Dead el­e­va­tor ce­ments plan to climb to im­proved health

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - HELAINE WIL­LIAMS Lift (your fin­ger to email) as you climb! hwilliams@arkansason­

Ev­ery once in a while the of­fice el­e­va­tor — ap­par­ently around times it starts feel­ing un­ap­pre­ci­ated — flakes out on us.

Usu­ally we can tell when it’s about to do so. It will start to shud­der and shake, and make weird noises. Or it just gets that far­away look in its eyes.

When it does check out, it’s some­times in need of the prover­bial part that must be sent off for. Of course, it takes a bit for said part to come in.

So then the of­fice be­comes, for those of us in the news­room, es­sen­tially a three-story walk-up. Those who are hand­i­capped or who have se­ri­ous health prob­lems can choose to take the freight el­e­va­tor, which re­quires op­er­a­tion by the build­ing main­te­nance crew.

For the rest of us, the ar­du­ous trip be­gins with a cou­ple of stairs from street level to the build­ing’s front doors, then an­other few stairs to front-desk level. From there, it’s a choice of:

1. Tak­ing what seems to be a zil­lion sets of Tim Bur­ton­type stairs of vary­ing lengths and land­ings, with the stairs from the sec­ond to third floor get­ting steeper than movie-theater snack prices.

2. Tak­ing an­other short flight of stairs up to our busi­ness-de­part­ment level and from there travers­ing the back stairs, which are more con­ven­tional.

I’m like most of us who are spoiled by el­e­va­tors. You know, those of us who come in, punch the but­ton, wait im­pa­tiently for the el­e­va­tor to make its way back down to get us, punch the but­ton again, se­cretly make faces at those co-work­ers who breeze past us on the way to the stairs, and se­cretly hope we get to the third floor first. Com­ing in to work and see­ing the el­e­va­tor down is enough to make the ol’ heart hit the floor with a prover­bial thud. Af­ter which one must then tell the heart to get the heck up and help one make it up th­ese stairs, which would be to its ben­e­fit.

Re­cently, the el­e­va­tor went out again. Yes, an out-of-town part was needed for it. And I had not yet got­ten my­self to climb back on the work­out wagon from which I’d fallen some time ago. The only ex­er­cise I’d been get­ting was on the stairs in my apart­ment build­ing, where hubby and I live on the sec­ond floor of a two-story walk-up.

Nearly a year ago, I’d de­vel­oped an old-lady pain that mi­grated back and forth from the back of my left leg to mid­foot. Af­ter a doc­tor’s visit and ul­tra­sound that found noth­ing se­ri­ous and made a mi­cro­scopic dent in my in­sur­ance de­ductible, I de­cided it must be sci­atic nerve pain. I grinned and bore it, get­ting into the car hind-part first, mak­ing sure not to sit the wrong way … and go­ing up and down stairs with the gin­ger­ness of a long­haired cat stick­ing a paw into a tub of bath­wa­ter. My knees, mean­while, thanked me.

Nowa­days my leg is a lot bet­ter, save for a few pangs now and then. I’m back to where I can go up a flight of stairs fairly nor­mally; com­fort­able shoes en­able quasi-nor­mal de­scent.

I say all that to say I had no com­pelling ex­cuse for wait­ing for the freight el­e­va­tor.

Ev­ery day — haul­ing a purse, a lid­ded steel cof­fee cup and some­times an ex­tra bag con­tain­ing um­brella and dress shoes, I’d head to the back stair­case, puff­ing my way up three half-flights, rest­ing briefly at the land­ing just be­fore the last half-flight, and try­ing not to en­ter the news­room sound­ing like Darth Vader with a bad si­nus in­fec­tion.

As I gained stairs stamina, I did some soul-search­ing. I re­al­ized that, much like the bad ro­mances of one’s youth, the el­e­va­tor could be a fickle and un­re­li­able love in­ter­est who, just when things seemed to be go­ing well, cheats or just plain dis­ap­pears for a while. Even­tu­ally it comes back with box of candy and flow­ers in hand, ask­ing for­give­ness and sweet-talk­ing its users back into a false sense of se­cu­rity.

I de­cided that this time, dang it, I wouldn’t be sweet-talked. I would keep tak­ing the stairs at least once a day.

The day the el­e­va­tor shed its or­ange “out of or­der” cone marker and made its re-de­but, I breezed — well, I pre­fer to call it that — past it. There were no el­e­va­tor- tak­ing co-work­ers to breeze past and lord my de­ter­mi­na­tion over, but I thought I saw a gleam of re­spect in the eyes of the guards at the se­cu­rity desk.

“De­cide to keep tak­ing the stairs?” one of the first-floor ladies, who works near the back stair­well, asked.

“Yep,” I chirped. I won’t be left help­less the next time the el­e­va­tor de­cides to cheat on us, dis­ap­pear for a bit or take a long lunch. To quote The Who, I won’t get fooled again.

I’d just be help­ing to keep my­self in good work­ing or­der.

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