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Stairwells: A Misnomer

Stairwells are misnamed. Or at least misunderstood. I learned this Wednesday.

“It has been crazy in here, RI,” Leff-tenant said.

I stood near the check-in computer. Someone was manning a prep table. One of the cooks was talking with an underling. The dishes were done in the back. Even the man in charge of prep was enjoying a snack. It did not look crazy in the least bit.

Leff-tenant saw the skepticism in my face. “It doesn’t seem like it now, but we pushed out 150 pizzas in the first 2 hours of the day,” she said.

School lunches. Zoo trips. It’s not uncommon.

She was right by receipt accounts. We were close to Friday levels already by the time I came in. It felt like the calm before a pizza storm. With cheese flying around everywhere and desperate teenagers trying to catch it. And I mean desperate.


 Skills USA was in town again. Hundreds and hundreds of teens from across the state were gathered at the DoubleTree on 16th and Dodge. They had all just arrived. They were hungry.

The Doubletree has four elevators that serve 21 floors. Regular hotel rooms run from the fifth floor to the 18th. There are suites in 19 and 20, with a conference room on the 21st that has a spectacular view.

I arrived for a delivery to the 18th floor later on Wednesday night. This was my first time there that night. The lobby and hallways were filled with teenagers like swarms of intelligent, bright-eyed pizza mosquitos sniffing out a host.  I was a beacon and I knew it.

See, teenagers have very strong reactions to flashy objects and certain smells. My apron, hat and shirt all glistened with recognizable pizza branding. The pizza I was carrying was a specialty that smelled extra delicious. I knew there would be trouble. Not for me, of course. For the store. Teenage pizza mosquitos don’t harass pizza that hasn’t been delivered yet. They wait until it’s delivered, then pounce if close enough. If they aren’t close enough but get enough stimulation, then they order their own.

This particular delivery gave the teen-squitos  plenty of stimulation. There were delays. One of the elevators is a service elevator. Off limits.  Two are passenger traffic up to the 18th floor, max.  The third is smaller and goes to the hoity-toity rooms and the rooftop.

The two passenger elevators were malfunctioning. They were in Safety Mode, which causes them to stop at every floor while going down from the top.

The wait time was atrocious. The third elevator was too small to make a dent in the lobby population.

I waited outside the elevator doors amongst a cloud of the blood suckers for about 3 minutes. I watched their faces, one-by-one, turn to stare. Not so much at me. At my pizza bag.

I had to move.

I went toward the stairs. I can do this, I thought. I’m young. 18 flights shouldn’t be too bad.

Wrong. They’re called ‘stairwells.’ Why? Not because of the architectural reference to up-down travel. It’s because they are gravity wells that have stairs inside. The well must have been on the 10th floor because I found that gravity became unsupportable at the 9th.

I exited the well. I wheezed my way to the elevators again. I pressed the up arrow. I waited only thirty seconds before the doors opened. There on the elevator were the exact same teens that had waited with me below. They were flirting hard with each other and talking about school when I got on.

I asked for the eighteenth floor and somebody pushed it. The elevator took off. Then stopped. It stopped at the 10th. Then the 12th. Then the 14th.

When the doors opened to the 14th, a teenage girl in the corner decided it would be swell to push buttons 15, 16 and 17.

I couldn’t see what had come over her. She might have been sick. There seemed to be other girls involved but that’s all I know.

I groaned and left the elevator. I ran to the gravity-stairs and picked my way to the top. I felt like Po on his way to see the Furious Five. The stairs were my nemesis, my barrier to my destiny, but I won.

There, I delivered my pizza – out of breath – and went back to the elevators.

I had passed dozens and dozens of teenagers this whole time. Stairs. Elevators. Hallways. The lobby twice. When I got back to the store, there were dozens and dozens of orders waiting. The shift manager-

OH! I TOTALLY FORGOT! The Warrior got promoted to shift manager! Hooray for the Warrior, right?

I also found out that the Monk quit. Then Cap’n had convinced him to come back I guess. But he hadn’t come back quite yet. Crazy. But I digress.

When the wait time hit almost three hours, the Warrior quit taking delivery calls. I helped with a few more – including one more to the 18th floor of that hotel – then went home.

Kung Fu Panda is one of my absolute most favorite movies. There is much wisdom in the moral of Kung Fu Panda 1. And it is fitting, given pizza and hard work. It’s easy to feel like we’re missing something. There’s some skill or ability that we do not have, but that we need. N-E-E-D. But no. It takes hard work and good friends. As Po said:

“There is no secret ingredient.”



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