10 Weeks 10 Dates #8: On the Rocksby: Julie and Zane on 2010-07-21
This is the first of two dates dedicated to our blog viewers from Hers and His who voted for a Viewer's Choice Date. It was a tie vote, twice, so we are doing both rock climbing, and next week, Segways! Here's to you guys, thanks for the support!
Let me preface this by saying I love adventure. I may hate heights, but I'm willing to shake that up every once in a while. I have even been rock climbing in the past. Twice. And had fun, despite crying a little once when I had to figure out how to get down. But this date...well, it started with high hopes, pun intended, but ended a bit rocky.
When last you heard from your friendly neighborhood bloggers we were sitting comfortably, eleven rows from right field at a Mets game. This week, we find ourselves straining to climb four feet off the ground at the local Rock Gym.
Using my awesome powers of persuasiveness, and 3 consecutive weeks of phone calls, I scored us free passes to the local gym. They boast a 30-foot indoor wall and even named the gym "The Rock." We arrived on a Saturday evening, hoping the meatheads were all out oiling their muscles in preparation for a night of fist pumping in the city. We lucked out and it was pretty empty, but no one warned me of the massive staircase you must ascend before evening entering the workout area. I was already winded. Bring on the wall!
I have a fairly casual past with rock climbing; I had a birthday party at a rock-climbing facility, I visited the rock wall at my school's gym multiple times with friends and I'm generally a fan of hiking. Naturally I would see this idea as old hat. However, I'm not sure what happened since the last time I climbed, a few years ago, but the activity has grown much more difficult. I don't know whether it was the months of couch vegging or the Old E still kicking around in my stomach from a previous night, but I was far from the Spiderman I was envisioning.
Suzy "Hates Her Job" Receptionist "welcomed" us upon entering the gym, if you consider welcoming uncomfortably pausing her very important flirting and staring straight at us until we explain why on Earth we'd be at her counter. She processed our passes and when we asked her where the rock climbing wall was, she pointed it out across the way. There, to the side of the gym and in full view of all 12 middle aged gym rats, stood the 30-foot monster that was ready to kick our butts. "Oh," she chomped her gum and casually added, "only the right side works."
Standing in the gym brought me back to my days at the YMCA. One of the greatest perks of working at a YMCA as a counselor is the free gym membership. It was there that I learned the meaning of pacing one's self. I'm the kind of person that plays full on, gives it my all, dives in head first, and invariably winds up throwing up from working out too much on the first day.
Wide-eyed we assessed our situation. Okay, we can do this. Wall, check. Belay, check. Harness, che- wait, where are the harnesses? We look around, saw a bag of chalk and a sign posted on the wall entitled "Rock Climbing 101." Well, that ought to help us! We go over and end up learning about the history of rock climbing but not a single mention of how to actually perform the feat. Personally, I feel that's more of a "201" lesson, but hey, not my area of expertise. In search of our illusive harnesses… and maybe a guide/"witness to our deaths" we went back to Suzy "Oh God, Not You Two Again" Receptionist.
"Oh, did you want harnesses?" No lady, we just thought we'd strap the hook to our belt loops and pray a little. "Yes, please." She went to the drawer of harnesses, opened it and the paused. Looking over at us, she squinted a little assessing how fat we were. You could literally see the math going through her mind, probably factoring in my squat stature to the ratio of arm jiggle. I cursed her in my mind. And ended up getting a medium harness. Zane somehow got a large, so that made me feel better. Ironically, or sadly, depending on who you are, Zane ended up needing the Medium and I (triumph!!) was brought a small. Take THAT Suzy!
We met a super upbeat guy named Justin who encapsulated everything I'd look for in a gym employee. Peppy, almost to a fault, and encouraging. If I was going to make it up to the top, Justin was going to be my rock. He confirmed our secure S&M"esque" harness belts and then did what people at this gym do best, he wished us good luck and went about his business. Now, you're probably thinking I'd like for my instructor to be hands off, but when height is involved, I'd prefer to be smothered with attention and when necessary, hugging, to ensure my safety.
