I saw this daily prompt, I knew that it was fate.  On Friday, I put myself outside of my comfort zone with a specific purpose.  I had done the same thing on Tuesday and it ended rather badly.  So it should go without say ing (but I’ll say it just in case) that this particular task was that much more difficult yesterday.

I should back up a bit though, to give you some context.  About a year ago, I started climbing in a climbing gym on a regular basis.  After climbing with several people for a couple of weeks, I realized that I should take the belay certification test so that I could return the favor they were doing for me.  So, in a less than savory fashion (I had a friend administer the test), I took and passed my belay test.  For the next five months, I climbed on an almost weekly basis and became a proficient, although casual, belayer…and an “okay” climber.

Five months passed and the only climbing I had done was outdoors in Wyoming when I took a road trip with a friend in July.  I realized that I missed it.  So, alone, I stumbled into a new gym that had auto-belays sprinkled throughout the gym.  The original plan was to go with someone else, but he backed out.  I was desperate though…so I went alone.  I kept going (alone) over the course of the next few months and loved it every single time.  When my parents asked for a Christmas list, I told them I wanted a punch card or a gym membership.  (Let me mention here: I am an only child and my parents love me a lot…I love them too…I would add a “smiley” here, but that looks weird inside parentheses.)

So, on January 2, I entered the gym and signed the requisite forms to complete my membership registration, purchased a harness and started climbing.  But…I was limited to auto-belays.  One of the workers (let’s call this guy Joe) prompted me as I entered one day, “You should take advantage of the discount;” he was referring to a member’s discount for the belay class.  I was not taking the class…I could belay!  With that, Joe said I should go find a random person to climb for me.  A couple of days later, I decided be that creepy person.

This is where we get to that “attempt to learn something that did not come easily to you.”  It’s always a learning experience for me when I talk to a new person.  For starters, I am not a big “people” person and I didn’t really mind climbing alone.  But I was getting weary of the same routes over and over again.  I had climbed almost every 5.6, 5.7, and 5.8 route multiple times (I’m not solid on 5.9s yet).  So out of desperation, I talked to someone on Tuesday.  I changed my clothes and got my gear on, then tentatively wandered around the gym looking for a lonely person.  I would have preferred a female, but I saw a 20-something dude staring up at an auto-belay route (or so I thought).  So I awkwardly approached him.

Me: Are you here alone?

Him: No…

Me: *awkward pause* Oh, okay…

Him: Were you looking for someone to climb with?

Me: *word vomiting* Well, I needed…wanted to take my belay test…and I need someone to climb for me…I’ve been certified before, I just haven’t done it here yet.

Him: Oh, okay…Let’s go find a worker.  

Me: Oh!  Really?  I’m Mary Elizabeth, by the way.

Him: I’m Tim.

And then I almost dropped him.  In my defense, they have one key difference in the technique they require, so I had some adjusting to do.  While my mind was processing this adjustment, he took his “surprise fall” and I forgot to brake for about 30 seconds.  As I saw him dangling there, I was thinking “I’m forgetting something…this should be easier…I should do something…s*hit–brake!”  And then, I looked sheepishly at the test administrator.  “Sooo…I’m not going to pass you today.”

No kidding.  On the plus side, one failure does not require you to take the class.  When I went in on Friday, Joe was working and said, “We’re doing to do something about this today!”  A random dude came up to the counter to exchange his shoes.  Joe ignored his need.

Joe: You’ll climb for her, right?  Yeah.  He has to go through orientation.  You go get geared up and we’ll be ready for you to take your test.

 I looked at the guy who had a panicked look on his face.  Joe took the shoes and went to get a different size.  I looked at the poor soul and said,

Me: You don’t have to climb for me.

Random dude: Okay, yeah, thanks.  I–I don’t really know what’s going on.  I just needed a different size.

So I went to change and get my gear on.  But, I figured what the hell?  Why not continue the awkwardness of the day?  There were two other ladies changing in the bathroom so I decided to ask, “Are you ladies here with other people?”  That question led to a conversation with Marie who was there with her husband…who volunteered to be my guinea pig.

I only forgot to brake for about 10 seconds this time around.  And despite the fact that I had the belay device hooked on upside down and got my hair caught when I was lowering him down (there’s a second time for everything), Joe passed me.  I spent the rest of the evening hanging out with Marie, her husband, their son, and her husband’s lead climbing partner.

So, what did I learn from this?  Even though I nearly kill a random stranger on Tuesday doesn’t mean that I will nearly kill a random stranger on Friday.

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