Created By: HengeBreaker on September 30, 2012 Last Edited By: HengeBreaker on July 17, 2013

Could have taken the stairs

A funny reveal that there was a far easier way to do something

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Our hero has just finished the most arduous of journeys. He navigated the forest of eternal darkness, trudged through the swamp of no escape, crossed the desert of never ending sorrow, and even survived the lava fields of hotness. His final challenge is climbing straight up a sheer cliff. He nearly fell several times, and had to spend a night sleeping wedged into a crack, but he's finally made it. He pulls himself over the top, exhausted. He slowly catches his breath, stands, and raises his hands in triumph. He can finally meet the great kung fu master at the top of the mountain!

And that's when he realizes he can hear children's laughter. He smells barbecue. There's a parking lot right over there and a well paved road leading down the other side of the mountain, next to a set of stairs with a hand rail and everything. In fact, even more families are coming up on day trips as he watches.

He could have just taken the stairs.

This is any time a character does something extremely difficult, just to find out that there was a much easier way the entire time. Perhaps someone else knew about the easy way but the hero just wouldn't listen, or they just never thought to mention it. The hero's friends may even be waiting for him, having taken the easy way themselves.

It doesn't have to be literal, though it can be. It could be any instance of performing a task in a way that is far more difficult than it had to be, usually with the easy way being unknown to the person until a little-too-late revelation.

Compare/Contrast Could Have Avoided This Plot


[[folder:Western Animation]]
  • When the family goes to Hawaii in Phineas and Ferb, Candace climbs to the top of a volcano to destroy a cursed tiki necklace that's been causing her bad luck all day. At the top she discovers a restaurant and an escalator.[[hottip:*:The tiki was actually just a pager to let you know when your table is ready. You throw it into a model volcano to see if you win a prize.]]
    • Candace spends all day doing incredibly difficult and dangerous things as quickly as possible to earn fifty patches before 5:00 so she can go to a Fireside Girls benefit concert because the band's normal concert was sold out. She does it and gets to go, but then Phineas and Ferb are at the concert too. Isabella explains that she tried to tell her before that she could have just brought her as a friend. And maybe Candace should work on her good listener patch next.

[[folder:Real Life]]
  • Tearing for minutes at difficult to open packaging with your teeth only to discover an easy pull tab on the other side.
Community Feedback Replies: 23
  • September 30, 2012
    Johnny English has English get into Big Bad Pascal Sauvage's chateau through a sewer pipe, getting absolutely filthy in the process. When he gets in he finds his ally Lorna Campbell waiting for him; having taken a ladder up the wall into the chateau that English overlooked, she's got in faster than him and much cleaner as well.
  • September 30, 2012
    • In Buffy's "Hush", the voice-stealing prevents Riley and company from giving voice-commands to the elevator at the Initiative, and they almost get killed by the automatic security. When they finally reach the main floor, Maggie Walsh points smiling to a sign that says "in case of emergency, use stairs".
    • In Superman II, after Zod's group bursts into a room, Lex Luthor asks "Even with all this accumulated knowledge, when will these dummies learn to use a DOOR KNOB?"
  • September 30, 2012
    • Shinryaku Ika Musume: Squid Girl and her employers/foster family take a trip to the nearby small mountain, and climb to the top. As Squid Girl's a sea creature, it's an arduous journey for her (while for the land people it's more like an invigorating stroll.) The view is great, but then it turns out there's an easy way to get up, and Squid Girl gets angry that other people are "cheating."

    Compare/contrast We Could Have Avoided All This, which is usually Played For Drama.
  • September 30, 2012
    In the classic Laurel And Hardy short The Music Box our heroes laboriously maneuver a piano up a flight of exterior steps to reach the house they're delivering it to. Once they arrive somebody helpfully points out that they could have taken it around the steps via a gently sloping sidewalk. So they laboriously maneuver it back down and then take it around via the slope.
  • September 30, 2012
    I think this is already There Was A Door.
  • September 30, 2012
    I hate that name. And that one's specifically about smashing through walls.

