Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Walking and Writing: One Hundred Steps at a Time

I spent a few minutes on-line this morning trying to find out how many steps the average person takes in a day.  I knew it was a big mistake the minute I typed the words into the search bar, but I thought it would be a fun fact to know.  Well, I was right: it was a big mistake.  How can anyone really know?  Who goes around counting their steps and posting the number on the internet, anyway?  No one, but  that doesn’t stop people from giving their opinion so, aside from finding out that it’s anywhere from zero to infinity, I found quite a few sites that told me how many steps I “should” take if I want to be healthy.  That was not my question!  I love you internet, but sometimes I wonder why I even invite you into my home!

You’re probably wondering what all this silliness is about… assuming you’ve gotten this far.  Well, it’s about my latest writing project, a children’s book of short stories about the details we often miss as we take our few or many steps throughout the day.  Each story is about taking one hundred steps.  Where will they take me?  What will I see, hear, or smell?  Will I be surprised or bored?  Will I meet people and their look-alike pets?  Will a beat-up, old-fashioned car bring back memories from my childhood?  I hope to share the answers to all these questions soon.  In the meantime, here is a sneak peek at part of the first story.  I hope you enjoy it. 


The First One Hundred Steps

I’m standing in the hallway just outside the front door to my apartment on the nineteenth floor.  My back is against the door.  It’s chilly in the hallway but warm right where I’m standing because the hot Hawaiian sun is streaming in through the window opposite my door.  I haven’t taken the first step in my silly experiment yet but I will in the next few seconds.  Standing here I can see a small portion of Koko Head, a tuff cone made of volcanic ash, in the distance and many buildings between Koko Head and mine.  It’s a sunny day but there are a few puffy, white clouds in the sky.  I can tell it’s windy because the palm trees are swaying softly back and forth.  I’m anxious to see what else is waiting for me outside as I start my one-hundred-step walk.  Will I even make it outside the building?  What will I see?  Will it be super exciting or super boring? I guess I’ll never know if I don’t take that first step.  Here goes!

Wait!  I don’t want to waste too many steps just to get on the elevator.  I should plan a strategy.  There’s no one else in the hallway so I can be as silly as I like.  Well, even if there was someone in the hallway, I’d probably be silly anyway.  I’m going to take giant steps until I get to the elevator button.  One… two… three!  Not bad, only three steps.  I push the “down” button and wait.  I’m not moving a muscle.  Don’t want to use up anymore steps. 

I realize I may have a slight problem.  There are three elevator doors in the hallway.  I’m standing between the two closest to my apartment.  The “down” button is between these two doors.  I’m close enough to both of them that it will probably only take me one or two steps to get inside either of the elevators when one arrives.  But there’s a third elevator, further down the hallway.  If that’s the elevator that comes first, I’m going to have to waste a few extra steps or wait for the next one.  I cross my fingers and wait.  Five seconds go by before I hear a familiar dinging sound, like a doorbell.  It’s just the elevator telling me it’s on the way.  I still don’t know which one it will be but it sounds like it will be the second one.  Suddenly, the door to the second elevator begins to open.  Nice!  Only one giant step will get me inside.

Problem!  There’s a video camera inside the elevator.  If someone at the front desk in the lobby is watching the computer screen, they will see me taking that giant step.  They’ll probably wonder if I’m crazy.  It won't be the first time someone has thought that.  I can’t worry about it right now because I have to save my steps.  I take a big step, my fourth one, as the automated lady’s voice says, “Going down.”  My body is just inside the elevator door.  If I’m too close to the door, it won’t close so I tuck my behind in, just in case.  Success!  The door closes.  I’m standing right beside the panel of buttons, from “L,” for Lobby, to 39.  I won’t need to take any extra steps to choose.  I press the “L” button and wait to start moving down. 

The elevator is on the outside of the building and has a big window through which I can see the same things I saw from the window in the hallway.  My stomach feels a little funny as the elevator begins to go down all nineteen floors.  I lift my left foot off the ground a little and pivot my body around on my right foot as we get closer to the lobby.  Now, I’m facing the door.  It's very shiny, like a mirror, and I can see myself in it.  I can also see the reflection of what’s outside the window.   The palm trees are still swaying.  I can’t hear it yet, but I know they are making a beautiful, peaceful sound.  I’ve heard it many times. 

As the elevator door opens onto the open-air lobby, and the automated lady’s voice says, “Lobby,” I finally hear the “Shhhhhhhh, shaaaaaaaa, shhhhhhhh, shaaaaaaaa,” as the wind blows the palm fronds from side to side and tosses my hair all around my face.  Step number five takes me out of the elevator where another camera is looking at me.  By the time I reach the front desk and greet the men working there, I’m on step number twenty-five.

I pretend that I hadn’t taken a giant step when getting on the elevator and cross my fingers that the men hadn't seen me on their computer screen.  The nice men say, “Hello,” and ask how I am.  “Fine, thank you.  How are you?” I reply.  Turns out they are fine, too.  That’s nice.  They are smiling big side-to-side smiles.  I think they saw my giant step.  I don’t mind.  This is fun.

The lobby is beautiful.  Some of the walls have pretty wood panels on them and the floor is made of tiles; some big and some small but all shiny and sparkling clean.  The furniture is comfortable.  I need to remember to come down and sit here more often, but today I’m on a one-hundred-step walking mission.  I can’t stop now.  I say goodbye to the men at the desk and walk toward the twelve-foot-tall doorway that leads to the outside of the building.  The doors are made of iron.  They are black.  No, they are green.  Actually, they are both.  They look very heavy but they aren’t.  They make a soft, creaking sound when I push them open to step outside the building with my forty-fifth step.

I could hear them before I could see them; the construction workers and their trucks fixing the road just to the left of my building.  This is usually a quiet street.  I often sit on a bench here to listen to the birds chirping, smell the lovely aroma of the Plumeria flowers, and people-watch as folks go walking by.  Today the sounds, smells and sights are different.  The street has a big hole in it and there are men here to fill it, like a dentist fills a cavity or a scab forms over a cut.


There’s more to the story and I look forward to sharing it soon.  Oh, and to answer my own question, “Who goes around counting their steps and posting the number on the internet, anyway?”  I do, and it’s great fun!  I hope you’ll read this sneak peek to your children and students and encourage them to observe the world around them and to write in detail about their one hundred steps.

Until next time… stay cool!

Martha

The First One Hundred Steps
Copyright 2011 Martha Rodriguez

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