Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pledge allegiance to your stairs

Small Potatoes


Manias have always swept through great swaths of us—the tulip mania ... the witch mania—but the latest one, the boomer generation's newfound mania against stairs, is a sad commentary. We're not even close to the evolutionary fast track.

Suddenly, this most robust of generations is scared that maybe by next Friday they won't be able to do stairs, and they're clamoring for 12,000-square-foot homes all on one floor; they feel the need to get from the den to one of the closer bathrooms without ever lifting a foot. This is a mania that gives a boost to the building industry, but the boomers will have to make a big-time hike to get from their far west bedroom to the kitchen in the far east for a midnight bowl of Cherry Garcia.

Great-great-great-great Aunt what's-her-name is likely looking askance at the no-stairs mania and sees it as folly in the extreme. When our great-great-great-great Auntie reached to pluck the Granny Smith and discovered the thrill of being upright, ever after she aimed for up. And we inherited those genes; flatland is the reason I ran away from Nebraska. With 86 percent of boomers still competently skiing the corduroy, still biking most of the Harriman Trail, and doubt not they'd return a John McEnroe serve often enough to trigger his typical temper tantrums, this sudden fear of stairs doesn't add up.

Dear boomers, I'm compelled to assure you that of course you can do stairs. Mercy, you're right at the age to be seeking them out. The next time you go to your doctor to pick up a prescription for the new miracle drug replacing the one just recalled, instead of making a bee-line for the elevator, go around the corner and find the stairs. It's not likely the doc's office is higher than two stories, but that doesn't prevent you from doing two stories twice. If you're having a frisky day, go for it. Stairs are the great enablers. Stairs give you the strong legs you need if you want to arrive for graduation still on your feet until the last 24 hours, give or take a few. Stairs ought to be the last thing you forsake before Extreme Unction time.

Way back when I was your age and set the goal of arriving on my feet for my own graduation, I did extensive stair research. Standard stairs have an 11-inch tread with a 7-inch rise, but not all stairs are standard. The stairs in my two-story condo, for instance, have a 10.5-inch tread with the 7-inch rise, and though you might think a half-inch wouldn't matter, it does. I'm never tempted to bound up my stairs as I often am when I do the stairs at work that lead to the company dungeon, stairs that have an 11-inch tread with a mere 6.25-inch rise so that when I'm ready to resurface they fair scream, "Do it, do it—take 'em two-at-a-time!"

Not all stairs beckon as do the company's dungeon stairs. There are plenty of purely wretched stairs, stairs where builders settled for bad solutions to problems that might have been costly. Builders-R-Us, you know—no better, no worse. But if your personal stairs aren't ideal, instead of retreating to one floor and forsaking that Baldy view with its sometimes 8 new inches of sparkle, or the creek on its cruise through fairyland ice, why not transform your stairs into the beckoning kind? Having beckoning stairs at home is so uplifting that they'd be bound to do more for your soul than the club StairMaster in front of seldom interrupted CNN commercials.

Boomers, do think about the consequences of so radical a lifestyle as swearing off stairs. It's not a change that will happen in a vacuum; stairs will be only the first duck in the row. Once you live the stair-less life, the next thing you know you'll get out of bed in the morning and not dare to step into your Fruits of the Loom unless you're hanging onto a chair. And then, in no time at all, you won't even be able to get out of your car solo.

When you keep stairs in your life you'll be pleased with their other bonuses, too. Stairs come with the accidental aerobics and inadvertent intervals that will boost your chances of getting almost to graduation still on your feet. So keep on climbing, boomers. Keep on picking 'em up. Left, right, left, right—hup-hup-hup.

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