I am quite a tall person – roughly as tall as a garden wall, or a little shorter than a ceiling. I duck under doors and get cooed over by old ladies in chip shops. It is a good thing, a lot of the time.
Being tall is a permanent state of being, of course. This means that I have always seen the world through the eyes of a tall person, as I can’t really remember any times prior to being around 13 in any meaningful detail. To me, an eye-line at roughly 6’4” is the norm, and my perception of the world hangs upon it. After all, tall people get a unique view of the world, much like worms or fleas do. We see the hidden places – the places where people put things to forget about them, areas in towns where no graffiti has been daubed, spaces over and above things where secrets lie. I can see the top of the lockers at school, for example. Fascinating hoards of miscellany can be discovered there – old pens, bits of paper, ragged lumps of food, mouldering old doughnuts. They all inhabit this dead zone where no normal people visit. They belong there. The tops of vans are equally intriguing. Rarely seen by human eyes, apart from those souls that linger on motorway service station skyways, they offer a fascinating glimpse of the unknown: there is nothing particularly to see, you understand; it’s more that you are glimpsing virgin territory when you look at the roof of a transit van.
The deep recesses in train’s over-head shelves can’t escape my gaze, and nor can top shelves. Top-most shelves are always the best of all. That’s where we put all of our least wanted paraphernalia – things we can’t quite do away with, but things we don’t want to consider in a meaningful sense. It is a relegation zone far more potent than the bottom shelf (that’s where we put our guilty pleasures), and yet I see them in every house I visit. As a fan of the forgotten and abandoned, these bleak spots are an endless source of fascination – a top shelf filled with books offers a glimpse into the psyche of an individual that years of intimate friendship cannot beat. A shelf lined with dusty ornaments and trinkets paints a picture of a long life of endless unwanted Christmas presents, and their associated cocktail of emotions: guilt, disappointment and fury. A top shelf of records points to a careless obsessive, a nostalgic clutz clutching his vinyl, but no longer interested in ever playing it again. To tall people, this is all on display. Beware ever inviting a tall person into your home.
But height is not always a blessing. Often it causes pain, discomfort, a certain sense of injustice. In the same way as a world designed for people of average height affords us illicit joys, so too it can ruin our day. Washing dishes is a painful chore, marked with tremendous pain in the lower back and shoulders. The pots and pans are far away, you see. Manhandling them is tiring, especially when bent-double over the sink. My head is so used to being whacked into things that it no longer hurts when I do. Rather than a searing jolt of pain when I crack the top of my head on the hood of the oven, I get a mild tickling sensation, twinned with a quizzical glance around the vicinity. I’m confident that if someone shot me in the head I would simply give it a quick rub and move on. Food is a constant issue for the very tall, too. Calorie intake is around 3500-4000, and this can be expensive. Vast piles of pasta, whole pizzas, massive steaks and whole gallons of water can be a very pricey breakfast. The trouble is that for someone around 6’7” to lift their arm to take a sip of coffee requires so much more energy! My left arm weighs around the same as a chest of drawers, and my legs weigh as much as three times this amount. It’s a wonder I get around at all.
So, next time you see a freakishly tall person, consider their lives. Think about all the strange things they’ve seen, and pity their pained, endlessly hungry lives.