The Peculiar Perils of the Positive Workplace (Weekly Photo Challenge: Twist)


Good Evening:

The negative workplace has received so much attention in so many media: books, books promoted on talk shows, movies based upon the books promoted on talk shows, novelizations based upon the movies based upon the books promoted in talk shows, not to mention comic strips like Dilbert, songs like “Take This Job and Shove it,” and movies like Office Space (when I first saw this flick, I thought it was a documentary about working in the private sector with real-life events recreated by actors).

But what about the positive workplace? In a peculiar twist, no one discusses the disadvantages of working in an environment where everyone gets along with everyone else, or even likes everyone else. It feels as if the positive workplace was Terra Incognita on 16th Century world maps where “there be monsters.” And there do be monsters. Here is a partial list of the monsters I have faced in the past few weeks in my positive workplace.

  • Bread laced with veins of dark chocolate;
  • Official Savannah Smiles Girl Scout Cookies;
  • Official Thin Mints Girl Scout Cookies;
  • Peach coffee cake;
  • Blueberry coffee cake;
  • Trader Joe’s Chocolate-Covered Orange Sticks;
  • Trader Joe’s Chocolate-Covered Raspberry Sticks;
  • Almond-Chocolate candies from the local farmers market;
  • Two huge boxes of bagels, bear claws, and other pastries;
  • and official San Francisco Giants PEZ Dispensers with candy.

Remember; that is a partial list.

A happy work environment is a fattening work environment.

One of my co-workers has chosen to do something about it, using one of San Francisco’s twistiest stairways.


This co-worker, who sometimes brings in home-baked zucchini cake, has dedicated this year to getting himself back in shape, and he uses the 14 floors of San Francisco PUC Headquarters as part of his regimen. Twice daily, he will walk the stairs all the way to the top floor, walk the stairs all the way down to the first floor, and then walk back up to our floor. Any exercise instructor will tell you that resolutions to get healthy become much easier if you recruit friends, and since everyone likes everyone else in my department, he has lots of friends to recruit.

Therefore, at 10:00 and 2:30 he walks the aisles, calling out “Stairs?” to all and sundry, and anywhere from 5-20 people will answer the call and join him. If you walk very, very slowly, it takes only ten minutes; if you walk briskly as I do, between 7:15 and 7:30.

Co-Worker Finishing Her Morning Stair Exercise.

Co-Worker Finishing Her Morning Stair Exercise. Taken with an iPhone 4.

Evidently, stair walking seems to have the reputation of being one of the best exercises; I have heard others call this a “total body workout,” although I feel a tad skeptical–how does this work the arms and upper body?  I recently began to carry two-pound weights to work me uppers. Nonetheless, walking this many stairs once or twice a day is great on the legs, heart and lungs (and everyone knows that the first rule of Zombieland is “Cardio”).

Stair walking also does good things for your eyes; ten minutes away from the monitor always benefits them. This activity has also become one of the departments favorite social events, as we catch up on each other’s personal lives, make fun of the people who walk too slowly, make fun of the people who walk too quickly, and trade opinions on the latest plot twists in our favorite TV shows. At first, workers from other floors would stare at our curious caravans as if we were nuts; these days, we encounter/pass/run into/run over increasing numbers copying our regimen.

The Fifth Floor "Twist" from Below

The Fifth Floor “Twist” from Below

I have still haven’t decided which provides the greater challenge, and a physical therapist will have to answer this question: which is better for your health, one stair at a time, or two stairs? Personally, one-at-a-time works the middle and outside-middle of my thighs, about 6 inches below my hips, while two-at-a-time makes me breathe harder and puts a lot of stress on the muscles around my knees. So I use either one depending upon my mood.

The stairs themselves are not easy to climb. The number of stairs in each flight always varies, and we have the weird “twist” as well. At the fifth floor, the stairs stop twisting upward in a clockwise direction, twist inward, and then continue to twist upward in a counterclockwise direction. As you can see from the above picture, it feels kinda weird. Also, each step is a bit shallow, so that my heels never touch anything solid, and it becomes that much harder to generate lift.

Another View of the Fifth Floor "Twist"

Another View of the Fifth Floor “Twist”

So far, my co-worker has had great but financially punitive results; he has taken over four inches off his waist, but also had to replace his entire belt collection and buy a new set because the old ones didn’t fit anymore. For that matter, I need to add a pair of holes to mine.

But how did my co-worker talk all of his buddies into joining him in such strenuous exercise?

Simple. He added an incentive.

Anyone who accumulates at least 100 complete walks by August 31 gets a reward. He will cook dinner for you–and since he is literally an award-winning amateur chef, he will cook one heck of a fine meal. But what does he cook that made him literally an award-winning amateur chef?

Baby-Back Ribs.

So if anyone endures the peril of losing weight by August 31, he or she can put all of that weight back on in one sitting. See what I mean? Working with people you like, and who like you, has its disadvantages.

And in case you’re wondering…I sometimes bring in homemade cookies.


Vonn Scott Bair


7 responses »

  1. What a great story Von! The stairs are beautiful and the way you positioned the story within the positive workplace perils was terrific. You should send this in to the NY Times, I bet it would be published! Or at least the chronicle. Anyway, fun post!

  2. Haha, great story VSB and I love that first photo! I’m afraid stairs are very bad for me so I wouldn’t be able to join in your workouts (bad knee joints) but I’d love to be a fly on the wall watching and listening to your ‘gang’ go past. I used to take carrot cake into work, but some people brought evil cream buns…
    Jude xx

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