Indoor Climbing

Our apartment used to be connected with the one upstairs; when they split the two, they simply took out the stairs. Well, all but three. One on top, and two on the bottom. The step on top is guarded by a door, now locked from the inside so the upstairs residents don’t go falling to their death in our closet. For reasons I still don’t fully understand, the bottom two steps now support our refrigerator. Our storage closet takes up the rest of the space.

The upstairs neighbors have been lobbying to put that space to good use by putting in an actual floor on their level (and a ceiling for ours), so they can open the door and use the area as a closet. Apparently, our landlord agreed – our maintenance man came by today to check it out.

Our maintenance man, Mr. Marble, is friendly, partially deaf, and rather old. I would guess around 70. He checked out a few repairs downstairs that needed to be done, and then asked if we had a key to the stairway/closet/gaping hole between apartments. We didn’t, and eventually it was determined that the best solution would be to remove the doorknob entirely.

About this time, Ethan was leaving for work, and offered to climb up there later on to unlock or remove the doorknob. Mr. Marble agreed, puttered around a bit more, and then finished changing our filter earlier than expected. He told me he was going to go ahead and climb up there and take off the doorknob.

In case you’ve forgotten, let me describe this one more time. When you go into our closet, there’s a bunch of stuff, stacked together. That’s our stuff. And there’s a ceiling – but only for the first two feet. After that, there’s just open air until you hit the ceiling of what was once the stairs. And if you go climbing around our stuff and crane your neck, you can kind of see that one step, with the floating door just above it.

I asked Mr. Marble if he wanted me to move all our stuff so he could fit a ladder in there. “No, I think I’ll just climb up there.”

I kind of squinted at him, trying to figure out what he meant. “Well, do you want me to move anything? Shift anything around? You know there’s no stairs, right?”

He came with me to scope the thing out. “You wait here,” he said. “I’ll go out to my car and get my screwdriver, then I’ll climb up there and get the doorknob off.”

Brother, the screwdriver is not the thing I’m concerned about here, I thought. You’re gonna die. I’ve got a stout, 80-year-old man here who thinks he’s gonna free-climb my hall closet about 9 feet into the air, suspend himself there, and do some routine maintenance.

(Mr. Marble gets older in my head, depending on the inherent danger in whatever he’s doing.)

I had to do something. I wasn’t going to let this 90-year-old man just fall to his death in my apartment. So while he went for the screwdriver, I scoped out the stuff, trying to find any way he could get up there without breaking his neck. Well, maybe if he stacked this… and stood on the toolbox… after a few minutes, I realized I was halfway up there, anyway. I was a climber as a kid. After a few more handholds, I was sitting on the step.

When I heard Mr. Marble come back in, I just hollered good and loud, “I’m already up here, so just hand me the screwdriver!” I put my hand down below the step, and he handed it to me. I took the knob off. (Now we just have to keep the baby upstairs from opening the door…) And then Mr. Marble thanked me, helped me back down, and went upstairs to work on that door. ♦

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