The road to hell

Susan Mushart; 8/5/10

Whenever my mother did something particularly reprehensible – donating our Halloween candy to Biafra, forcing us to wear her abortive craft projects (this was before the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child added that clause on hand-crotcheting) – she’d always offer the same excuse. “OK, so it didn’t work out,” she’d sniff as she contemplated the humanitarian disaster in dental hygiene, or aesthetically motivated schoolyard violence, she’d inadvertently set in motion. “But I meant well.” Even today the words set my teeth on edge. These early childhood traumas may explain why I sometimes have extreme reactions (mainly excessive thirst, I’ve noticed) to workplace signage.

The Australian; No Internet Text
Like last year when, at the height of the swine flu epidemic, we were exposed to a far more noxious plague. I refer, of course, to those signs in the toilet telling us how to wash our hands – the ones whose cuticle-gnawing detail would make the IKEA assembly instructions for the Large Hadron Collider look simple.
Footnotes and addenda included a reminder to blow your nose into a tissue (instead of your last performance review) and place it in the rubbish (NOT a colleague’s lunchbox).
Workers were also advised to use paper towels to avoid contact with doorknobs.
As for the knobs that dreamt up this campaign, there was, alas, no such easy solution.
So when a sign sprouted next to the elevators this week cheerfully suggesting “Take the stairs instead!” my first response was to take hostages. Eventually I decided to “Take 30” instead.
Honestly, you’d be amazed how much you can Google in half an hour. Like, for instance, that a 64kg person burns 4 more calories per minute climbing the stairs than taking the lift. In the course of a year – assuming you commuted to work via the staircase – that means you could lose the equivalent of 250g or your personal autonomy, whichever comes first.
But wait. There’s less.
An article in the Obesity Review found the effects of taking the stairs instead to be “clinically minuscule”, while UK-based research shows stairs are the place where most deaths and serious injuries happen in the home.
Canada’s National Centre for Occupational Health and Safety describes stairs as “inherently dangerous” and notes the US National Council on Compensation Insurance estimates the cost of stair-related injuries as second only to motor vehicle accidents.
God, that made me feel great!
And here’s another positive: the next time a well-meaning sign appears and I stick my finger down my throat, it’s gonna be totally germ-free.