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A BIZARRO page from my notebook. Or why I always carry a camera.

Rule number one for a reporter or editor: Always carry your camera, ready to take a picture.

An event on Monday afternoon of this week serves to illustrate the wisdom of this advice: On a routine errand, driving down Westpark Drive, I happened to notice several ramps to the new Westpark Tollway were closed off by Constable and Police Cars. As curious as a newspaper person can be, I drove around another way to get a view of what might be happening. Was I surprised.

There standing on top of a 170’ tall electric transmission tower, was a man, balanced perfectly with no support.

Pulling into a parking lot, I found a lot of others watching, too. “What’s happening?’ I astutely asked, and learned that this man had climbed the tower over 4 hours earlier, and now the police, sheriffs, constables, Houston rescue squads, SWAT team, Houston Fire Department, ambulances, and even the federal terrorism authorities had gathered to watch and figure out what to do about it.

The electric company, which is now known as CenterPoint Energy, was also on hand, since it was their tower. They had the good sense to shut off the 345,000 volts that were pulsing through the lines only a few feet away from the man. They also were smart enough to have two trucks that could reach the top of the tower if needed. One had a height reach of 170’, the other 200’ feet tall.

Let me tell you, that is a long way up, looking from the ground. I can only imagine (no I can’t) how high it must have looked to that man, staring down in such a stoic way.

What was he thinking or feeling? What was his ultimate intention? The hundreds gathered below, curious, worried, or entertained, didn’t know. The first thought was that he would jump, but I am glad to say no one on the ground wished that for him. Was he trying to damage the electric line? He had plenty of time to do that before i arrived, so it must have been some other motive.

I was there several hours, not knowing how this would resolve itself, and hoping that my prayer and presence would bring some since.

The authorities either didn’t know how to deal with him, or they did. Besides talking to him in Spanish through a bullhorn, the only other thing they tried was to gather a lot of men and equipment, perhaps in a show of authority.

Anyway, the man moved around a bit, climbed partway down and then back up. Took off his shirt, put it back on.

Why?

We don’t know. The authorities finally decided that the best plan was to show him they had no interest. They began to pull their equipment away, they had ordered the helicapters to stay away, and at some point this climber decided his show was over, and he came down.

I must say, at that point he was treated by the Houston Police with care and concern.

Reportedly he told them he was depressed, had no job or legal papers, and saw no future. He was taken to a phsychiatric hospital for exam, but at this writing has not been charged with any crime.

So there is an unusual, but perhaps not too untypical, day in the life of a newsman.