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How Tall Is A House?

May 20, 2019

Okay, it wasn’t a house. It was the second floor of a building. The Talmage Building on the campus of BYU. But, how tall was it? (Just the second floor.)

I take the stairs at work. I work on the fourth floor. Well, in America we call it the fourth floor. In Europe it’d be called the third floor. They count: Ground, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. At least that’s what I remember from high school French. That and

Bonjour, ca va?

Oui, ca va. Et toi?

Pal mal.

Five years of French and that’s it.

I tend to count stairs. It’s not any OCD condition. It’s just really boring to walk up stairs and counting gives me something to do. The distance between the 2nd floor and the 3rd floor is 12 feet. It’s the same as the distance between the 3rd and 4th. The distance between the 1st and 2nd floor is 13.5 feet.

You might wonder how I know those distances. And I have to admit they are approximations. But, they are pretty close. I know the distances because I count my steps. It’s 24 steps between the 2nd and 3rd and between the 3rd and 4th. There are 27 steps between the 1st and 2nd floor.

Steps are about 6 inches tall. It’s a pretty simple calculation.

Did you know a dollar bill is six inches long? You can use one to measure the height of a step. (Not sure of the length of a $20 bill. But, it’s probably pretty close.)

So, if you want to know how tall a house, or a building is, you can measure the height between floors by counting the steps.

But, what does all this have to do with the BYU Talmage building? I’ve counted steps for a long time. I counted them when I was in college. I studied Computer Science in the Talmage building. And I counted the steps.

Do you want to know how tall the second floor of the Talmage building is?

I don’t know. Honestly, to this day I don’t know.

The problem is that the west stairs of the Talmage building have 24 steps. Easy enough, right? 12 feet tall. That’s about right when you figure it’s an office building. In fact, it’s the same height of many of the floors in my own building.

What’s the problem? The problem is that the east stairs of the Talmage building have 27 steps. The two sections were built at different times. I can state clearly that the second floor is level across the entire building. I spent enough time in it to know.

Obviously the stairs are different heights. And if you are looking for it, it’s noticable. But, if you are simply going about your day, you could go up and down both sets of stairs and never notice any difference.

I’ve thought a lot about those stairs over the years, the lessons they teach.

– Are you paying attention? – You may be missing important details
– How do we measure things? – If one person has a degree from a prestigious university and another person simply has experience, both might get you to the same place
– Are our standards of measure changing? – Just because something was done one way last time can we do it differently this time?

Maybe I’m reading too much into it. They are after all, just a series of stairs. But, it’s also important to learn from what’s around us.

Mostly though, I just wonder “How tall is a house?”

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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