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Thursday, September 17, 2009

I'll Take the Stairs

This past month I have thought more about stairs than I have in all of the rest of my life previous to my two recent moves. I moved from a building with an elevator which I used quite often, even though I was only on the second floor. From there I moved to a fourth floor walk-up. After about my third or fourth trip up those stairs—while carrying a heavy load—I started to really think about stairs. After about ten trips I decided to count just how many stairs there were. To reach the doorway of that apartment from the street meant humping up 75 steps, and this was in the hottest weeks of August (do you really think that a building without an elevator is going to have air conditioning?). I didn’t bother with my daily fitness rides as I thought that I was getting more than enough exercise trudging up and down those 75 steps.

I almost immediately started moving into another place a few blocks away. This was another apartment without an elevator on the third floor—64 steps. So now I was hauling a heavy load down 75 steps and then up 64 steps, if anyone cares or is counting. I cared and was counting. The coup de grĂ¢ce came when a van pulled up in front of my new place and we had to Sherpa up all of the materials for the remodeling of the kitchen and the bathroom. That took about 6-7 trips up and down those 64 stairs. I had just returned from a rather long bike ride so after the moving my legs felt like cement. I began thinking that there would be lots of days now when my legs would be turning to cement.

The other day I was invited to an after-hours party at a friends’ apartment. It was late and I really wanted to go home but I really wanted to see their place. It turns out that it is on the fifth floor, 105 steps and no elevator. We talked about what it means to live at the end of a considerable amount of stairs. You don’t think lightly about dropping down to the street to run an errand. You have to plan almost every exit like some sort or arctic expedition. Still not quite accustomed to life without an elevator, I was going for a bike ride the other day when I realized when I got to the bottom of the stairs (I lock my bike in the downstairs hallway, thank god) that I had forgotten my water bottle. Fuck it, I wasn’t going back upstairs so I had to search out different places to get water along my ride. A friend asked me for my new street address the other day. I had forgotten to take notice of the street number on several occasions so I decided that I would descend solely for the purpose of obtaining my address. I made a point of taking out the garbage and recyclables in the apartment. You need to kill at least three birds with the stone of 64 stairs staring you in the face—if that even makes sense. As I was making my way downstairs I thought how humorous it would be if after all that I forgot once again to take notice of my address. Fortunately for me my lazy gene is stronger than my stupid gene and there is no way that lazy was going to allow stupid to forget to get my address.

I started paying close attention to all of the other older buildings in the neighborhood (and most are older) to see which ones have added an elevator. Installing an elevator in an old building is quite an expensive undertaking and can cost upwards of 15,000€ per tenant. Most people will tell you that this is money well spent as it will raise the resale value of a flat considerably. A lot of folks just wouldn’t even consider moving into a place without an elevator. I was never one of those people but my first three apartments in Valencia had elevators so I started to take them for granted. Not anymore. I wouldn’t say that I would refuse to live in another building without an elevator but I just moved here so give me a little time and a lot of stairs and perhaps I will change my mind. Let me just say that from now on, given the choice between taking the stairs or riding in an elevator, I’ll take the elevator.