My eyes were tightly closed while I felt the metallic rumble under my feet. A hundred thousand million people made this ascent before, I kept telling myself like a mantra while feeling a hysterical wave of panic trying to engulf my heart. A hundred thousand million people, maybe more. Don’t panic, please don’t panic.
I am not afraid of heights, I’ll let you know; what was scaring me was the elevator ride, which I felt was more unstable than it should be. The whole drama started, in fact, because while waiting for the ride I saw the compensation cables that hold the elevators (they are really thick because of the height that the machine climbs) and started to wonder when they had been put there – were they frequently changed or were they still the same that were installed back in 1889? (After a recent research I discovered that the cables are tested and checked every day – but here’s some trivia for you: some of the elevators in operation are, in fact, from 1889).
So there I was, trying to deal with my own anxiety, when a stupid boy looked at my face, decided I was as good a target as any other, and said “I bet this will fall down at any minute.” To add more drama to it, he started to jump and the elevator responded to the unexpected weight by trembling slightly. Everybody chastised him. “You’re a jerk,” a woman beside me spat out, and what had started as a minor bullying episode turned out to be a major failure for him. The boy grew red as a tomato and moved to the other end of the elevator.
My main focus was to control my heart; I didn’t want to lose my head before I had the chance to see what was so impressive about the view from above, so I deliberately ignored his provocations and the crowd’s reaction, directing my thought to the top. I am almost at the top. Goodness, were we going to the moon or what? The damn elevator never stopped.
Then it did. We got out; there was a horrible and nasty icy wind and I knew instantly that I would be sick later (and I was) because I didn’t have anything to protect my head. But it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered anymore. I got closer to the protected balcony, leaned in and absorbed the view from the top of Paris. Fear, panic and anxiety were all forgotten: I was at the top of the Eiffel Tower.
I had never given it too much credit. The Eiffel Tower was inaugurated in 1889, and since then it has been on most photos, videos, and books related to Paris. I had seen it personally from a distance a few times already, from other visits to the French capital. It’s nice and beautiful (especially when it’s night and the tower is all sparkly), but compared to other things I’ve seen, it wasn’t that much impressive.
But when I was there, 276 meters above the ground (the whole tower, including antennas, is 324 meters high) and looking at the Parisian horizon, I felt my heart jolt and twist. It was breathtaking.
[/caption]The experience was not only incredible because of the view, but also because it made me realize that it is a giant mistake to underestimate any human creation – especially the ones that are considered a world heritage.
I never thought about Paris the same way after that. Maybe it is a place that brings underestimation (as I said, too much presence everywhere makes us feel we know it already even if we don’t). But it surprises you because it proves that even though you’ve seen it a hundred thousand million times, it’s still new.
As life is, I suppose.