“Huh, using the stairs too, eh? I thought I was the only one,” I say to my colleague. “I’m sorry?” she replies, a confused expression on her face. “Well, most people use the lift, even though it’s only one level down. It never fails to amaze …”
The door slams shut as my colleague disappears before my rant is over. It’s a rant I have rehearsed well.
It’s easy to become self-righteous in Dubai, with everyone around you cleansing their soul in one way or another. We all find ourselves getting caught up in a little bit of self-improvement.
I don’t mean driving a hybrid car or eating like a caveman, I mean the little habits that make us feel superior to those around us. Maybe you let a fellow driver out of a side road, even though you know your good deed won’t be returned next time. You never cycle on footpaths (or walk on cycle paths). And you always cut up the plastic wrapping after removing it from six-packs of canned drinks. It’s all about doing the right thing.
For me, lifts are strictly a mode of transport for journeys of five floors or more, regardless of how dilapidated the stairwell is. I have legs, so why not use them?
I clear my own tray in the food court. Sure, there are sometimes people employed to do it, but it’s just polite.
I’ve even been known to transport that unwanted loaf of bread across the whole length of Spinneys rather than leave it in the magazines section because ‘that’s not where it’s kept’.
But I am concerned that Virtuous Man, my superhero alter-ego, is becoming too powerful.
Trips to the supermarket were hard enough when I was hauling armfuls of neatly separated plastic and metal to the recycling bins. Now I have to heave this load along while simultaneously pushing the empty trolley I find myself returning from the car park (rather than simply allowing it to roll into a nearby four-by-four, like everyone else).
I feel it is my job to remind fellow gym-users to wipe down equipment and put the weights back where they found them.
And I can’t get through a whole conversation about public transport in Dubai without hearing the incredulous words ‘So you’ve never used the Metro?’ as they leave my mouth.
You do it too. I’ve seen you. You’re the one tutting and sighing as you pick up the empty drinks carton in the park as the ignorant child who discarded it – and his parents – skip gleefully away.
So why do we do it? Is it really all about a healthy body and mind? Or, if we are being honest, does that moment of self-satisfaction simply give us a buzz?
I think it’s time to admit the truth: I am a smug-addict.
I wasn’t always like this. I remember when I could get through a dinner invitation with new friends without saying ‘Oh no, sorry, I’m not eating carbs at the moment’. In fact, I used to be happy eating an evening meal that had to be defrosted first. I didn’t even know what kale was.
Well, enough is enough. I hereby decree that my superiority complex is a thing of the past. I am staging a one-man intervention.
Next time I see someone using the lift, I’ll respect their choice and keep my mouth shut. Taking the stairs does not make me a better person.
Unless they’re going up just one floor. In that case, I’ll maybe just mention it to my fellow stair-user. Then I’ll stop, I swear.
Jay Summers is a freelance writer for Time Out Dubai. We avoid him on the stairs, too.