Blog » Uphill both ways

As a kid I hated when coincidences of language were used to justify decisions.

For instance, “there’s no ‘I’ in team” from a sports coach. In high school I was delighted to learn that there is an “I” in team: if you’re French, team is spelled “equipe.” But then “I” is “je” and this whole thing falls apart. Do they use that nonsense in France?

“Ce n’est pas un ‘je’ dans ‘equipe’”

My favorite saying was “when I was your age, I walked to school, uphill both ways.” The long way of saying “you kids have it easy now.” And while that phrase was never used on a sullen young Jordan, I wanted to solve it and try to make it real.

Imagine a traditional pointy mountain.

  • At the summit, drill a circular hole wide enough for a school
  • Drill straight down to the bottom of the mountain like you’re going to thread a needle through it
  • Install a giant spring at the bottom of the mountain and mount a circular disc on that spring
  • Build a school on top of the disc
  • Calibrate the spring so that when it’s relaxed, the school rests at the summit of the mountain, flush with the top of the hole you drilled
  • Build 30 or so houses inside the mountain near the hole. Space them out vertically, like buttons on a dress shirt.
  • Carve out ramps between the houses and the hole. There should be a ramp going up from the hole to the house, and another ramp going up from the house to the hole. Picture stairs in an office building with exits on each floor to a person’s house.
  • Calibrate the spring so the weight of one human being moves it down one house level. When all students enter the school it would be at the bottom of the mountain, with the lowest ramp heading up to the first house.

Here’s how the day works:

  1. The teacher at the house nearest the summit walks uphill into the school, which sinks one house level
  2. The student one house down walks uphill into the school, which sinks one house level to the next student
  3. Repeat for a while until all students are inside, having walked uphill

When the school day is over, the students leave in the opposite order in which they entered (lucky for the last kid). So the person who lives at the bottom of the mountain leaves first and walks uphill to get to their house. At the end of the day the teacher walks uphill to their house and the school is empty at the summit of the mountain.

Granted, we’re looking at a magical spring and a nightmarish existence for the kids living in the mountain. The double uphill walk would be the last thing they’d complain about to their grandkids.

Moooom! I hate it here!