Then there are the stairs in the statue itself, 354 of them. They begin as more or less normal metal stairs, but then morph into a narrow, ever tightening and narrowing spiral staircase, more like a flattened ladder, protected by a knee-high banister.
This allows for an almost-unobstructed view straight down through the center of the statue, which allows your imagination free rein to envision your body bouncing from truss to truss because of the pushy school kids behind you.
On a hot, sticky day, with the stairs packed with school outings, the smell of ripe, sweating adolescents is overpowering -- it’s not their fault; it’s the combination of age and lack of ventilation -- and you have the feeling that if you did slip, the heat and viscosity of the sweat-soaked air is such that you will be borne up to the crown rather than fall to an ignominious death in the inside of Lady Liberty’s sandals.
The Park Service, to its credit, posts plenty of warnings about the steepness and strenuousness of the climb, and the real difficulty of getting you down if you have a heart attack or simply freeze on the spiral staircase. But being patriotic Americans, we regard any government concern about our welfare with the greatest suspicion.
In time, it dawns on you that the worst place to see a windowless statue is from the inside. There are windows -- small ones, smeared to opacity by small hands -- at the very top, the goal of your climb. You can see very little.
The best view is from the top of the pedestal. It’s easy to get to and easy to get down from, and while the rest of your party is toiling its way upward through the statue’s innards, you are comfortably ensconced on a ground-level Park Service bench with a book and the prospect of a martini once back in Manhattan.
Visit the statue your way; then do it mine. No need to thank me.
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.