Before Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds or Boston Public, there was Up the Down Staircase. Written in 1965 by Bel Kaufman, the novel was soon adapted to stage and screen and, years later, is still the prototype for an entire genre of media pointed at the problems with public education. Kaufman was a 20-year veteran teacher of NYC's public high schools when she wrote the novel, her first.

Although the story focuses on inner city schools in the late 1950's, much of that criticism and frustration still exists today. Kaufman believes her story is more relevant now than ever before. “Everything described in my fiction is today reality. Only computers and condoms are new.” It is this relevance that brings educators and students back to the novel.

The idealism fostered into today's universities often leaves fledgling teachers unprepared for the harsh realities of schools today--particularly in impoverished areas. While first-year teachers are often considered naive and foolhardy for believing they can make such a difference, their zeal and love for education is the stuff inspiration is made of. Most new teachers have labored over the decision to work in an inner city school, where idealism fights pragmatism there like nowhere else. Do you go where the kids need success most, or where you're most likely to succeed? Internal struggles like this one haunt many teachers who are at once invested in their work and driven by their calling.

When Sylvia Barrett takes her first awkward steps into Calvin Coolidge High School, we're right there with her. We want so badly for her to make that difference. But when you have to fight the students just to help them... when you're fighting their community's resistance to change, their dying hope, their frustration and anger... when your own school administration refuses to help you, and often stands in your way... it seems you're scrambling to get up the down staircase. So is the story of the fictional Sylvia Barrett, and many real-life teachers just like her.

Some information obtained via

It's a book, a metaphor and every kid's secret wish. If you're looking for a bit of reckless abandon but lack the coyotes for elevator surfing, climbing up a down-moving escalator may be just the thing.

A climb needs little more than ordinary human levels of mobility and coordination. That said, this is stupid and should not be done without consideration. Public weirdness will at least get glares from nearby employees and likely qualifies as causing a disturbance, which can lead to ejection from the premises. Moreover, climbing means acting funny on a 45-degree slope with sharp, metallic steps (to be fair, with significant forward momentum). You do not want to fall backward.

Drawing from my own not considerable experience, this is how it's done:

  1. Recon the target - Not every candidate is suitable. A good one will be short and have few or (highly preferably) no people on it, a manageable angle and speed, and optionally light employee presence. Local supermarket good, London tube bad. As an exception: if you can find a shopping cart-friendly escalator with no proper steps, this part's in the bag with the bonus of added safety, though endurance can cause problems.
  2. Time your approach - The time of the day is an important factor in the number of users, and therefore in feasibility. Close to closing time should be good in stores. On all occasions you should be on the lookout for your three worst enemies: People standing on the steps side by side, baby carriages and young, impressionable children.
  3. Pick your equipment - Checking your gear is a vital bit of common sense. Tie your shoelaces, remove things that might snag. Leave your backpack and other heavy items with an accomplice.
  4. Try a practice run - An escalator doesn't have to be conquered immediately. Taking a few steps once or twice can give a valuable feel of what you're up against, not to mention that it can be done as a bit of fun without plans of getting serious.
  5. Scramble! - Make your move. Going against the steps is a bit like a particularily nasty treadmill; being continuously pushed backwards and downwards will also feel unintuitively strange and possibly disorienting. Your first step should be a long one, to keep your footing from going under right away. Then try to establish a steady rhythm, with steps you can keep on taking, instead of reaching as far as you possibly can with each one. A half-run or a strong stride should both work better than a less stable full run. I either keep a hand lightly on top of one handrail for balance or use one to push myself up, but a tight grip or a snag can send the back of your head to meet the edge of the step below. See shoego's sound bite below about the way that didn't happen to him. Did I mention that this is stupid?
  6. Be courteous to others - Those not currently demonstrating their lunacy get right-of-way. Stay on the empty side; if there's no standard where you come from, pick one and stick to it to give people the idea. Nobody except drunken Norwegians like to see a stranger rush towards them. Unless you have a wide berth, slow down while passing and accept the loss of ground to make it safer, more pleasant to the passee and a bit less likely to land you in trouble. If someone looks like he or she's about to try something funny or tries to block you, bite the bullet and abort. A shoving match is undesirable.
  7. Exult - After safely clearing the final stair, it's time to express your glee. You may want to practice your exultation beforehand; it'd be most embarassing to accomplish the feat only to fail to celebrate properly. If asked, go quietly.

DISCLAIMER: The author is a random person on the Internet.

I'm inspirational! Shaogo writes:
DO NOT try this if you're fat and old. But I did. Wifey and I drove to Danbury, Connecticut yesterday early enough to get to the Danbury Fair Mall before many of the shops had opened, but the place was open for the folks who walk indoors (in the climate controlled atmosphere) and there's a place there with awesome coffee. I looked around, and didn't see anyone who appeared to be a security guard (excitement caused a lapse of cognition re: plain-clothes guards). Wifey screamed bloody murder at me, sure that I'd fall down and HEAD A SPLODE. Her screams brought two uniforms right away. They climbed the "up" staircase and threatened to call the police. As they got closer I guess they could tell that I wasn't drunk; just an idiot. They let me go with a stern warning, asking me not to return for the rest of the day.

The sensation of climbing the staircase was less like using exercise equipment than I thought (but for the pain in my legs). Floating is the word that comes to mind. There's also a "forbidden fruit" rush that I experienced. But remember, don't do this 'cause at least in my case, I almost broke my head open when I briefly grabbed the downward-heading handrail out of sheer knee-jerk reaction.

From correspondence, he stopped abruptly, losing his speed-given balance, teetered and instinctively grabbed the handrail. Take note.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.