Just a few inches short

Photo illustration by Paige Kiehl
Photo illustration by Paige Kiehl

The fact that engineers hate me plays a big part in my life. The way that things are built and my 4’11” height don’t usually equate well. Shelves are too high, clothing racks hit me in the head, and I have to sit on my knees at restaurants. I can’t reach anything. It’s a fact. Everything is just too tall for me.

Eating out brings up conflicts between countertops and my height. I will be sitting at Panera, waiting patiently for my buzzer to go off and then suddenly it does. I go up to the counter and go on my tiptoes to put away my buzzer and then again to grab my food. It’s even harder when I have to grab 2 plates and balance them while on my tiptoes. I swear, I’m like a ballerina with how many times I go on my tiptoes during the day.

Tiptoes are basically my go to. I really should’ve been put into ballet when I was younger. I use them daily to reach anything that exceeds 5 feet. Sometimes though, tiptoes are not enough. When I was younger, my parents used to call me a monkey because I climbed on top of the kitchen counters to reach the things I needed.  I am forced through my height to climb to reach anything high up. I am a skilled professional at climbing on kitchen countertops, on top of dressers, desks and up shelves. It’s a talent.

If you want some climbing lessons, I’d be happy to help. Let’s say a pot is on the top shelf and my short, stubby arms aren’t long enough to reach them. Well, you just stick your foot onto the countertop. Flexibility helps and push yourself up so you are now standing on top of  said countertop. Strength helps too. This climbing skill is really useful when you’re my height.

In public though, it is not socially acceptable to climb on counters to reach something. Seriously, people would look at me like I was crazy. Wouldn’t you look at someone strange if you saw them climbing all over counters and shelves? At stores, I am faced with a dilemma that seems tiny but is actually a major problem. The small size of clothing is always on the top rack. Whatever genius decided to put the smallest size up so high is, in fact, not a genius. I am constantly embarrassing myself by finding a step stool somewhere in the store and using that to reach the article of clothing. Or, I am trying to sneak and use that nifty tool the employees are only supposed to use to grab the hanger. Or, I am asking another person in the section to grab the clothes for me. And as a last resort, I go to ask an employee to grab it for me. I have even tried jumping to grab whatever object I want. That isn’t looked at as socially acceptable, apparently.

It’s not really appropriate to climb in grocery stores either. But those shelves were just made to climb. They’re a perfect ladder. The things I need always happen to be on the top, so I have learned how to climb stealthily enough up the shelves. My mom sometimes even asks me to grab stuff, since she’s about the same height as me. She’ll say, “Alyssa, go get that salad dressing for me.” So I climb to the top and jump off from there — though first I have to make sure no one else is in the aisle to give me a disapproving look.

Since climbing is not accepted in most classrooms, I am not privileged to have certain things. In the Journalism room, the secret buddy boxes scale up to the ceiling of the classroom. At the beginning of the year, I declared that my box could not be even close to the top, or else I would end up climbing up onto the counter. With that declaration made, I finally received my box. On the first row. I’m not complaining; I just find it funny that due to my height, I am limited to a max of the first row.

I frequently realize how short I am because of my inability to reach up high. My short height makes me climb and jump to reach things, which can be embarrassing at times — wait, it’s embarrassing all the time. But if I wasn’t short, I wouldn’t be able to embarrass myself all the time, so there’s a positive … But really, I couldn’t imagine being any taller.

By Alyssa Piecko

1 Comment on this Post

  1. I totally understand this. I can’t even use the shelves in my own closet because they’re too high up! And I do the same thing in the grocery store.

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