« The Art of the Money Grab | Main | Photoblog Lives! »

August 23, 2004

Elevators are Evil

While I'm not claustrophobic, I've never been a big fan of elevators. Too many sitcoms in my youth used the "trapped in an elevator" cliché, and I was convinced I'd end up stuck in an elevator. When you take a moment to consider it, being stuck in an elevator sucks: you can escape almost any other people-mover (light rail, bus, subway) if it fails, but you're generally stuck in an elevator until someone comes to bail you out. Not fun.

Despite my distaste for elevators, I went on using them from time to time anyway. Until two years ago, when I briefly became a stairs-only man.

I was running late, and knew there was no way I'd make it up the stairs without becoming later. The elevator was already waiting at the ground floor, so why not take it? So many horror stories start with that sort of question...

I got in, punched 3, and waited. A university employee of some sort squeezed in right as the doors were closing and punched 2. No big deal, it's just one stop. Satisfied with our selections, the elevator doors slid shut and it began rumbling toward the second floor. It slowed to a halt and told us "bzzt" in its native tongue, indicating we had arrived at the second floor.

It then made an abortive attempt at opening either the inner or outer doors that only resulted in an unsatisfyingly brief "clunk" from the doors. Regardless of what the outer doors might have done, the inner doors remained sealed tightly. With that, the elevator apparently resigned itself to death, falling completely silent as the motor went from standing by to being completely off, the lights dimming slightly.

Our carriage then determined we weren't worth listening to as my temporary companion tried repeatedly to get the elevator to do something. Door open, nada. Door close followed by door open, zilch. Activating and releasing the emergency stop, nothing. He even tried jamming on the 3 button repeatedly, as if to convince the elevator he didn't really want to get off on the second floor and the third would be just fine. It didn't care. It sat there for two of the longest minutes of my life.

They were made longer by the fact that, the building being short and older, the elevator didn't have air conditioning. All air movement was produced by cool air from the shaft being forced through a grate in the ceiling. This doesn't work so well when the elevator car isn't moving.

As I was considering the fact that the elevator was effectively shielding my cellular phone service and the only means of outside contact was the elevator's alarm button, it suddenly shuddered back to life, continuing to my third floor destination without further incident.

I walked past the elevator after class that day, heading straight for the stairs. Not an entirely bad choice, given ASU's older buildings do have eccentric elevators (one of the elevators in the SCOB, for example, literally runs all by itself). But several months went by after that day before I'd use an elevator again. When I had to submit a paper for regrading -- at eleven o'clock at night, in the dead of winter -- I froze my butt off up six flights of external stairs rather than risk being alone on campus, trapped in an elevator for God-knows-how-long.

It wasn't until a trip to Sky Harbor, where I discovered the stairs don't run to the ground level, that I begrudgingly set foot in another elevator car. With expectations of doom, of course. Punched "1" to get to the concourse, rode the car down, and briefly panicked as several seconds passed between the overly-cheerful "Level One" was announced and the doors opening.

I laugh at it now, but at the time I had a gut feeling life's delicious sense of irony was going to leave me sitting there when I'd finally been forced to conquer a rationalized irrational fear.

Posted by Colin at August 23, 2004 9:36 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)