Take care on that stairway to Heaven

Off the fence
Take care on that stairway to heaven

Off the fence
Daniel Carey

IT was my namesake, Mariah Carey, who allegedly said ‘I don’t do stairs’. This statement has become synonymous with the excessive demands of divas, but the more I think of it, the more I’ve realised – I don’t really do stairs either.
That’s an exaggeration, of course. For one thing, my house in Westport has two storeys, and my bedroom is on the first floor. If I didn’t do stairs, I’d have to sleep on the sofa. But when I look back at some of my most embarrassing moments, most of them seem to involve a flight of steps.
While on holiday in the Netherlands last month, I felt an urge to go to the bathroom after arriving in Utrecht train station. Having located the WC, I put in my 50 cent admission and turned left down the stairs. I was descending when the feet went from under me and I tumbled four or five steps before landing in a crumpled heap about halfway down the stairway to hell.
This was merely mortifying for me, but as quickly became apparent, it was vaguely terrifying for the woman looking up at me from the foot of the stairs.
I had, it seems, missed the turn off for the gents, and was hurtling towards the ladies while travelling horizontally at break-neck speed. Good job the Dutch are a tolerant bunch or I might have been deported.
But then, stairs and I have history. It was after racing down the back stairs of Presentation College Headford – during my very first week as a secondary school student – that I head-butted the then vice-principal, John Boner. It was, I should stress, accidental, and came as I careered around the corner during a bout of lunchtime high jinks. Mercifully, our severe height differential (he’s well over six foot, I was barely more than five) meant that my head collided with Mr Boner’s stomach. As Irish people are fond of saying, it could have been a lot worse.
That near miss taught me to keep my head up for the next six years, and a mumbled apology meant I avoided immediate expulsion. But three weeks into a masters’ course at NUI, Galway, I was in my classroom doing some work for The Mayo News when my mobile phone rang. On the phone was a man from Swinford, with news of a weekend league match.
Sprinting to a different area of the building where the O2 coverage was better, I exited the classroom, secured the door … and ran smack into the side of the stairs. An arc of blood gushing out of my forehead told me all was not well. Six stitches (temporary) was the remedy, scar (permanent) at the top of my forehead the result. That led to a certain amount of – if you’ll pardon the pun – stares.
Apparently there’s an old fire-fighter truck in Tennessee that carried the motto ‘Why climb the stairs when you can ride the elevator?’ I couldn’t agree more.
Mariah was right, dammit.