stairwayI am in the stairwell at the university and have begun my long climb up to my office on the 7th floor. Two of my students held the lift for me, and frowned in confusion as I stepped into the stairwell rather than the comfortable little coffin that used to bring me up to stuff.

I climb.

About a month ago I stopped using lifts. All part of my obsessive dedication to the Fitbit. I realized that I was missing a golden step-accumulating opportunity in the pursuit of attaining my 10,000 required steps a day.


From then on, I have cut out lifts (elevators) completely – up or down. And I have largely cut down on escalators, which are slightly more difficult to eliminate because sometimes they are the only way out of a metro. My rule is that if I have to take an escalator, I have to walk up it.

I will not lie; at first it was not pretty. In the first place, steps never end. They seem to exist in a vortex in which they are multiplied and multiplied until they reach into the heavens like a frickin’ Led Zeppelin song. At one point I expected all of the voices in my head to speak a different language.

Hatred became my fuel. But I had 10,000 steps a day to get, so I kept walking.

My inner hatred was surely matched, if not exceeded, by my outward misery. I never had the guts to look into a mirror, but it can’t have been good. The sweating, swearing, and wheezing I did in recovery in my office must have been a spectacle.

What was worse was that upon arrival at a lift, I was missing that warm, comfortable feeling that only comes when zero effort and immediate gratification partner up with short-distance transportation. Gone was that feeling of finality and development. Thousands of years of evolution worked to get me to the point that I could just chill out and wait until someone brought me to my office.

No. I had devolved.

Just like most things that suck, this got better. After a couple of weeks I realized the physical changes. My legs were stronger, my belt looser, I wasn’t getting winded so easily and the sweating actually had a measurable time limit. Those required 10,000 steps were reached by early afternoon. I stopped doing a weekly run because it simply seemed superfluous. I was exercising every time I walked into a building.

The steps stopped scaring me. I think I used to put off tasks because I didn’t want to run up and down steps. But this stopped being a concern. The steps became my method of getting from A to B. I began volunteering for tasks. You need a document dropped off downstairs? No problem. (I need 2,948 more steps anyway). No other options existed, and that meant that choice was removed. And as a result, my life got a little easier.

But by far the best advantage to climbing the steps everyday is the solitude. For six years I have stood at the lifts praying that nobody I knew approached before they came. Students. Colleagues. Boss. Cleaning lady. Anyone. If there is one place people feel the need to make small talk, it is in the cramped quarters of a lift.

The lift is where the cleaning lady and the German professor speak Czech to me at roughly 11,000,008 miles a second, starting my day off with a feeling of failure and a headache. The lift is the playground of guilty students. The place where a student who hasn’t been in class for a month finds themselves face to face with their English teacher an feels compelled to explain their absence or ask my favorite question: “Have we been doing anything important in class?” So my day starts with an aggravated grimace and a backtracked wonderment about the paths I have chosen in life. The lifts is where my boss makes an obviously impromptu request for some kind of work; and I deserved it because I was the first person she sees on a given day. Anytime I meet my boss in the lift, my life gets 4% more annoying.

Not anymore.

Solitude. Nobody stops a sweaty man storming up some steps.

It has become clear that the steps are now my ally. Whenever I see an annoying or just unwanted conversation is heading my way I just head to the nearest stairwell and go up. They have become familiar territory, my place for thousands of steps, my progressive fortress of solitude.

I just wish they sold hotdogs in this place.

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