• Field Notes 19.08.2010

    Ok, I know this is going to date me, but how many of you remember the TV show “Sea Hunt?”  Lloyd Bridges, before the movie “Airport,” had a scuba diving drama show where he got into and out of trouble for 30 minutes every Saturday night. And every kid wanted to be just like Lloyd, so we bought diving masks and snorkeling tubes – ’cause they were cheaper than scuba tanks, lead belts, wet suits and lessons. But the first time you put on a diving mask, weren’t you startled about how much clearer everything became when you went under?

    For seeing clearly under the water, whatever happened to glass-bottomed boats? If the water was shallow enough, you could see what was happening below. And if the glass broke, at least you had a life preserver nearby (or should have had), or you could swim to shore. Ah, the good ol’ days …

    But the USGNN.com™ newsletter recently had a story on a glass-bottom gondola on a hot-air balloon. As if looking over the edge of a wicker basket X number of feet up in the air wasn’t enough. And having nothing between you and the ground except the wicker basket bottom was SO much more comforting. Right.

    This glass bottom thing’s gone too far. Don’t get me wrong, I like tall buildings, but I will admit I like something very firm, visually and literally, under my feet. I go in tall buildings all the time, prefer the inside, not the outside for obvious reasons. But some of these recent projects really test one’s resolve.

    We have a glass-bottomed horseshoe cantilevered out over the Grand Canyon. As if standing a couple of hundred feet back looking out over the edge isn’t impressive enough. I hear tell they make you take off your shoes and put on cloth footies so the glass isn’t scratched, which keeps the view unobstructed. Sure it isn’t to make sure the scratches don’t lead to glass breakage and the sudden need for a base-jumping parachute?

    We have glass-bottomed observation platforms sticking out of tall buildings such as the Sears Tower (sorry, Willis – talk about a name change that’ll never take) in Chicago. They push it out during business hours from the observation deck 102 stories up and pull it in at night. And you can look straight down. To the street. They make you wear cloth footies too, probably for the same reasons as above. No thanks. It’s all I could do to get on a jobsite personnel lift that first time with a steel or aluminum diamond plate floor between me and the ground. Overcoming that fear only over time. Frequency makes the heart stouter, but doesn’t lessen the initial impact.

    Maybe that’s the attraction for all the glass bottom stuff:  how often are you really going to do it? And if you live, you can tell anybody who will listen all about it …

    We’re also doing glass floors here at TGP. Some glass floors don’t have the same visual impact as the Sears Tower observation deck because you don’t want people to be able to look up from below, so the glass is translucent. But at TGP, true to our lineage, a floor can be fire-rated. Can you imagine having to exit a building across a floor where there’s a fire below? The floors have been tested by UL, and they are safe. But who’da thunk it?

    So what’s next?  Or better yet, what things should never have glass-bottom prefixes attached to them?

    Glass-bottomed submarines? They make spherical domes of glass for deep-water submersibles, or are they acrylic? That’s scary enough! One crack in that glass, and a gazillion feet from the surface it’s probably too late to check the warranty, or ask for the manufacturer to come out to the site for an inspection, don’t you think?

    Glass-bottomed airplanes? Boeing’s just getting a 787 off the ground that’s supposed to be mostly composites, but fiberglass or carbon fiber are not the same as a clear bottom. And if they have to design the glass to flex, no thanks. I’ve stood in test chambers for 15-minute dynamic tests and seen glass flex. It’s never broken, but if it had, at least you’re standing on a floor inside the chamber. What happens at 30,000 feet if the glass breaks on the bottom of an airplane? Do you really want to see the ground going by at 180 mph at take off and landing? Not me.

    I know there are people who ride hanging stages much more frequently than I do, but don’t sign me up for ANY first, last or anywhere if between me and the ground is a glass bottom. I’d like to think I’m going home that night, and I’m insecure as all get out riding a regular stage, and now it has a glass bottom on it? Nope, not this boy.

    Glass bottom cars?  Ok, that might be cool. As long as the seat’s got other means of STEEL support, and won’t drop through the floor if the glass breaks. But keeping your eye on the road, not on the blazing rush of asphalt or concrete going by doesn’t make this feasible.

    So for all you daredevils out there, who they keep building glass-bottom stuff for, so be it. But maybe not me. Some things, like Rocky Mountain Oysters, just don’t make any sense. Who’d want to do that?

    Posted by Blogger @ 9:08 am

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