going up

I’m a big fan of incidental exercise, and I’ll often opt for stairs over elevators or even escalators. It might seem quite trivial, but it baffles me when I see able-bodied people (particularly school kids and teenagers) taking the elevator at the bus station when it’s always faster to take the stairs. I like to give benefit of the doubt, so I assume that maybe they’re just tired (but, really, it’s just 30 steps!)

At work, I always take the stairs – three flights every morning, unless I’m with someone who is opposed to stairs. Conversely, I’m positively delighted when the person I’m walking with (if I happen to be walking in to work with someone) unexpectedly suggests that we take the stairs (not many people do, and those that do don’t do so often enough).

Maybe I need to suggest stairs more often… The other day, I was showing our intern to a certain part of the hospital – six storeys up – and I asked if she wanted to take the stairs. To my surprise, she said yes. I actually had to ask a second time because I’d expected at least a bit of resistance, but she hadn’t even hesitated when she answered. “Respect plus”, as a friend of mine would say.

There generally aren’t too many other people taking the stairs in the medical centre (even though the lift is quite slow), and most of the other stair-goers are people who work in the building (and know that the lift is very slow). A few weeks ago, I came across an older gentleman taking the stairs up to the first or second floor (can’t quite remember which but I feel like it was the second floor). He had the slightest limp and was evidently not as fit as he used to be. But still he wanted to take the stairs.

He was quite cheerful too. I was also headed up the stairs, and he suggested that I could overtake him, since he’s not very fast. But I was in no hurry (I was about ten minutes early for work), and told him as such. He wasn’t going that slowly anyway, so I let him continue at his own pace, and I followed at a leisurely pace, making small talk about incidental exercise.

I don’t remember much else about that morning; I don’t remember what he looked like. But something about that incident has just stuck with me. I think it’s mostly because this gentleman, who had every excuse to take the elevator – his age, his physical ability, that he probably had an important appointment to go to – he still chose to take the stairs for apparently no other reason than because he can. He’s not going to not take the stairs because people expect him to take the elevator. Maybe it’s just me, but I find something truly admirable in that.