How to Leap Down a Tall Building in a Single Bound
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because it’s time to take slides to the next level.
By Leslie Nguyen-Okwu
I’m not afraid of heights. That said, sliding off the side of a skyscraper feels like staring down the barrel of a gun. The ramp is made of solid glass, and I can see all the way down. All the way from the 70th floor. The barrage of wind against the glass doesn’t make me feel any better. I sense a Humpty Dumpty moment coming on.
Why take the stairs when you can whiz down a glass slide that’s hanging 1,000 feet up in the air above the cityscape? It’s one way, albeit a way of questionable sanity, to rise above the ominous blanket of orange haze over Los Angeles. Or it’s a daredevil’s speedy alternative to the escalator. Normally, slides are the stuff of childhood — the fond memories of flimsy plastic melting underneath the hot sun or the bum burns you discover after chafing. Google’s upped the ante with its own Seussian slide for office funsters and barely grown techies. But the slide that dangles from the top of the colossal U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles is another breed of crazy.
Flirting with death on glass is not for the faint of heart.
The OUE Skyspace LA slide weighs a whopping 8,000 pounds and is built to power through hurricane-force winds of up to 110 miles per hour and withstand catastrophic earthquakes. I can’t help but marvel at the architectural feat, yet I feel frightfully skeptical about the fate that awaits me at the other side. I’d be safe from Hurricane Katrina in there, but would I make it out the other end alive? “Hundreds of thousands of people have safely gone down the slide,” assures Ray Serafin, general manager of OUE Skyspace LA observatory. “Everyone enjoys the rush of being suspended 1,000 feet above the ground in a glass enclosure.”
His promise of thrills doesn’t quell my fears one bit. Only 13 days after opening, the world’s largest glass-bottomed bridge at Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon in China closed indefinitely in September because of “overwhelming demand” and unspecified “technical issues.” A few years ago in 2014, the glass floor of Ledge — a skywalk that juts out from Chicago’s Willis Tower on the 103rd floor — suddenly cracked. Whether gliding down or crawling across, flirting with death on glass is not for the faint of heart. Just ask “visual cliff” psychologists Gibson and Walk, who infamously tricked babies into walking off the edge of glass tables in the 1960s.
Back on top of the slide, I swallow my fear and push off, plummeting toward the concrete below. But the hair-raising ride lasts only seconds, from the 70th to the 69th floor. It’s over before I can even scream. Turns out, I had nothing to be scared of.