There’s a guy I know who works in my building who has cut caffeine out of his diet, resorting to green tea as an alternative to coffee which he used to drink quite frequently. While I find green tea as appealing of an alternative to coffee as chicken noodle soup to steak (only preferring these if I am really ill), I suppose since he is in excellent physical shape there’s not much else he can do to improve on his Greek-god like body. When my doctor regards my pathetic tabernacle and finds out that I drink coffee with my stable of Blizzards, Dilly Bars, and Buster Bars, he tells me to lay off the ice cream then leaves the examining room with a whoosh of his lab coat; nothing about cutting down on cafe. So you see caffeine is the least of my worries. Anyway, I don’t really drink that much – less than three cups a day. It is the mass consumption of Dairy Queen Products, not to mention, bread, rice, potatoes, and second helpings of all the above and more that I need to declare a moratorium on.
But there’s change in the air, my dear two readers! A couple of weeks ago my old friend Monique came down to the dungeon where I work and asked if I would like to walk to the seventh floor with her. “Why, are the elevators out?” She looked at me the way my wife does when I’ve reloaded too many times at the Indian casino buffet. “Oh, you want me to exercise with you; got it!” I said figuring out her glare. I didn’t really get a chance to think over the offer when she ducked in the stairwell and motioned me in – like she was going to dish some delicious dirt.
Leading the way, I started yakking about how our old manager “used to take these stairs everywhere – never using the elevator unless he was accompanying the director and that it was probably bad news for who ever they were going to visit and definitely bad news for our old manag,” “Be quiet!,” she said cutting me off. “Preserve your energy,” she gasped half-way between the basement and the first floor. It was too late my weight, my atrophied legs, and my jacking jaw did me in already. By the time we made it to Floor Seven I could feel my pulse through my eyeballs and my legs were quaking like an extended arm balancing a cane in the palm of the hand. When we walked all the way down the stairs Monique said we should do this once a day. I don’t know what evil spirit was in me at the time, but before I could scream “Are you out of your flippin’ mind?” a voice from somewhere in my throbbing melon said “Sure Monique, let’s do it.”
The next morning I was so sore I could barely stand up. I felt I needed a day or two to, as I told my wife “let the muscles relax and grow.” My wife, the nurse, did not side with me, “No, you need to continue.” We argued, but it was no use. My wife has the license and the big medical terms – all I have is the pleading lingo that has never worked with her.
After two weeks of this routine my legs stopped being sore, but I was still winded every time we did the walk. Besides these walks I also started taking the stairs whenever when I move about the building from floor to floor. This also included scheduled trips like going to an 8:30 meeting on the Sixth Floor every morning. When I walk into these meetings I can’t help but wonder if anyone can tell I am attempting to catch my breath and, at the same time, attempting to cover it up. I don’t know how dangerous this is – trying to breath regularly when you want to gasp. When scaling the six floor to the morning meeting a seemingly insignificant item as a planner becomes a boat anchor after Floor Four and by the time I reach my destination, before I open the stairwell door stagger out into the lobby, I am thankful that I never write in the damn thing – ink is just more weight.
I also, have scheduled trips every Monday, Wednesday mornings and Friday afternoons. On these trips I carry out-of-date two-pound data collectors and extra batteries to stations on the fifth and second floors. Not one trip to the fifth floor passes where I don’t have the urge to test the drop specifications of these “bricks-on-sticks.”
As an exercising tool you can’t make the stairwell stepping experience sexy. “It’s like the StairMaster, but more dangerous!” See what I mean. I suppose you could dress down, put a towel around your neck and work out in the stairwell during lunch, but who would want to smell B.O. in a confined place like a staircase?
Every once in a while we’ll run into someone who appears to be doing the same thing we are – they aren’t carrying anything and have that deep breathing in concert with a look of purpose on their faces as if this ugly, puke-yellow staircase is where they want to be, instead of the best cardio workout-while-you-work routine. Then there are the annoying guys who are just moving from one floor down to the next because it’s faster than the elevators. These are the guys who like to gallop down the stairs, staying airborne for too long at times, as if the laws of physics don’t apply to them. I swing wide on the landings to let them pass, but the gallop turns into a steady pace as I proceed down the next traverse only for them to start up with that gallop again. I feel a little like Ichabod Crane, afraid to turn around and face my pursuer who is in such a hurry, but refuses to overtake me.
The stairwell is a place where you find out just what kind of people these fellow stairwell travelers are. I suppose you could say the same thing about elevator sojourners. One of my more sophomoric, not to mention dangerous, elevator tricks when I worked as an evening proof reader in a near-vacant thirteen-floor building was to attempt to pry open the elevator doors when the car was in full motion. Boom! The elevator would perform an emergency stop, making the passengers feel their weight displace with a light, but significant thud. I stopped performing this little squealer when the car stopped between floors and stuck there. I was trying to impress the two female proofers I was with at the time. We were stuck there for three hours where I learned a lot about those elevator travelers.
Another trick I learned – this one from my high school sociology teacher – is that people will always balance out the spaces between fellow elevator travelers as more people leave a full elevator on a long trip. I would not move – occasionally pining someone to a corner of the cab as it continued its move up (or down) the empty out. My victim would finally get out in a huff before their appointed stop or would ask if I would move over.
I don’t know of any tricks for the stairwell and I don’t think I want to learn any. It has become a necessary evil until I get in shape; that and trying to lay off the Dilly Bars, but there’s no way I’m going to exchange coffee for green tea!