In Which We Had a Jack Bauer-Like Adventure

My husband is a structural steel detailer (which means he makes 3D models of structural steel and blueprints and stuff like that), and sometimes he gets to work on pretty cool jobs. He loves checking out his work after construction. He is always especially proud of things that were very difficult or artistic.

The veil meets both of those requirements, so it just might be his detailing crowning glory.

The veil is the top of the 41 floor, 700 foot tall Symphony Center building in midtown Atlanta. He just modeled & detailed the top portion of it, which was very unconventional and was extraordinarily intricate and difficult. The veil, according to him, is “a pair of 6-story 3D space trusses with radiused outer chords that support the extended glass curtainwall”. Whatever that means.

We have many pictures of this building. Many. Including one that he took off the TV last week, when the building was all lit up in the background of a Dave Matthews concert at Piedmont Park.

You might call it an obsession.

But it is a pretty cool building. Here is what it looks like:
To show how much it sticks out in the Atlanta skyline, here’s a view from Piedmont Park:
So anyway, it was being finished up in 2006, when we happened to be coming back through Atlanta during an amazing anniversary trip to St. Simon’s Island. We stayed overnight in Atlanta, and before we left the next morning, Chris wanted to drive over and see his work of art.

So we headed to midtown and found his mistress of steel.

We parked a couple of blocks away and walked over. We saw the overpowering view from the ground:
Now I absolutely love heights, and Chris absolutely loves his veil, so together, we took our adventure a step further.

Chris wanted to see the veil up close, but you can’t just walk up to a construction site and gain access, especially when said construction site is a partially open & occupied, partially under construction skyscraper that is the new headquarters of one of the world’s biggest law firms, among other things.

Since we had been on vacation, we had a nice change of clothes (convenient), and since it was a weekday, the place was a hub of activity (easy to blend in).

His story was that we were representatives of a subcontractor for the general contractor and we were there to check up on our work. That was technically true, although very unecessary.

So we headed into the lobby, acting as professionally as possible.
Because nothing says professional like taking touristy photos in front of the building.

There was already security in the lobby. There were concierges at a desk and card readers to get to the elevators. Strike one.

So we approach the concierge desk. Chris tells the security guard our story, and he doesn’t have much of a poker face.

The concierge said, “Hold On”, and picked up the phone.

Our hearts started beating as if we were Jack Bauer and Chloe O’Brien in the middle of a mission with our cover about to be blown before our eyes. I know, I know, Chloe works in-office and doesn’t usually go on missions, but she’s the only girl that’s survived so far, so I choose to be her.

He talked quietly for a few moments, and then said, “Okay.”

Relief and fear.

They told security to let us through the gates to the elevators and told us to take the real elevator to the 21st floor and then to get on the construction elevator. And next time, please take the construction entrance through the parking garage, with the annoyed disdain that said we should have known that, which proves assumption on their part that we should have even been there at all.

He lets us through the security checkpoint with his nifty card, where there is one of those high class elevator guys that asks in a low voice, “Whaaat Flooor, siiirr?”

We get off the glistening marble elevator at the 21st floor and there is nothing there but concrete… No walls, no windows, just cool air and hardhats. We make our way to the neither glistening nor marble construction elevator, which is operated by an exceptionally talkative and large fellow who likes to tell everyone how the elevator falls 5 or 10 floors every so often. He asks where we are headed and we say the roof. The elevator stops every so often, and people continue to get off, until its just us and the operator.

We get to 41, and he says, “Go through the door and to the left. You will find a stairwell that will take you on the roof.”

It’s nicely finished, empty, and quiet. we walk up to the door, and see this sign:
“Special Matters and Government Investigations.” Now we REALLY feel like Jack and Chloe. We are in total adventure mode – adrenaline pumping, pretending that we are oh-so-much more important and sneaky than we are.

We open the door, look left, look right, and try to find the stairwell. Easy enough. The stairwell has an extra flight up to the roof. The door opens, and out we step into the breeze, over 600 ft off the street.

The door closes behind us, and then we hear it… The all-too-cliche, just a little too loud CLICK.

Oh yeah, it locked behind us.

However, off to the left, we see a 2 Mexican workers eating lunch on the roof, so we assume that they can point us in the right direction when we’re ready to leave. We set off to enjoy our sought after adventure.

It was SO windy.

And SO high.

Where we were, to understand, was on the roof of the actual building, which is where Chris’ work started – the artistic “veil”, or what looks like batwings to me. So in the pictures, we’re looking off the roof and up at Chris’ work.

Notice how much higher we are than the other high rises in Atlanta:
I got WAY closer to the edge than Chris wanted me to to take this picture (that is Stone Mountain in the distance):
And a good upshot of Chris’ work (since we were, after all, “inspecting” it):
So we spent a good 20 minutes on the roof, while the Mexicans ate their lunch, and paid us no attention.

Once we were ready to move off of our high perch, we attempted communication, explaining with wild hand movements that the door locked behind us, and we needed them to let us off.

Finally, one said, “Ah”, nodding his head vigorously.

He took us over to another, less impressive door, presumably the service entrance.

Sure enough, it was a straight-down skinny, metal-runged ladder.

And I was wearing heels.

Much to the amusement of the Mexicans, I took off my shoes and dropped them to the bottom of the stairwell, and started down.

Once we both got down, we realized that we were nowhere familiar – on an entirely different floor.

After a bit of wandering around in the dark and messy unfinished floor, we finally found more construction workers, who told us that we had to take the stairs down a couple of floors to catch the elevator.

So we did.

The large talkative elevator operator was glad to see us again, and we must have stopped a dozen times on the way down to pick up and drop off drywall, wood, tools, people.

He took us all the way down to the aforementioned appropriate construction entrance in the parking garage, so we scurried up and out onto the sidewalk, before we got caught on our fake mission.

About a month later, we found out that we were pregnant (after 2 years of trying).

Adrenaline. It does the body good.

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Comments

  1. I’m not gonna lie–I was a little queasy when I was reading about yall being on the top and on the floor with NO WALLS…I’m am just THAT afraid of heights…

  2. The Wade's says:

    I could not, would not go on that roof. Not in a boat, not with a goat. Not in a house, not with a mouse.

    You get the picture….

  3. That was highly entertaining! (no that pun was not intended, but now that it’s there, it’s just too good to erase.)I was on the edge of my seat, expecting you to get caught at any moment. I’m glad you didn’t though, because it makes for a way more interesting story that you actually got away with it.

    So Ali is an anniversary celebration baby in addition to a miraculous answer to prayer! How fun! Harris and Amy Beth were both anniversary babies, too.

  4. What an entertaining story. I could never do anything like that. I am deathly afraid of heights (won’t even climb a ladder)plus I am terrible liar. I would not have gotten past secruity.

  5. Wow. You never told me about that. Sounds like it was fun.

  6. What a great story!! I enjoyed every bit of it. I just wish I had started watching 24 when it first started so I could relate to your character a bit more. :-)

    You guys are something else with your big adventure. Anyway, my hat’s off to your “mission accomplished”!

  7. Kitty Engle says:

    Ya’ll are nuts. LYB, kitty

  8. Wow! But I’m with The Wade’s….couldn’t do it.

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