Stairwell Stories

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Storming Back To Key West Illustration by David Trumble

A few blogs back I promised I would be taking the stairs instead of the elevator. I would like to say that this has caused dramatic changes in my life. But it hasn’t. Or that the stair climbing has brought me greater wisdom; but the only thing that has become very clear to me is something I already knew: down is easier than up. No-brainer, right? I think the single concrete result has been that along with some intimidating, scary places, I have seen some great stairwell interiors.

To tell you the truth, I have pretty consistently tried to always take the stairs, within reason of course. Even more truth:  I must confess, my stair climbing habit is probably equal parts health concern and impatience! I hate waiting for elevators, especially if it is only one or two flights up!

One Thanksgiving I climbed 17 flights of stairs in the old Mayflower Hotel on Central Park West in New York City.  This feat was ALL impatience. There were crowds of Macy’s Parade goers pushed against each other trying to get back to their rooms, packed in front of two small elevator doors. I heard loud complaints from someone in the pack that he had been there for twenty minutes. I took one look at the decrepit old elevators which could only hold a few people and decided I and my family were fit enough to take the stairs. I don’t think I really appreciated how many stairs 17 flights were. It was quite the climb. The good news is I made it to the party five minutes before the people who took the elevator.  A whole five minutes. AND without having a heart attack.

My most bittersweet stair climbing memory is from always taking the stairs at Burke Rehabilitation Center. Both my parents did stints there, at separate times. My father was there first, trying to recover from a debilitating stroke. He was wheelchair bound. I would steer him into the elevator, leave one of my kids to ride with him and then run up the stairs with the rest of our group. My main reason for climbing was to avoid contributing to the log jam around the elevator. I did not think it was fair to clog the limited elevator space with able-bodied people. But the other reason I took the stairs: it was only one flight . . . and the elevator was so slow that I beat them to the second floor every time. I did not even have to run.

My father, who had a great sense of humor even after being impaired by his stroke, would pretend to be surprised to see me when the elevator door opened on the second floor and I was standing there waiting to help him out. Even difficult times create wonderful memories.

I have been looking through old family photos trying to find pictures of stairwells, and as I might have guessed, I have very few. But it was a great excuse to view, for the first time(!) pictures I took more than ten years ago, lumped randomly in an electronic file.

100_2021Loved ones on the stairs!  © Jane F. Collen October 23, 2015100_0498

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