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SPEAKING of stairs, I love 'em. They're "neat". They're great for going up, going down, going wherever you might want to go (except sideways).

Humankind has long strived to go up and down. In prehistoric times, the only way people had of going up was to eat food and wait around and hope they would grow. After growing, prehistoric humans had no way of getting back down except dying. The dawn of civilization brought tree climbing, which was only a slight improvement. The modern application of stairs dates from the period of Britain's Industrial Revolution, during which time rapid mechanization and improved agricultural techniques made tree climbing seem passť. (Archaelogists have since discovered primitive stairs fashioned out of bark and dirt dating back as early as the time of Charlemagne, but these were bulky and awkward and they only went up.)

Following their discovery, stairs spread like wildfire across the industrialized world and people began to go up in record numbers. In 1800, the World Almanac reported that more than 1.2 million people used stairs regularly for either business or pleasure; by 1914 this figure had swelled to more than eighty-eight billion people and several pets.

The 1920s were something of a Golden Age for stairs, which stretched ever higher in the cities of such well-known continents as North America and Europe, allowing the construction of much taller buildings than ever before. The picture was not so bright for war-torn Germany, however. The once stair-filled nation had lost over 9,233,000 steps in the Great War. This problem was only compounded by the millions of stairs which Germany was required to give to Great Britain and France in reparation. Inflation quickly debased the height of the German stair to less than a millionth of a centimeter. At the worst point, Germans had to climb more than 6,000 flights of stairs just to get into their shoes. This state of affairs eventually led to the second world war and the dropping of the ATOMIC BOMB.

After the war, Allied soldiers returned home eager to climb stairs. This of course led to the Stair Boom of the 1950s. It became increasingly obvious that the entire Western way of life was intimately linked to the stair economy. Soviet-style communism threatened the stair-based lifestyle. A central tenet of communism was that no stair should be placed atop another. The Soviet Union sought to dismantle the entire Western stair structure. In the resultant "cold war", tensions often flared and it appeared that the stair question would only be resolved through the use of NUCLEAR WEAPONRY.

Meanwhile, back at home, the dominance of stairs was being challenged. Stairs were pushed aside in favour of strange new forms of ascension known as "elevators", "escalators", "hot air balloons" and "ladders". Tree climbing also made a dramatic resurgence in the late 1980s. And so by the time the Russians finally gave in and started using stairs the proper way, no one cared anymore.