Weather Forecast


Man with a ladder -- no explanation needed

The other day I saw a man walking down the sidewalk carrying a ladder under his arm. He had a long, purposeful stride and it appeared he had a job to do and he wasn't going to waste any time getting started. The ladder probably wasn't heavy. It looked to be about ten feet long and it was made of aluminum.

But the scene struck me as somewhat unusual. Not bizarre, just unusual. A ladder that size is usually hauled in a pickup or SUV. But not this ladder and not this guy. I was curious what the story might be.

If I were an artist there wouldn't have to be a story. I could just paint the guy and label the painting, "Man With A Ladder." We've all seen countless paintings with labels like "Woman With A Blue Hat," "Girl With Flowers," or "Boy And Man In A Sailboat." And there they are -- no explanation, no story. The painting may have just been an experiment with oils, acrylics or watercolors. It may have been an exercise in using different shades of blue. Or it may have been just a whim -- I see something vaguely interesting, so I'll paint it -- no explanation necessary. A photographer may have done the same thing for any of the same reasons or lack of reasons. We've all seen photographs of a boat just sitting there in the water doing nothing -- no story, no explanation. And how many pictures have we seen of a duck or a loon -- have I made my point?

But I'm not an artist or a photographer, so if I write about seeing a man with a ladder there has to be an explanation or a story. Writers are required to provide more than the silent mystery of a painting or a photograph.

So the story has to emerge out of an experience or an imagination. We don't know so we have to either speculate or drop the subject.

One could speculate that the guy was going to use the ladder to peep into somebody's shower room at about shower time. What a warped speculation. Nobody is going to carry a ladder down the sidewalk in broad daylight with a purpose like that in mind. Peepers are sneaks. Forget I even mentioned it.

He may have been headed to the ballpark where he could plant the ladder just outside the centerfield fence and watch the game without buying a ticket. That's not the same as crawling under or over the fence, it's just selecting his own reserved seat. If he's lucky he may catch a homerun ball and go home with a souvenir. If you saw a photograph of a guy carrying a ladder under one arm, but holding a baseball in his other hand, looking at it and grinning, with the ballpark just over his shoulder, you'd have the story all in one frame. That would demonstrate the occasional truth of the statement "A picture is worth a thousand words." But without the baseball and the ballpark we have to fill in our own blanks.

I know what you're thinking -- he needs the ladder to pick apples. That could be true two months from now, but today the apples are no bigger than golf balls and they're green. Too early for apples.

I know what else you're thinking too -- it doesn't have to be complicated -- the guy just needs the ladder to paint his garage. That could be a correct answer, but not if you'd seen him striding along the way I did. There was entirely too much energy, too much spring in his step to be heading for a garage painting job. I'm sorry if I seem to be projecting my own values into the scene, but this is art and I'm taking artistic license.

I'll take just one more stab at it. The ladder was a corporate ladder and this guy thought he could pull himself up by his own bootstraps and bring his own ladder to do the job. Wrong. There were dozens at the top stepping on his fingers when he grabbed the top rung and he never made it. So he's taking his ladder home and he's going to start something where he'll be his own boss and climb his own ladder. When he gets to the top he's going to reach down and pull others up instead of stepping on their fingers and pushing them down. That's why he has a purposeful stride and spring in his step. And that's why the "Man With A Ladder" is a work of art.

I invite you to participate. If you think the man with a ladder has a different story and a different purpose, write me and let me know.