Columns

2008.11.26 She's queen of the stairs

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

I recall hearing that sometime back in the late 1980s, Morenci’s cross country team put in a lot of time running up and down the gymnasium bleachers.

I think Sybil Diccion might have told me that her son Chris was on the team then. I can’t remember who was coaching at the time, but he knew the value of climbing stairs because they had an excellent set of runners.

True, it’s a great workout. Very tiring and maybe a little risky in the gym. A misstep could bring a season-ending tumble to the bottom. Apparently that wasn’t a problem. I know my wife could handle it. She’s queen of the stairs.

I have an odd history of Staircase Affinity. It might have been Gary Baker who got me started.

My church youth group took a trip to the World’s Fair in New York City in 1964. We stayed in Hotel Latham, an old structure still in use.

One morning we were heading out for the World’s Fair and Gary Baker took his own route downstairs. Gary was a guest on the trip since his sister was married to our pastor, Paul Koons.

The rest of us got on the elevator and started down. We picked up a couple of people on the way down, including a businessman on his way to work.

After stopping on a few floors with no one waiting, someone had a guess about Gary’s whereabouts. In an unexpected fit of physical endeavor, Gary had run the stairs of the hotel, stopping briefly at each floor to press the “down” button for the elevator. The businessman wasn’t any too pleased to see the boy from Delta, Ohio, grinning at us on the ground floor.

I’ve done a lot of hotel steps since that day. I don’t think I ever did the elevator button thing, but I’ve avoided a lot of elevators just to race down the stairs to see if I could beat the family down.

My most famous descent occurred one  night at the Grand Amway in Grand Rapids. The family was going down for dinner at the annual press association convention.

I wanted exercise so I took the stairs down many, many flights. I got to the bottom and burst out through the door into the lobby, only to discover that I wasn’t in the lobby. I was outside.

The door shut behind me and I was standing in the snow with a frigid wind whipping off the Grand River.

At home, our stairs lead from the entryway of the house to the second story. It’s a great old set of sturdy wooden steps—eight to a landing in the middle, then a twist in direction and eight more to the top.

Like the cross country team, this is my training arena when it’s too cold or rainy or we’re too short of time to go to the school track.

My stairs routine takes 10 minutes. I run up and glance at the clock, then run down, turn and run up, turn and run down, etc. Ten minutes of steady stair climbing is theoretically equivalent to scaling an 80-story building, but 10 minutes of that is too much for me. It’s broken up by a brisk walk into the kitchen, a little dancing around in the hallway, a pull-up or two on the bar in the doorway, then back to the stairs for a few more repetitions.

I often wonder when I do this at night who might be walking by and seeing these mad dashes up and down the stairs. It must be even odder when Colleen joins in and one of us appears to be chasing the other. Crazy people live in that house.

Colleen doesn’t enjoy the stairs as much as I. She wants fresh air. I can go along with that, but not if it’s already 9:30 p.m. If we haven’t exercised by then, I’ll take the stairs.

I got her to join in a session one night last week and as we were heading down, she said something like, “I’ll bet I’m the best stairs walker around.”

She said that 11 years of living on the fifth floor of an apartment building without an elevator perfected her style.

Sure, I thought, but the next time down I watched as I followed. It was astonishing.  Such poise, such grace, and such an extremely rapid descent. I tried to copy it and nearly lost my footing.

She really is the Queen of the Stairs. I’m taking her to the gymnasium for half-time entertainment.

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