Thursday, June 4, 2009

Staircase Blues

The main stairwell in my hospital was very poorly designed. It is very narrow and accomodates about two average-sized people across its width. In the day and age of Americans of increasing body size, this type of design can be very problematic. One person moving slowly up or down the stairs can cause a massive back-up in both directions if no one can get around him. Around the floor that the cafeteria is on near lunchtime there are routinely traffic jams.

Additionally, at each floor the doors to the floor open outwards into the stairwell. Did I mention the door are heavy metal firedoors with no windows? And the landings are tiny? This means that as you are coming up or down you always have to be on the lookout not to get wacked in the face by someone swinging open a door.

So if you work at the hospital one would think that you get used to staying as close to the railing as possible, moving quickly, and swinging wide to avoid doors. One would think you would also learn that you have to walk single file behind your colleagues so as not to block traffic or have a collision with someone running up or down the stairs on the other side. But I guess that would be too much to ask for. Every trip on the stairs is an adventure, so I have started to categorize some of the staff stairwell behavior that never ceases to amaze me.

"The white herd" - this would be an entire team clad in white coats, usually Medicine, rounding in the stairwell. This involves standing around, often outside the radiology floor on the tiny landing, arguing some point of clinical minutiae and being incredulous when people are trying to squeeze by them.

"Best friends" - this involves a group of nurses and other hospital staff, usually female and on the way to lunch. They slowly move in a flock taking up the entire stairwell and preventing anyone from passing in either direction.

"Important people" - can usually be seen leaving the surgical floors and moving very rapidly. They tend to move in pairs and are never single file. Get out of their way, especially if they are headed for the cafeteria, because they might trample you.

"I hate my job" - these people move very, very slowly, especially if they are returning from break. Often they can be heard on their cells complaining about "that girl" or "that guy" on their floor or how unfair it is that they got their lunch at X time today instead of Y time. If you get stuck behind one and there is tons of traffic the other way, expect to be climbing stairs for awhile.

"Passive aggressive" - a subset of "important people" who run up behind you on the stairs even if it is clear things are moving slowly. They may even step on your heel not realizing that tailgating doesn't move traffic along.

"Door monsters" - usually late middle-aged folk who always swing the door open quickly and nearly take you out. "Oh, I'm sorry," they say sweetly as if after working here for 20+ years they do not realize the doors can take people out on the stairs all the time.

More to come, I am sure, as I continue to take the stairs.


RubyRidge said...

"The Lone Wolf"- on any given day, you and the Lone Wolf will simply be in the biggest hurries, minds adrift as you either enter or exit the stairwell. You're both usually courteous and always obey hospital hallway etiquette. But other things are on your mind as you cut through the doorway. That's when you run smack into each other, not hard, but hard enough to jostle the hell out of both of you and completely throw off that train of thought. You never see the Lone Wolf again.

The Lone Coyote said...

LOL, how true. I have seen that situation happen.