I am an idiot, a stupid blithering idiot who never ever learns from his mistakes.
Why am I being so hard on myself?
I’ve just been away for a few days to visit friends in Abu Dhabi, the friends who owned Liquorice, our hellcat, before we did. And before you ask, the hellcat is, for once, not the subject of this post. I’ll tell you about the trip in a future post, but for now I have to focus on one particular aspect of it that highlights how stupid I am.
Before the trip, Mrs PM asked me a question.
“Do you want to go to up the Burj Khalifa?”
“The what?” I asked.
“The Burj Khalifa – the world’s biggest building. You know, the one that Tom Cruise climbs in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.”
Regular readers will know where this is going. For new readers, you need to know a fact about me; I am scared of heights. In fact, I am so scared that I can’t even look up at a tall building without suffering a bout of knee-trembling dizziness, sheer panic and breathless nausea; a sort of inverse vertigo, if you like.
In 2005, Mrs PM persuaded me to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I should never have done that. I am an idiot. Here is proof:
Mrs PM thoroughly enjoyed herself and the look of serenity on her face is genuine, whereas for me the calm look of serenity on my face is masking a turbulent, heart-wrenching, gut-tearing panic.
When I thought about the bridge climb, I considered the prospect of the Burj Khalifa.
“No way,” I said.
“You’ll be inside,” she said. “There’s no way you will fall.”
My answer was “NO” and it stayed “NO”.
That was, until I considered it. And that’s why I am an idiot. I persuaded myself this time. This is how my thought processes ticked over:
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You’ve climbed the Eiffel Tower, the CN Tower, the Empire State Building and you have survived. The Burj Khalifa is a masterpiece of architecture – a modern wonder of the world. You will be safely screened behind glass and you cannot possibly fall. You will not be outside. You will not die. The views will be spectacular. And besides, you will be accompanied by Mrs PM and Sarah, another friend. What could possibly go wrong?
Before I go on let me tell you about the Burj Khalifa.
It is the tallest building in the world and also the tallest free standing structure. It is over 820 metres tall – that’s over four fifths of a kilometre.
In a moment of madness (and I am very prone to such impulsive bouts of insane stupidity), I said “Yes” – and Mrs PM booked it online.
And now to the trip.
As we approached Dubai in the car, I peered out of the window searching for the skyline. I spotted a couple of tall buildings and thought “That’s not too bad”.
And then I saw it. It looked small at first but as we approached, it seemed to grow, like a mad grizzly hulk raising itself to full height. Adam, our friend who was driving said:
“There’s the Burj Khalifa”.
“It’s not so big,” I said.
“It bloody well is,” he replied. “We’re still miles away from it.”
As the building seemed to rise out of the ground, I shrank into a little ball.
Was it too late to back out? Of course it was. My ego, a little voice screaming out in a crowd of utter chaos, cried:
“YOU HAVE TO DO THIS! EVERYBODY WILL THINK YOU ARE A TOTAL COWARD”.
Captain Paranoia said:
“Did you know the building moves in the wind? It will blow over and take you with it.”
Our hosts, Adam and Abbi, opted to wait for us in the adjoining shopping mall because they were climbing the Burj Khalifa at a later date, while Mrs PM, Sarah and I found our way to the “Climb to the Top of the World”.
The very phrase made my legs tremble.
“Are you OK?” asked Mrs PM.
“Yes,” I lied, allowing my ego to lie on my behalf.
“So did Tom Cruise really hang off this building with just wires?” asked Sarah making casual conversation as we queued up for the lift.
“Yes,” said Mrs PM. “He did all of his own stunts.”
I watched Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol in the cinema and remember one thing about the section of the film in Dubai – watching Tom Cruise on a big screen and feeling vertigo, watching him throw himself about at insane heights.
We entered the lift and as it set off at high speed, I began to feel my ears pop. Accompanying this disconcerting feeling, the count of the floors raced upwards so fast that it had reached 124 before I could blink. The fast lift was accompanied by the deafening soundtrack of a rocket taking off.
“How many floors does it have?” asked Sarah.
“160,” replied Mrs PM.
“So we’re not at the top then,” said Mrs PM.
That was a relief.
And then the doors opened. And although we were inside protected from the outside by huge panes of glass, I saw a sight that made my legs almost cave in:
A revolving door leading OUTSIDE to an OBSERVATION DECK.
I blindly followed Mrs PM and Sarah through the door and felt the wind, unimpeded by any other tall buildings, blowing a gale. There was glass protecting us from the very outside but when I looked up, all I saw the rest of the building - and it looked like another skyscraper! I was suddenly caught between a serious bout of vertigo and inverse vertigo. You might think that they cancelled each other out - they didn't.
Instead, my poor brain reeled in total confusion and disorientation.
That was it. My knees buckled, my heart lurched, a massive dizzy spell slapped me in the face and I stammered an apology to the girls as I lurched back towards the revolving door.
“I’m going inside,” I almost screamed.
I watched as Mrs PM and Sarah went right up to the glass and peered out, marvelling at the cityscape below.
I very nearly shat myself.
I managed to stand inside some six feet from the window and enjoy the view with trembling legs.
I slowly walked around the inside observation deck and my thoughts went back to Tom Cruise and his fearlessness. And if you doubted his fearlessness – here he is right at the very top of the building.
Back inside, Mrs PM spotted an ATM machine for gold. Such is the opulence in the United Arab Emirates that it is possible to buy gold from an ATM. Mrs PM thought it would be a good idea for me to pretend to be buying some as it might make a good photo.
Sadly, the gold machine was a little too close to the window, so with my heart in my mouth I posed for her again.
Here is the photo.
That was the second attempt. Here is the first, which gives you some indication how terrified I was as I yelled “JUST HURRY UP AND TAKE THE BLOODY THING!”
Thankfully, I lived to tell the tale and can now add the Burj Khalifa to the many huge structures I have stupidly climbed.
Here’s a photo of where I would prefer to be in relation to the building – at the bloody bottom!
I was actually scared of being in this photo too because inverse vertigo had kicked in. Here is the building in its pure, unadulterated and terrifying glory.
So dear reader, there you have it. I am stupid.
And I just want to make a statement, for myself, for Mrs PM, for Captain Paranoia and my idiotic ego.
If anybody, anywhere builds anything taller than the Burj Khalifa – I AM NOT CLIMBING THE BLOODY THING!!!!