I'm reading Michael Lewis's The Blind Side. In Chapter Three, Sean Tuohy's daughter Collins talks about Michael Oher.

When she tried to pass him on the stairwell, she said, she had to back up to the top, because she couldn’t fit past him.

What does "back up to the top" and "fit past" mean? I'm not quite sure.

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  • I find it odd that it says "back up" and not "go back up". Back up implies that she did not turn around but reversed direction and climbed the stairs backwards, while facing the lower stairs. A car "backs up" when it is put into reverse gear. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 7 '15 at 14:08

She starts at the top of the stairs. He starts at the bottom.

At some point, they meet.

Supposedly, he, she, or both are too big, so she cannot continue on her way down. She didn't fit next to him on the stairs to go past him.

Because of that she had to back up, meaning she had to go back where she came from, all the way to the top of the stairs, to wait until he got out of her way.

  • It sounds to me like she did not turn around and go back up the stairway, but that she walked backwards up the stairway. – Ast Pace Jul 8 '15 at 1:02

Another way to explain this: compare it with a small (narrow) bridge (or street) and 2 cars arriving at more or less the same moment, one of them at each side of the bridge (or street).

If the bridge (or street) is not wide enough for both cars to pass somewhere "on the bridge" (or somewhere in the middle of the street), then either car will have to "back up" a bit (in the direction of where they started from). Because neither car will be able to "fit past" the other car.

... And for as long as neither car (driver) is willing to "back up", both of them are "stuck in the middle of it".

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