The Stairwell

In an earlier entry, I was mulling the possibility of abstaining from elevators, in an effort to get into better physical shape.  I have not made good on that, but that is mainly because I usually arrive at my building on just this side of on time, so I surrender to the most expeditious method of getting to the 10th floor, the elevator.

I have reached a kind of middle ground for the time being.  At least once a day, I am walking from the 10th floor to the first floor, touching the door to the stairwell exit, and then turning around and heading back up to 10.  A friend of mine in the other section, who is close to 60, does this twice a day.  He may be looking at a hip replacement in the not too distant future, but he manages this exercise, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

He invited me along, more or less facetiously.  He came by my pod and suggested I do the walk with him, and I think he was quite astonished when, as soon as I finished typing the order on my monitor and sent it on to the hearing officer, I said, “Bring it on!”

I posted a blog entry two years ago (or thereabouts) in which I described climbing to the 31st floor of the building with another co-worker, a man who spends his entire lunch hour in the gym either lifting weights or on the treadmill.  I made it to the top, although he (and I, I admit) thought at one point I was on the verge of a heart attack.  (The offices of the Industrial Commission are on the 30th floor, but the floor above is for the air conditioning and heating equipment, and the motors for the elevators.)

Even with my daily two-mile walks, tackling the climb to the top of the building is, I feel,  a little out of my reach at the present time.  Unlike many athletes, especially extreme athletics, I hold fast to the “listen to your body” mantra that we tell children during toilet training.  I know there is a grain of truth to the idea of no pain, no gain when exercising, but I have a very low pain threshold, and have a streak of hypochondria that I try–not always successfully–to keep at bay.

Of course, the downward trip is easier.  I have had some slight balance issues because of a series of ear infections when I was a child, so I err on the side of caution and hang onto both handrails, both on the upward and downward trips.  Paradoxically, when I made the climb to the top of the building, coming down was worse.  I had stressed my knees so much going up that I was afraid they would buckle while coming down, and that I would go ass over teakettle all the way to the nearest landing, if not all the way down to the first floor.  That was when I was holding onto both railings with white knuckles.

I am not obsessive-compulsive, but I never feel the trip down is complete until I touch the door on the first floor which is the exit from the stairway.  When I make my lunchtime walk, I don’t turn around and begin the southward lap until I’ve touched a telephone pole at the corner of Park St. and W. First Ave.  I guess a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder would be if I could not make the trip without touching every parking meter or every railing between the beginning and end of the trip.

The walk is getting very slightly easier every day.  I’ve only done it twice a day once, but I usually go sometime between 10:30 and 10:45, usually with the friend who invited me.  It’s the next task on my agenda once I’ve opened and distributed the morning mail, and after doing that, I’m back in my cage pod typing orders and/or transcribing doctors’ reports.  I’ve managed to make the round trip usually in six or seven minutes.  (I use the stopwatch function on my watch, and then try to jot down the total in my pocket notebook once I’m back at my desk.)  Yes, I stumble out of the stairwell sounding like a landed fish, and I am dabbing sweat from my forehead and the back of my neck, but I try to keep my eye on the big picture and realize that, ultimately, this will pay off.  There isn’t much to see in the stairwell except cinder blocks and the pipes from the ductwork, but it’s a truly utilitarian part of the building.

I don't think anybody would believe me if I said I did the stair-climbing so I could admire the scenery.

I don’t think anybody would believe me if I said I did the stair-climbing so I could admire the scenery.

I learned about overtaxing myself in 2010, when my gallbladder was removed.  Yes, the recovery time is a lot shorter than when it was about 30 years ago–I was home from the hospital that night.  But, I began to go a little stir crazy from the bed rest after only a day or two.  I didn’t leave the bed except for trips to the bathroom, which was at the opposite end of the hallway.  I had considered leaving the house, pretty much against medical advice, but there had been a snowstorm while I was abed, and I was scared to death of falling and opening everything up.  I jumped at the chance to go outside (and downtown) when Steph needed me to go down to our credit union and cash a check.  I was able to do this, but when I came home, I knew I had overdone it, and I was back in bed for the next two days.

Many (but not all) of my co-workers only see the stairwell during a fire drill or when the security guards come on the loudspeaker and tell us, “Proceed to your safe area!”  (Safe areas are three floors below your current floor.)  When I first became a floor warden, I wondered about whether it was a good idea to congregate in the stairwells, especially if there was a fire.  Stairwells full of smoke become enormous chimneys, especially if someone opens a door.  However, the William Green Building, as do many other high-rises, have blowers and fans in the stairwells which will keep air moving, which would keep the air breathable until everyone was able to escape.

Sometimes I think that my friend and I should never do the stairwell separately.  With my aneurysm and his hip, there is a possibility–however slight–of some type of medical emergency.  Cell service is not the most reliable in the stairwell.

When I learned that I had the aneurysm, I vowed that I would not let it turn me into an invalid.  I was not going to wrap myself in Styrofoam.  I did my best to keep calm and carry on, but at the same time I didn’t go to any lengths to be more physically active, other than my impromptu and untimed walks and trike rides.  (I was always the type of person who would think that watching reruns of The Jack LaLanne Show while eating a bowl of Cheetos and drinking a two-liter of Mountain Dew counted as exercise.)

I know that one day I will die, but it would be the supreme irony if that end was to come from physical over-exertion.

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