Left alone with the wall, we learned that the right side, the only working side, also happened to be the challenging side. If we wanted to take the easy path, we'd have to go about it the hard way. This "auto belay" apparently "knew" when we needed support and at the first sign of falling to our death, it would kick in like a stuck Toyota pedal. In theory, great. The wonders of science are terrific. But not when it's me who has to feel that "falling to my death" moment every single time before this smarty pants machine would slow down my medium-sized behind.
"Ok! That's good!" I say kicking off the wall from my third foot-hold. What could be so hard about scaling a 30 foot wall of fake rock? Being on the designated "hard" side perhaps. Approaching the wall it became apparent that the right side was the more difficult of the two. Rather than a straight trail up, littered with pegs and hand-holds, ours was sparse when it came to things we could hoist ourselves up with. Oh...and it jutted out 30 degrees half-way up.
I think I'll choose to blame the auto-belay and its lack of emotional support. As if operated by some texting teenager, the auto-belay does little to create a sense of security, as every time you drop it allows for a few inches of free fall. As issue which would seem minute in design, but in practice inspires acrophobia in even the most daring date-bloggers.
I got myself up as far as I could. Convincing myself that if the auto belay didn't kick in this time I'd only suffer a sprain, or the next time, a break, or the highest I went would only lead to slight head trauma. If you consider this guessing game fun, then that's the most fun time of the date. At least Zane and I were on the same page. We encouraged each other as much as possible but when it came down to it, we just wanted to make sure each other were safe. In the end we maybe spent a total of 30 minutes "climbing" and half of that was just making sure the camera angle looked like we were really high up.
While a groin pull may sound like the makings of a memorable date, not so when it comes from chickening out. I would say I was probably doing it wrong but considering there was no one there to tell me how to do it "right" we were on our own, save for a friendly gentleman giving us the "you'll get it" tutorial.
The most unnerving aspect of the auto-belay system is that, unlike conventional belaying there is no moment of pause to return to the wall. You kick off, fully expecting to return to the wall shortly before descending a little more, but instead, you kick and never see the wall again. It's obvious, the belay machine has been waiting for this moment for a long time since it responds with a big "F*** YEAH! We're going down!!" sending you careening over nearby equipment located a "safe distance" away from the landing cushions barricaded only by a small two foot tall rope fence. If anything it fulfilled my desire for the little bit of Spiderman role-playing I was looking for.
Go somewhere with an instructor who actually holds the rope. Old school is where it's at. I've had a ton of fun in the past doing this, and think that encouraging each other would be a nice date. Although ultimately, if one of you is a rock star climber and the other not so much, it might feel a little lopsided. The best thing to come out of this date was both Z and I realized what little upper body strength we had, and if we ever plan to achieve our big finale date, we better start working out now. 3 out of 10.
Much more than our Yoga date, this one was exercise! There is no hiding that. If being surrounded by sweaty people pumping iron isn't a good tip off, then taking your first few steps will quickly teach you. If you or your date has any problems with heights, this date will go south quickly. If you know and enjoy rock climbing then you really don't need my opinion, but as it stands from someone looking for a hot date on a whim, I say keep the gym for the weeks preceding your big date. I give this 2 "feet off the ground is all I can do, I swear!" out of 10.
About the Authors
Julie and Zane have been dating 2 years and have moved a combined total of 5 times. After moving in together for the first time, they began a blog entitled Hers & His to record their adventures of living together and to avoid having to repeat stories for their parents. They enjoy exploring their city of New York, Law & Order: SVU, Sushi and Jeopardy. Julie works in marketing and Zane is a video editor. They are the proud parents of a handsome little kitten named Buster. Even when life becomes as mundane as it can be, they always find a way to make it feel epic.