Stairs in a Hurry

Pity the poor staircase. Where do the stairs go when they don't go anywhere at all? Downtrodden, the static staircase has little to be thankful for. Go ahead, walk all over me. That's what the staircase says. Upstairs? Downstairs? What does it matter? Direction is futile.

In its next life, the staircase wants to be an escalator. Pardon me if I stare, but those are some dynamic steps you have there. Stairs in motion. Stairs with a purpose. That's what people will say to the staircase in its next life.

I don't think elevators want to be reincarnated.



  1. I'm reminded of Ursula K. LeGuin's "The unread story is not a story." The untrodden stair leads to no stories (especially not to the oft-non-existent 13th floor).

  2. Story of my life. Not that I live on the 13th floor, but I wouldn't mind if I did; two stories are never enough.

  3. I probably shouldn't be saying this, as it's highly controversial, but *anyone* can live on the 13th floor by placing a small plaque next to the front door that says, "Thirteenth Floor." Misinformation about the 13th floor is rampant. For example, Hyman Ruchlis totes the party line: "Painting the number 14 on floor 13 doesn't change it from being the thirteenth floor" (How Do You Know It's True?, 1991). Utter nonsense! Obviously, painting the number 14 *absolutely* makes it the fourteenth floor, for such is the floor's official name. "In a nominal scale, each number refers to one thing but the numbers are arbitrary" (Daniel T. Willingham, Why Don't Students Like School, 2009).

  4. The need for controversy has been the subject of heated discussion around here, so your subversive comments couldn’t have come at a better time. The lukewarm one-plus-one numerology of vertical floorplans is so yesterday, and fails to take into account the self-evident freedoms granted by the Architectural Foundlings some 225 years ago, when a name was still a name.

    As I adjust the thermostat to better cope with the design phase of my own plaque, I'm reminded of the enlightened words bestowed from a now-forgotten quarter: Anyone can live on the 13th floor by placing a small plaque next to the front door that says, "Thirteenth Floor."

    It tastes like freedom to me.

  5. And it goes without saying that the Brits call the first floor the ground floor and the second floor the first storey.

    But getting back to your original topic, and relating that back to your mention of freedom, we might rephrase Sartre's "Freedom lies on the far side of despair" to something more Escher-esque: "Freedom lies on the other side of the stair."

  6. But getting back to the 13th floor, I forgot: "Perhaps the most confusing floor numbering system occurred at the Presbyterian Hospital [in NYC, presumably]. The floor numbering was normal from one to twelve, but then suddenly numbers stopped and letters were substituted for the floor 'numbers,' beginning with M, the thirteenth letter" (John Tauranac, Empire State Building: The Making of a Landmark, 1997).

  7. It's all so clear to me now. If the second floor is really the first storey and the first storey is really the thirteenth floor, then there's more to three-point perspective than a vanishing point that won't stay put.

    So much wasted time scraping my tooth for building materials. That small plaque next to the front door might just as well have been made from Scratch.

    1. Too, too funny, from the zinger to the great opener. "It's all so clear to me now" -- which my inner ear hears in the voice of the Mad Hatter from the Disney version. What I so celebrate about you and your blog is that every day is like attending a mad tea party where, indeed, it's all so clear now.

  8. Shucks. Wouldn't be the same without you conducting.

    As my train of thought derails, here's your e-ticket to the wrong side of the tracks, where there will be tea. One lump or two?

  9. But getting back to living on the 13th floor, I probably shouldn't be saying this, as it's highly controversial, but while it's true that any small plaque with the words "Thirteenth Floor" will transform any floor into the 13th floor, for best results one should stick with embossed cast iron. One really can't do better than that. As I always say, when it comes to the 13th floor, why not go the extra mile?

  10. Getting back to basics seems like a pretty good idea to me, too, especially on this 13th day of '13, which must mean something. For me, it might signal the need for a boilerplate on which to emboss my initials, just so no one can say they didn't know which floor they were on when they (for there are many) rang my bell.

    I don't much like the idea of a bell-shaped boilerplate in the anechoic chamber I use as an entryway, but that doesn't matter because my door is always open, so the whole idea of ringing is purely hypothetical anyway. What's important is the quartz lamp on my helmet, which is how I was able to distinguish one boiler from the next in the murk of the subbasement. It isn't always true that if you've seen one cast iron you've seen them all.

    Anyway, the project is in the final stages of reentry, which is important in the sense that entryways ought to be used more than once, so as to avoid waste. Another sense tells me that extra mileage is more important now than it was during the age of steam, or Teflon.