I’ll Take The Stairs.

posted in: Art, School 16
Staircase at the Courtauld Gallery, London, England. Photo by Mike Peel via Wikipedia.
Staircase at the Courtauld Gallery, London, England. Photo by Mike Peel via Wikipedia.


Today, I had my first class in the graduate Writing department and I am in love.

I’m in love with my professor’s incredible brain and I’m in love with her syllabus. I’m in love with the bike ride to campus (six minutes!) and I’m in love with all my fresh new notebooks. What’s wonderful about this place is that when I say I’m a quilter, everyone wants to know more because everyone here loves art, pattern, color, and making things with one’s own two hands (and feet, if you’re a quilter or a potter, of course.)

I am not in love with the elevator situation, however. I had a rather harrowing experience this morning.

Many classes at The School of the Art Institute (SAIC) take place at 116 S. Michigan Avenue and 112 S. Michigan Avenue. These buildings are across the street from the Art Institute itself and they are both very tall. I don’t know how many floors each one has, but I’m quite certain both have at least 14 because I climbed 14 flights of stairs today. Before 9 a.m. With a cup of coffee in my hand, a tote bag on my right shoulder, and a purse on my left one.

In pumps.

Hey, man, I’m impatient. If I’m at the bus stop for too long and the bus is nowhere in sight, I’ll just start walking. Why stand around and twiddle my thumbs when I can move my tushie and get a change of scenery? Besides, bus stops are grody. This impatience applies to elevators, too: I hate waiting for them. If it seems doable, I’ll take the stairs every time. This “don’t wait” philosophy is hardwired in my general disposition, but it also springs from having experienced long periods of my life when I was so ill and so weak I couldn’t walk. I’ve been in hospitals for months and weeks at a time and it’s certain that I’ll be back in those places again. I genuinely do not take for granted when I feel well enough to take the stairs, so I do. Within reason.

The three (only three!) elevators at the 116 S. Michigan building are tiny and date to the Mesozoic period. Seriously, these are the slowest elevators I’ve ever experienced. I think they go up or down a couple floors and then just need to rest or something, maybe make a phone call before they get back to work. And at 8:50 a.m., there are big crowds of students — mostly undergrads — all waiting for them. One is usually out of order and the other two creak open every 5-6 minutes and let in a trickle of people inside before creaking away again.

What floor was my class on, I wondered? I took a look at my planner. Eighth floor. I sucked in some air. Let’s do it, Fons. Boot n’ rally. And I began to take the stairs.

I had to rest at the fifth floor. While I was doing that, a couple undergrads zipped past me, laughing and talking while they were zipping up stairs because they are small children. (Neither of them were wearing heels.) But when I got to the eighth floor, I realized I had made a terrible error: I was in the wrong building. I was in 116 S. Michigan; I should have been in 112. There’s nothing like being out of breath and sad and panicked because now you’re going to be late to your very first department class during your very first days of graduate school.

What was I to do? Wait there for the elevator and take it all the way down, then walk to the other building and then go up another eight flights of stairs? Even I have my limits. Then I realized something. The two Michigan buildings are connected at the 14th floor! This was a good solution: I could just go up to 14 and then back down to 8 on the other side and maybe still make it right on the money. I looked at the elevators through the stairwell door. I looked up the stairwell at six more flights of stairs. I thought about my life. I thought that if I died in the stairwell someone would find me eventually. I took a deep breath, cursed loudly (it sounded awesome with the echo), and began my ascent. Again.

I was in my seat at 9:02. I was sweaty and gross and happy, actually, because that’s how bad I want this.


16 Responses

  1. Kelli Cole
    | Reply

    You are stronger than those kids. Probably due to your Iowa upbringing. You were in pumps, loaded down with purse, and bag and coffee. You made it up 14 flights! And then over to the other building. Woo-hoo! Go get ’email, Mary!

  2. Deb
    | Reply

    I’d have taken the heels off and gone bare footed.

  3. Mabel Brooks
    | Reply

    Wow! You are amazing! 1) Walking up the Stairs 2) Remembering about the 14th floor and 3) getti g to your seat in record time! BRAVO!

  4. Colleen
    | Reply


  5. James
    | Reply

    I feel the same way…let’s get the show on the road!
    I don’t quilt and I don’t wear pumps but I appreciate your vibe girl.


    SoulGeek 62

  6. Nancy Neely
    | Reply

    Yay! Now get rid of those pumps!

  7. Lisa Gainey Floyd
    | Reply

    I never would have made the third. Go girl go!!!

  8. Linda
    | Reply

    Ok. You’ve made your good first impression. Now, chuck the pumps!! You go girl!!!

  9. Eileen Yu
    | Reply

    Mary, you’re awesome! I look forward to your blog post every day!!

  10. Stephanie
    | Reply

    Wow. Could you imagine being wheelchair bound, and how much earlier you’d need to arrive because you need to use the elevator? :/ Love the, “because I want this” line!

  11. rita
    | Reply

    Yes, comfortable shoes is one of the most under-emphasized post-secondary school supplies. I’ve always thought of it as the first of the weeding-out mechanisms. Let’s see if we can walk them to death. Maybe it’s not the first mechanism. Just registering for courses is maybe the first one. It’s certainly not hard to register to pay however. I’m a bit jaded, I guess.

  12. Coley
    | Reply

    I remember those days from Columbia College. 610 S Michigan was the worst because the library occupied the first 5 floors of the building. I always took the stairs down, but since my classes were always floor 10-14, it was a little too much to take them up. My memory is fuzzy, but I think the stairs might not have been accessible from the main floor.

    On a slightly related note, at my old job in Racine the ladies room was on our floor, but since it was a 4 story building, I often would walk up to the top floor and back down to ours, just to get a little exercise in. My bosses were triathletes, so when I told them what I was doing, they commended me on that idea.

  13. Elaine Theriault
    | Reply

    Yep – I’d have removed those heels as well. Who cares what anyone thinks!!!

  14. Pamela Keown
    | Reply

    I’m proud of you Mary. I wish I were sitting in those classes with you, so tell us about it frequently please. (oh yeah, you might not want to wear pumps everyday.) 🙂

  15. Wanda Rains
    | Reply

    What an awesome memory of your first day. You did what had to be done. Way to go girl.

  16. Jennifer
    | Reply

    At least the stairs let you out! I once decided to take the stairs up to my 8th floor office to get some exercise in. Little did I know that the stairs doors, for “fire safety,” would only let you IN to the stairwell at each floor, but not out! I had to go all the way back down, where I was dumped out onto the sidewalk. I had to walk back around the building to get in again, and wait for the darned elevator. So much for good health!

    Enjoy your classes! Yay for school for fun!

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