    I want to propose Rube Golderg Journey as a title for this.
  • October 1, 2012
    Jojos Bizarre Adventure Abridged lampshades an instance of this in the desert.
    Kakyoin:You know what we could've done? We could've gone on that helicopter.
  • October 1, 2012
    See also We Have The Keys, which has a similar feel and may need distinction.
  • October 1, 2012
    Literature: In Terry Pratchett's Discworld, the Guild of Assassins positively encourages its members to take the road less travelled. They have ways of getting around town called edificeering and drainholing, where the Assassin is taught to consider climbing up the outside of a building or coming up from underneath via the drainage system - these are taught as preferable to approaching the customer through an eminently guardable front door or inner stairway. Fanworks, such as A.A. Pessimal's Why and Were', develop this tendency of Assassins to do differently. Here, a teaching Assassin at the Guild School elects for a quick climb and a stroll on the roof to think out a problem, rather than spend her recess in the staffroom.
  • October 1, 2012
    ^^^^ Uh, Stratadrake is right, Dragon Quest Z, that one is about smashing through a wall when there was a perfectly functional door. THIS ONE is about doing something the hard way, only to find out there was a much easier way afterwards.
  • October 1, 2012
    Kingdom Of Loathing is fond of making you do complicated travel quests to gain access to new locations. Once you have access, though, you "mark it on your map" and can then get there any time you want with one click. The new revised Mt. McLargeHuge quest hangs a lampshade on this; you are about to use your painstakingly-acquired ninja mountaineering gear to tackle the final ascent, and then you notice the staircase.

    I've read at least one Revolutionary Girl Utena fanfic in which the dueling platform had an elevator (which only worked when convenient for the plot). I don't know if it was in the original.
  • October 1, 2012
    Related to YKTTW discussion Taking The Cool Way I think. Only this is where the went the laborious way by accident, and it's not necessarily cool.

    In Shrek, Prince Charming describes how he reached Princess Fiona's castle (battled the elements etc. and there was even a montage) - Shrek walked through a field of sunflowers and over a hill.
  • October 4, 2012
    In a the first Superman movie, a crook is painstakingly scaling the outside glass of an office building at night using suction cups, presumably to break into the structure from the rooftop. Supes appears, and snark-tasticly inquires if something was wrong with the elevator.
  • October 5, 2012
    One episode of Will And Grace had Jack and Karen hiking up several sets of stairs to get to a party at the top of a skyscraper in uncomfortable formal shoes, lugging a birthday cake with them. When they get to the top they find out there was a lift they could have taken. When they leave they take the stairs again.
  • October 29, 2012
    In The Ant and the Aardvark cartoon short "Odd Ant Out", two aardvarks are fighting over a can of chocolate-covered ants. They each try crazy methods of opening the can, all of which fail. At the end we find out there was a simple pull-tab all along.
  • October 29, 2012
    Video Games:
    • You play through most of Math Blaster Ages 9-12 with either Blaster or Galactic Commander, then the final dungeon requires all three characters counting Spot. The characters remark on this in various ways, including:
      GC: How did you get here so fast?
      Blaster: We took a cab.

    Also, I know this happened twice in the Jackie Chan Adventures pilot, but I don't remember the specifics.
  • October 29, 2012
    I feel like we should already have this.
  • October 30, 2012
    Hanaukyo Maid Tai have a literally example in chapter 20 of the manga. The main character, Tarou Hanaukyo, is climping a mountain without mountain gear but with an injured Yashima on his back to get up to Konoe's favourite spot. Turns out that said Konoe meanwhile was taking the stairs: .
  • October 30, 2012
    @MorganWick: It's similar to Took A Shortcut.
  • October 30, 2012
  • July 16, 2013
  • July 17, 2013
  • July 17, 2013
    Yup. The same, only more specific. Not a separate trope. Just one type.