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Claustrophobia maximatum


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9 years crawling now. I get into some pretty tight spots sometimes. Last Thursday it was crawl across an addition built over the old driveway. 12" clearance deal 18 ft or so, then off to the left. The main house was about 12" at the joists too. Furnace duct to the left, perimeter to the right. Had to go under a drain via a ditch. Maybe 10" clearance. Turn left go through a bunch of left over wire, over a drain, under two beams all via a long narrow ditch. Again some 10" squeezes. Width about 20". I've got overalls on, knee pads, elbow guards. I get to the far wall and think about not getting hot, which I am. I look down the perimeter to the far end, like 20 feet away, and think about going down there which doesn't have much room either, make a right, go a little further and get stuck way over there. Maybe have to turn around and come out the same way. Uh oh, I feel it coming on. I back up 7 feet to were there is a vent. Yikes, let me out of here. Start freaking out. I'm looking out the vent like a prisoner in Vietnam. Settle down I tells myself. Get cooled off. I see my client's legs as they walk by the vent. I say nothing. They might make it worse for me if they realized I was flipping out. 5 minutes go buy. I start to cool off. I start to regain composure. I turned around and got the hell out of there.

Besides the vertical clearance being really low, the passage way was very narrow and filled with obstacles.

If it's tight and hot, think not.

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Put this in your arsenal before you go in (in summer): "If a bee's nest blows up.. what I do then.?" (Happened to me)... The fact your destination did not have a proper access is a defect in itself... Fortunately for me, I was 100% Tyvek with gloves and a respirator.. and didn't get stung .. but I got a hell of a contusion on my hip on the way out... :)

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I did a foundation retrofit project several years back on a house built on piers. Most of the crawl space had decent height, and you could duck-walk or crawl, but there was one area that was basically un-excavated and much too tight. You had to belly crawl/slide up onto a hump of soil, pressing yourself against a large duct, then work your way along between joists for several feet, until you were in a slightly more open spot in a corner where moving around and working was possible but still very tight. We had to strip concrete forms in that area for part of a day, and the instinct to panic was surprisingly strong. I knew I could not go in there alone.

Two of us went in to do it, and we took turns, one guy going all the way in and working, the other guy staying back for moral support and conversation. Switch every 15 minutes or so. Another guy was outside working and I told him that if necessary he would go into the house and cut out a section of subfloor to get us out. Doubtful that would ever happen but it felt good saying it.

I would never do another job like that, but it was 2009 and there was absolutely nothing else to do.

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Was a member of a rescue squad. During our training we started out easy and increased the stress level over the day until people were doing things they thought were not possible. I held national certifications in confined space, trench and building collapse rescue and trained other rescue squads and fire departments.

There were training days I was overjoyed to be looking down from the 1000 ft platform of a TV broadcast tower and days I had to sit, close my eyes and talk to myself at only 150 feet.

Saw some of the biggest burly guys totally freak out. Some it was heights, some it was the dark, some if was the tight space. We wanted to find out who would crack during training so when it came to an actual rescue we knew who needed to be support and who should be going into the hot zone.

Sounds like you were able to manage your fears. You will be better next time. It is mostly a mental game. If you let your fears run too long, you freeze up. Congratulations on coming out the other side.

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When I do a tight crawl space, I always take a small shovel in with me. It's actually an old Army entrenching tool. It makes a good tool for clearing spider webs from my path, a good weapon if ever needed, most importantly, it permits me to make my way under tight spaces and will always get me out if I get stuck, which has happened several times over the years.

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